Plants have a way of coming back, growing strong, nothing else in the world shows us this quite as well.
Considering this amazing feat of plants re-establishing themselves, you may have expected to see examples from the most interesting or incredible distant places.
However, one of the best examples is a common, every-day plant, the potato.
Although potatoes vary in their colors, sizes and purposes, they have all become a food staple around the world as they are known for their delicious, starchy, high carb goodness.
They are also one of the easier vegetables out there to grow, yet still maintain a bit of their own mystery to new growers because of their planting differences.
A potato plant will grow again from a potato, a sprout will emerge from one of the “eyes” – a small dimple on the potato surface. When the conditions are right a full new potato plant will grow from this sprout.
This article will show you how to prepare seed potatoes before planting.
How to grow potatoes
If you would like more information about growing your own potatoes, please read my article How to grow potatoes. This covers everything you need to know from planting, preparing seed, growing, harvesting and storage and more about this great vegetable.
Do potatoes produce seeds
Although many people think of starting a garden with packets of seeds bought from a catalog or their local garden supply store, potatoes tend to be a little different.
I have never seen a package of tiny potato seeds for sale anywhere, and this is for good reason.
The part of a potato plant that should be planted in the ground is actually the tuber, or the potato that we eat.
Potatoes will sprout and bolt, producing seeds, but these are not what we plant as they will not grow potatoes or even the same varieties of plants that we had initially harvested from.
With potato seeds, you never know what you will end up with, which is usually nothing. Instead, we have what is called a seed potato, which is an actual potato, they are easy to come by at any garden center or store.
Although it might seem an easier option, it isn’t a great idea to just buy a package of potatoes from the grocery store.
The reason to buy from our garden centers is because the potatoes will have been chemically treated against diseases and they will be graded for size and certified, to ensure they are good to plant.
Where are the eyes of a potato
As all of us have seen, potatoes that are left for too long will inevitably begin to sprout. The sprouts grow from what we call the “eyes” of the potato.
Before the sprouts begin to grow, the eyes can be identified as slight indents in the skin where there is a dry nub sticking straight out from the potato.
Eyes can mature in almost any area where the potatoes are stored, dark or light, hot or cool.
Once they begin to mature, they will start to form bigger clusters and from these, shoot sprouts up and out.
How to plant potatoes from eyes
Planting potatoes from eyes is not a difficult process.
After I buy my seed potatoes, I sort the large potatoes from the small ones. I will plant the small potatoes as a whole tuber in the ground, but I normally cut the larger potatoes into quarters, making sure each quarter has a number of eyes on it.
I make sure to use a clean knife and cut the potato into at least one inch square chunks with a number of eyes on it, then I leave them to dry.
Another safeguard is to coat them in a powdered Sulphur mixture before they dry. Taking this in as they dry will reinforce that “wall” and help protect them even more.
After drying you should put the cut potatoes and the small whole potatoes into a shed or warmer area and leave in there for a week or two or until the seed potatoes start to show a small sprout or bud ¼” to ½” long – this is known as chitting.
What if the seed potatoes were bought with good intentions to be planted right away but life cropped up and got in the way?
Then, when they are pulled out of the cupboard, the potatoes have already started to sprout!
Beware these accidental self chitted potatoes will have long white sprouts which will be easily broken off – they need to be brought out of the dark cupboard and placed into the sunlight to turn the brittle white chit into a green flexible one perfect for planting.
Chitting just means that before the potatoes planted they are set in a slightly warmish spot and encouraged to sprout from their eyes before being planted.
It is important to place them in this specific type of environment as potatoes generally won’t start to sprout if they are kept in a cold place.
The perfect environment is a slightly warm place with good ventilation (discourages mould and disease) and plenty of light.
Planting seed potatoes
After I till the soil, I then plant the seed potatoes by placing them on top of the flat tilled soil in a straight line with the eye, or sprout side, up.
It is a good idea to space the seed potatoes about 12-16 inches apart along the drill so that the plant will have enough room to grow.
After the row of potatoes is placed, I then use my shovel to lift the soil from the sides of the potato row and place it on top. I cover the potatoes with around 6 inches of soil. This will leave a trough on either side of the potato seed thereby forming a drill.
I normally put my drills or rows around 30” apart, centre of one drill to centre of the other.
Adding fertilizer to potatoes
I normally scatter some potato fertilizer onto the soil during tilling to help my crop grow. A high P and K fertilizer is required ( see list at end of article)
One planted potato will in turn produce one potato plant, this plant will produce 10 to 12 potatoes, the more space you give them in the drill the bigger the potatoes will be (all things considered).
It is not really necessary to cut potatoes unless they are excessively large, and if you are buying certified seed they will all be graded for size so you actually have any large ones to cut.
Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato