How Deep Do You Plant Potatoes and 19 Other Potato Questions Answered

How Deep Do you Plant Potatoes
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Last Updated on 2 years by Michelle

When I first decided to grow potatoes many years ago, my first question was: how deep do you plant potatoes, anyway?

Potatoes are the most popular vegetable in the United States and are the 3rd most crucial food crop behind rice and wheat.

In western North Carolina Zone 7B, we just planted the seed potatoes we got from Grand Teton Organics. They are based out of Idaho, and the owner John Hoggan is passionate about growing new varieties of potatoes. They are a trusted source of certified seed potatoes, and they supply many shops all over the country with their seed potatoes

Three Bags of Seed Potatoes from Grand Teton Organics
Three Bags of Seed Potatoes from Grand Teton Organics

We planted 5 pounds each of German Butterball, Yukon Gold, and French Fingerling potatoes. (Note: remember to take your seed potatoes out of their packaging as soon as they arrive in the mail, so they don’t rot before you plant them)

Our 2022 Potato Bed is Almost Planted
Our 2022 Potato Bed is Almost Planted

In addition to those potatoes, we planted MORE potatoes a few weeks back for what I call our ” Free Early New Potato Experiment.”

Last year, I planted 15 pounds of seed potatoes which yielded over 150 pounds.

I stored those potatoes in my basement over the fall and winter, and we had several pounds of potatoes leftover from that. So I planted several pounds of them on March 3 for an experiment I’m undertaking.

The Free New Potato Experiment

I planted 180 square feet of potatoes on March 3, then covered them with Agribon AG-19 floating row cover to protect them from freezing temps.

Potatoes Planted Under Floating Row Cover
Rows of freshly-planted potatoes covered with AG-19 floating row cover for protection

(We did indeed receive a HARD freeze of 19 degrees F the following week, but because the potatoes had not sprouted, they were OK)

If the experiment continues to work, I’ll have new potatoes very early this year: about six weeks earlier than usual. The best part about the investigation is that these potatoes are FREE.

I share all that to say that we like potatoes around here. And chances are you do, too.

If you have questions about potatoes, we have answers!

So in this post, we’ll answer some popular potato questions.

How Deep Do You Plant Potatoes

How Deep Do You Plant Potatoes in the Ground?

It would be best to plant seed potatoes about 4 inches deep, whether in a container, a raised bed, or in the ground.

If you are growing in a container, make sure the container sides are tall enough to mound soil over the tubers or plants as they grow.

Remember to water your potatoes well after planting and keep the soil moist but not wet. If the soil stays too wet, the tubers will rot.

What is the Difference Between Indeterminate and Determinate Potatoes?

It might be helpful to know that there are two types of potato plants.

Indeterminate Potatoes

Indeterminate potatoes produce side-shoots at various lengths along the stem length.

That means that the more you hill up your soil or straw in and around the plant as it grows, the more potato harvest you’ll get.

Technically, indeterminate potatoes will produce more and more potatoes right along the potato vines as long as the weather is correct and you keep hilling up soil around the plant.

Some popular delicious varieties of indeterminate potatoes include:

  • Russett Burbank
  • German Butterball
  • Red Pontiac
  • Bintje
  • Strawberry Paw
  • Russet Nugget
  • Red Cloud
  • Lehigh

Determinate Potatoes

Determinate potatoes produce all their potatoes in one layer underground.

They set their buds around 6-8 inches below the soil along the stems. They are usually large, plump, and evenly spaced.

This means that you don’t need to “hill up” the soil around determinate potato plants. Instead, ensure that you cover any growing tubers that may have started to grow above ground, so they aren’t exposed to sunlight and turn green.

Some popular delicious varieties of determinate potatoes include:

  • French Fingerling
  • Gold Rush
  • Red Norland
  • Yukon Gold
  • Sierra Rose
  • Sierra Gold
Tasty Potato Varieties

How Often Should You Water Potatoes?

One of the most important things you can do for your potato plants after planting the seed potato is to keep them evenly watered throughout the growing season.

Water stress (lack of water) will cause your potato plants to produce smaller tubers.

Potatoes require between 1-2 inches of rain per week once you see flowers. So if you don’t receive that amount of water from rain, you’ll have to water them.

This is just a bit more water than the rest of the garden will need since the average water requirement for a typical zone 7B spring/summer garden is around an inch of water.

Is One Location for Growing Potatoes Better Than Another?

You can grow potatoes in the ground in your garden, in a raised bed, or a container, pot, or produce bag.

One way of growing isn’t necessarily better than another.

Still, if you must grow in a container or grow bag, indeterminate potatoes will usually do better for you than determinate potato varieties will.

As we mentioned earlier, indeterminate potatoes will grow up the vine above the seed piece for as long as they are hilled with soil. So this is the perfect situation for growing in containers.

You can put 2-3 inches of soil in the bottom of a container, place your seed potato pieces down, and then cover them with 3-4 inches. Then, as the plant grows and you start to see tubers peeking out from the soil, cover with soil until only 2 inches of green plant is showing.

Whenever planting any seed potatoes in soil, either dig individual holes for each cut potato or dig a trench to lay down multiple potatoes in a row. Ideally, the hole should be 4 inches deep. If you plan on planting more rows, place the rows about 18 inches apart to allow the plants enough space to grow. Potatoes need full sun to grow.

What Month do You Plant Potatoes?

Potatoes are first planted in early spring, after your last frost date. The soil temperature will still be cool.

You can plant seed potatoes as late as mid-June, but they will yield smaller potatoes if they are planted later since the tubers underground probably won’t be able to grow to full size before the first frost in the fall.

How deep do you plant potatoes
Getting the Spacing Right on These Potatoes Before we Plant

If you need to plant later in June, try to grow an early variety. Early varieties are ready to harvest in around 75- 90 days. This will help you because they will require less time to give you a full harvest. Some early maturing varieties to use for this are:

  • Yukon Gold
  • Irish Cobbler
  • Red Norland

Can You Bury Potatoes Too Deep?

No, you can not bury potatoes too deep. As long as the potato is in contact with soil, it will grow. However, you need to be concerned about planting potatoes too deep if you are planting them in a container and they are not touching the soil at the bottom.

Should You Soak Potatoes Before Planting?

No. There is no benefit to soaking potatoes before planting. The reason people soak seeds before planting them is so that the tough outer husk will soften in the water, and the seed will sprout faster.

Potatoes don’t need this, so there is no reason to soak potatoes. However, they are susceptible to rot, so it is essential to keep them moist but not soggy.

When Should You Harvest Potatoes?

The foliage turns yellow and begins to die back when the potatoes are ready to harvest. Depending on the variety, that will happen anywhere from 75 days to 100 days or more.

The beautiful thing about potatoes is that you can check how far along they are by reaching into the soil to harvest them.

If you can’t rub off the skin, they are ready! If you can rub the skin off, it is too soon to harvest them.

If you were to harvest them while their skins rub off, you could not store them, and they would not last anywhere near as long as regular potatoes. You can eat these delicious new potatoes, and they are a spring-time delicacy!

How Do You Prepare Seed Potatoes for Planting?

To prepare seed potatoes for planting, you can cut them into pieces with at least one or two eyes. Cutting them into pieces will make your seed potatoes go farther and possibly increase your harvest. You can also plant whole seed potatoes if you like. (The jury is out whether you grow more by cutting them or planting them whole.)

The eyes will sprout. You can then plant the potato pieces in the ground or pots if you’re growing them indoors.

A farmer's hand in a black glove plants potatoes in a tuber in a hole with fertilizer and ash on the background of a basket with seeds on an earthen bed. Background.

After you cut the potatoes, let the cut pieces dry for a few days before planting them.

How Long Does it Take to Sprout a Potato Plant From a Seed Potato?

The time for a potato plant to sprout from certified seed potatoes can vary depending on how deep the potato is planted, how much moisture there is in the ground and the temperature.

On average, potatoes typically take between 2-3 weeks to sprout.

It takes about 10-14 weeks for a potato plant to be ready to harvest when grown from seed potatoes. The time it takes to grow a potato will vary depending on the temperature and the climate.

You will know the potatoes are ready when the foliage turns yellow and starts to die back.

Then you can begin to dig up your buried treasure!

How Many Potatoes Can You Grow From One Seed Potato?

You can grow quite a few potatoes from just one seed potato. How many potatoes you get will depend on the size of the potato piece that you plant and the climate conditions. You can usually get between 6-10 potatoes from a single seed potato.

Will Potatoes Grow in Straw?

Yes. The straw helps keep the soil moist and provides nutrients, which will help them grow.

It also limits weeds that would otherwise compete for water and nutrients (straw is usually well mulched), but be sure not to disturb the straw because it will dry out when weeding.

How Deep Should a Container Be for Potatoes?

If you’re planting potatoes in a container, the depth of the container should be at least six inches. Of course, you can go a little deeper if you want, but make sure the container has drainage holes, so the potatoes don’t get waterlogged. Potatoes hate to have “wet feet” and can rot relatively quickly when in standing water.

Can You Grow Potatoes in a Shallow Container?

Yes, you can grow potatoes in a shallow container as long as the container has drainage holes. The potatoes will need enough space to grow, so choose a container at least six inches deep. You don’t want green potatoes, so make sure your container is deep enough to cover all the potatoes with soil or straw.

What are the Best Potato-Growing Containers?

The best containers to grow potatoes are containers that provide plenty of room for the potatoes to grow, such as large pots, raised beds, or in-ground gardens.

Can I Grow Potatoes From Seeds?

YES. You can grow potatoes from seeds as well as from seed potatoes.

Potato flowers are pollinated like other flowers and will grow seeds that will, in turn, grow potato plants and tubers.

These seeds are called True Potato Seed. The plants that the TPS grows will be different from the parent plant.

Dried Potato Seed Pods Next to Seed Potato Bags
Dried Potato Seed Pods Next to Seed Potato Bags

The dried pollinated potato seed heads are that small pile of dark organic matter.

This process is how new potato varieties are created. First, True Potato Seed is planted, and the tubers from that seed are harvested. There is a wide variation in the type of tubers that are produced from the seed. Once the grower tastes a tuber they like, they keep those tubers and plant them for the following seasons.

Growers like Grand Teton Organics sell these true seeds, where we purchased ours.

This season, I will be growing potatoes from true potato seed, so subscribe to the blog for updates on growing potatoes from true potato seed!

Can I Hill my Potatoes With Straw?

Yes. Some gardeners choose to hill their potatoes with straw rather than soil to keep them very clean while growing. Cover the tubers completely with straw when hilling potatoes and leave about 6 inches of space between each hill.

How Many Seed Potatoes Can You Grow in a Bag?

In a 10 gallon bag, you can plant up to 2 seed potatoes per grow bag.

The 10-gallon size is my favorite because it’s the perfect balance of size and portability. A 10-gallon bag is big enough to grow at least one of any vegetable you’d want to grow, and yet it’s small enough to move to keep it out of the cold, etc. It’s also deep enough to hill up indeterminate potatoes effectively.

How Many Potato Plants Should I Grow per Person?

This is a difficult question to answer. How many potatoes you’ll need per person depends on how often you eat them and in what form. For instance, if you only eat boiled potatoes once a week, you’ll need fewer plants than someone who enjoys mashed potatoes every day.

How Deep Do You Plant Potatoes

You can assume that one average-sized potato plant will produce about ten potatoes if you want a general guideline. So, if you have a family of four, you’ll probably want to grow 40 potato plants.

Of course, this is just a guideline. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may want to grow more or fewer plants. But it should give you a good starting point.

You will also need a place to store your homegrown potatoes over the fall and winter if you grow more than you can eat. I highly suggest growing enough potatoes to eat during the fall and winter if you have room to produce them.

What Are Some Tips for Growing Potatoes?

  • Choose a sunny spot in your garden to plant your seed potatoes.
  • Be sure to water your potatoes regularly and keep the soil moist.
  • Cover the tubers completely with soil or straw and leave about six inches of space between each hill when hilling potatoes.
  • Keep your eyes open for pests. Colorado potato beetles are the most prevalent pest. You can pick them off and drop them in soapy water when they are on your plants. We do this every day. If you have chickens, they love to eat these beetles.

Conclusion

When planting potatoes, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, how deep you bury them will depend on the variety of potatoes you are growing and how you are planting them. You can grow potatoes from true potato seeds or seed potatoes. Do you have any other tips for growing potatoes? How many potato plants do you grow per person? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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