How to Survive on Mars: Potato Planting 101

March 1, 2016

Is There An Ideal Time?

We always get these questions: When is the best time for potato planting? And, how do I do it? If you are reading this before May, then you’re in luck!

Prime Potato Planting Season

Multicolored PotatoesFebruary 15 – April 15 is actually the best time for potato planting in the South Bay. Now, that’s not to say that potatoes can’t be grown at other points of the year, it’s just not ideal. We are fortunate enough to live in sunny California where the weather is usually hospitable to a number of our plants even in the off-season. If you are a big fan of potatoes, I would try growing your favorite varieties throughout the year just to see how it goes…and there are thousands of varieties you can try, so get your bed prepped and ready for spuds!

Tips to Growing Potatoes

Potatoes are underground tubers, so be advised if you are interplanting them with other above ground crops, you will need to disturb the soil pretty heavily in order to get your potatoes out when ready to harvest. Here are a few other key instructions when planting potatoes for your home garden:

  • Give potatoes their own space in the garden–or even a separate container. Nothing worse than disturbing the roots of other mature plants come harvest time.
  • Use gopher wire and have proper deer fencing even for potatoes. While the stem and leaves may be poisonous to us, other critters seem to love em.
  • Most potatoes can be cut into many 1-2” cubes before planting about 4” below the surface skin side up, 8″ apart. If they begin growing eyes, make sure there is at least one eye per cube with that eye facing the sky (it will turn into the foliage).
  • Plant potatoes in an area where you can continually pile dirt or mulch on top of the new leaves to create more potatoes and a more robust plant. This also prevents solanine production.
  • Don’t allow the soil to be overly moist in order to prevent disease.
  • Don’t eat your potatoes if they’ve turned green. This means they were exposed to light and have an increased amount of solanine which can be toxic to eat in high amounts.
  • Once the above ground, green plant portion of the potato begins to die, get out your trowel cuz it’s harvest time! (dig carefully, it’s like an Easter egg hunt and amazing how deep they can get!)

One more thing…MOST potatoes you find in your local organic food store can be chopped up and planted in your garden. Be aware that many conventional farmers do spray a growth-inhibitor on the potato to prevent them from sprouting eyes as quickly as they normally would.

Potatoes are one of those crops that have SO many varieties to choose from and are really so good eaten fresh. Try different varieties, plant and enjoy!