how far apart to plant potatoes

How Far Apart To Plant Potatoes

Growing potatoes at home will provide you with the basis for many meals, from fluffy mashed potatoes to delicious home fries. These easy-to-grow vegetables do require plenty of room to grow. But when planted correctly, they will produce an abundance of large, fresh potatoes for your family.

Is it important to plant potatoes at a regular distance from each other?

The planting distance between your potatoes determines how many full-sized potatoes the plants will produce. Because they need plenty of room under the soil for the tubers to form and mature, it is important to plant them 14 to 24 inches apart in rows spaced 2 ½ to 3 feet apart. Planting them at a regular distance along the row ensures that all the plants have equal room to grow.

How far apart to plant potatoes?

Potatoes should be planted 14 to 24 inches apart in rows 2 ½ to 3 feet apart to allow the tubers room to grow and mature. Usually the more space and soil a potato plant has the larger the potatoes it will produce. The less fertile your soil is the further apart you should space your seed. However, you can plant them closer together if you intend to harvest and eat them as baby potatoes. Baby potatoes (also referred to as new potatoes) are regular potatoes harvested earlier when the tubers are smaller.

Many gardeners prefer the flavor and texture of new potatoes as they are sweet and firm, but new potatoes need to be eaten within a day or two of harvesting. New potatoes cannot be stored for future use as they have not matured and will turn soft and spoil.

Potatoes grown for new potatoes can be planted 8 to 10 inches apart. This gives room for small tubers to form. If you intend to allow your potatoes to mature so that you can harvest large potatoes and store them for winter use, it is essential to plant them 14 to 24 inches apart.

What happens if I plant my potatoes close together?

Potato plants form tubers (potatoes) under the soil and need room to develop and mature. Planting them too close together will not give them enough room to grow and will inhibit their production and reduce the yield of potatoes.

Potatoes that are planted too close together will produce small potatoes. These potatoes can be harvested and eaten as baby potatoes. Otherwise, your harvest of potatoes in the fall will be lacking in size and abundance.

What should I do if I planted my potatoes too close together?

All is not lost if you accidentally planted your potato plants too close together in the spring. Harvest every other plant as soon as young potatoes begin to set on (about two weeks after they bloom) and eat them as baby potatoes. This will give more room for the remaining potato plants to grow large tubers.

Does planting distance apply to in the row and across rows?

Planting distance refers to the distance between potato plants along the row.  Row spacing refers to the distance between rows. Potatoes should be planted 14 to 24 inches apart along the row. Rows should be spaced 2 ½ to 3 feet apart.

Can you plant potato rows closer together to save space?

Potato plants are large plants and need room to grow. If you have not planted your seed potatoes deep enough – at least 8″ below the surface of the soil- the potatoes may need to be hilled as they grow. This will ensure the tubers are fully covered with soil as they grow and mature.

The wide spacing between rows allows you to till the soil between the rows with a rototiller to loosen the soil for hilling the potatoes. You may be able to space the rows 2 feet apart if you intend to loosen the soil with a hoe before hilling them but spacing the rows too close together will make hilling more difficult.

Hilling potatoes serves two purposes. It provides support for the potato plant and prevents it from flopping, and provides cover for the tubers to grow under the soil. If potatoes are not hilled, tubers may form too close to the surface and even grow with portions of the potato tuber above the soil. These will sunburn (turn green) from the sun and ruin your potatoes.

Why does planting further apart grow bigger potatoes?

Potatoes need ample room to grow and mature under the soil. Spacing them further apart gives them the space and access to more nutrients essential for them to grow to their full potential. When potatoes are planted too closely together, there is not enough soil space for the potatoes to grow to full size.

Can planting distance affect the amount of fertilizer I need?

Adding potato fertilizer to the entire row, including the spaces between the potatoes, is recommended. The roots of the potato expand to grow throughout the row and will grow best if an abundance of nutrients are readily available. If growth is inhibited due to a lack of space, giving your potatoes extra fertilizer will help to make them grow a little more. Although care is needed as fertilizer can burn your plants if it is in high concentration in a small volume of soil.

Another important point to remember is that the smaller volume of soil may not be able to cover the larger bulk of potatoes being grown and extra hilling will most likely be required. Water, sunlight, and nutrients are vital to plant growth, more fertilizer can help compensate for potatoes planted too closely but it is much better to give your plants the extra space at planting and use a normal amount of fertilizer.

How close together can you plant potatoes in a raised bed?

Growing potatoes in raised beds can be tricky because it can be challenging to hill them properly if they are not planted deep enough and drainage can be difficult. However, potatoes can be grown in a raised bed if it has at least 12 inches of depth of soil. In this case, plant the potatoes 14 inches apart in all directions.

To get your potato plants established earlier, dig holes for the potatoes 8 inches deep and cover the seed with 4 inches of soil. This will get the leaves of the plant growing earlier than if you had to wait for them to grow through the full 6″ of soil. Hill up the remainder of the soil to just above the level of the raised bed when your potato plants are 6-8 inches tall. Repeat the procedure if you see any tubers appearing above the surface of the soil.

Summary

Growing potatoes at home is relatively easy as long as you have a solid plan for your crop. Spending time beforehand working out planting distance, depth, seed preparations such as chitting, and knowing how much fertilizer you need to apply will all be worth it when it comes to harvesting time. The correct planting distance depends on whether you intend to grow baby potatoes for summer meals or if you want to allow your potatoes to grow fully and mature so they can be kept for winter use. I have a great summary of these points in a handy article called Secrets to growing potatoes – use it as a checklist for your potato crop. Good luck!

Useful Equipment:

Lufkin Wood Rule – Foldable wood rule by Lufkin Co. Cleveland, Ohio 1869. Wood rule with brass hinges – folds out in 6″ sections – excellent product.

Muldale Plant Dibbler – Use this 8″ long natural beechwood dibbler to open up holes in the soil to plant seed into – Great for raised beds or small areas/ pots.

Cate’s Garden Hand Trowel – Stainless steel hand trowel with wooden ash handle – has a useful depth gauge etched onto the trowel face which makes consistent planting depth a breeze!

Further reading:

https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/potatoes-in-the-home-garden-7-617/

https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1011&title=Home%20Garden%20Potatoes