Hands down, “Irish” potatoes are THE most fun to grow of all vegetables. Not only are they easy to grow, harvesting is like digging for buried treasure. Kids and adults alike go crazy when digging them up. At some point you may need to take the shovel away before they dig up your entire garden!
In USDA Zone 9 plant potatoes now through early March. In Zones 1-7, plant in spring. Warmer zones can plant in fall or early winter.
Purchase “seed” potatoes (actually just potatoes) from a local nursery, online or through a catalog. These potatoes are certified disease-free and coated in a protective fungicide to prevent potato blight and other diseases (wash your hands after planting). Avoid using potatoes from other sources like the grocery store, as you could introduce pests and diseases into your soil.
Nurseries usually carry potato varieties labeled “white,””red,”or “purple/blue” and sometimes ‘Yukon Gold’ (has a yummy, buttery taste). If you order potatoes from a catalog or online, suppliers won’t send your order until it’s time to plant in your zone. Before you order, it’s important to note that 1 pound of potatoes normally yields 10-15 pounds at harvest.
The purple/blue potato variety literally drips purple juice when you cut into them and ‘Yukon Gold’ makes a great baked potato, but my favorite kind of potato is the ‘French Fingerling.’ They have a creamy texture and are delicious!
To get started, slice potatoes into 1″x 1″ pieces with at least two “eyes” per piece at least one day before you plant. Set them out to dry on a piece of newspaper. The “eye” is where the stem will grow, so be sure to plant them face up. There are several ways to plant potatoes.
- In the ground: prepare soil by adding compost and mixing it in well. Dig a trench 3″ deep in your garden by 8′ long. Space rows 2 1/2′ apart. When planting, remember the closer you plant the pieces, the smaller the potato. Plant 6-12″ apart depending on the size you prefer. As the potato plants grow, add soil around the stem (but not over the top). This will eventually create an 8″ tall mound and makes for an easy harvest.
- Under straw: dig a trench 4″ deep and 1′ wide. Place the potatoes in the trench with the “eyes” facing up, then cover with straw (NOT hay, which has weed seeds). As the plants emerge, layer around the stems with more straw. The potatoes will develop under the straw and be very easy to harvest!
- In a bucket. Use a container (5 gallon buckets are fun) and fill halfway full of potting soil. Plant potato pieces 3″ deep. As they emerge, add more potting soil around them. In spring, dump out your bucket and harvest the potatoes! (this is a great project for teachers to do with students).
When harvesting, use a spading fork and gently turn the soil to remove a plant and its potatoes. In early spring you can dig up and use “new” potatoes (small potatoes). It’s not necessary to harvest all the potatoes at once. In fact, you can leave them in the ground and dig them up as needed, as long as you dig them up before fall. After harvest, brush off the potatoes and store them in a cool, dark place (45-64°F) where they will keep for about 6 months. Layer between them with paper bags or burlap so they stay dry.
Please write and share your tips for planting potatoes as well as any favorite recipes. Oh, and for a laugh about the many uses of potatoes, check out this hilarious video!!
*”Irish” potatoes, are really from Peru. To learn more about the origins and history of these potatoes, click here.
January 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm
We’ve had potatoes grow the past couple of years from the peels of organic russet potatoes. Once we realized they were growing in our compost pile, we actually planted the peels in the garden. It wasn’t a big crop but a fun thing to do with the waste material.
January 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm
I had that happen once too, after Thanksgiving. Pretty cool!
January 13, 2012 at 9:34 am
I am so excited to get started growing our own food. This is a great article. I’ll be linking to it in my next post. Thanks Anne!
January 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm
January 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm
hi. robyn grom facebook….i Love potatoes….potatoe chips, hashbrowns/rounds, wedges, tater tots, french fries, mashed, baked, boiled….Love them!!!!! :). i love all the colored ines!!!!! :). we tried them last year but got started late….will try again maybe…ive run out of steam….but last year we did get some-little baby ones…may have gotten more, but i got impatient and dug them up bc i waant sure what was going on…..:). takes a frw years for me to understand whats going on and i started after 40….i wish i had done a lot of all rhis in my younger days…..:). parents had garden, we just stopped wanting to help. i remember pitching a fit one day while doing potatoes……i was finally relieved and allowed to quit…i was so excited!!! lol! :). watched a couple of your videos. they were nice! :). and i now want to watch or read anne of green gables again!!! i wanted to before but didnt see it on netflix or youtube…i must look again! looks like such a cute story!! enjoy CA!! it seems like such a nice place to live…..:). slightly cold here in north AL….:)
January 26, 2013 at 10:01 pm
Robyn you are SO funny!!! That reminds me of when I was a kid and my brother, father and I planted potatoes. My brother and I were impatient and dug up ALL the potatoes when they were small. My dad was SO upset! He made us shred them and cook up hashbrowns. Seemed like we were shredding those little potatoes forever!! It is okay to dig up a few little “new” potatoes and eat them. So glad you enjoyed the videos. I’m a HUGE fan of Anne of Green Gables myself. I’ve never been to Alabama but I’ve heard it’s beautiful. But I don’t know how you handle the cold, BRRRR!!!! Hope all is well. Thanks for your comments, you always make me laugh. 😉
April 8, 2016 at 2:21 am
I am going to try to grow in southern Alabama, I am from Northern Ireland where my father grew between 60 an 100 acres of potatoes every year so much that I became very discouraged and took up engineering.
I want to try a variety that I would have grown in Ireland (Pentland Dell, Kerrs Pinks, Navin) I have noticed that the Idaho Potatoes are similar to what I remember, or the Russets (maybe there from Idaho also I don’t know as I am new to this country.)
Any tips for growing in Alabama its extremely hot and humid.
Here is a link to the Pentland Dell Characteristics, does the US have a database like this?
May 1, 2016 at 6:38 pm
Hello Jonathan, sorry for the late reply. Have you looked at the potato association of America’s website? http://potatoassociation.org/industry/varieties I don’t have any tips for growing in Alabama, but have you contacted your local Cooperative Extension office? http://www.aces.edu/home-garden/lawn-garden/ I hope my reply is of some help to you.