From planting to harvest, here are the practices that will help you produce beautiful potatoes.
Potato key facts
Name – Solanum tuberosum
Family – Solanaceae
Type – vegetable
Height – 1 ½ feet (50 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rather light, rich and not too damp
Harvest – from June to November, depending on the variety.
Wait for mid-March in mild climates and beginning of April everywhere else before starting planting.
In the south of France or near the Atlantic coast, some can even start mid-February, but it is wise to provide for cover such as cold frames or tunnel greenhouses in case frost spells hit.
Read also: > Germinating potatoes at the right moment
- The ground must be well softened before planting to make the soil as light as possible.
Till the earth to a depth of around 1 foot (30 cm).
- We recommend planting the “certified germinating“ tubers from March to June.
Planting time depends on the climate zone you are in, because frost spells must be behind you already.
Don’t hurry to plant because potatoes require that the ground beneath it be suitably warmed up first, since 50°F (10°C) at root level is needed for the potato to sprout.
- Wait for the tubers to have begun germinating before setting them in place.
- Place the tuber vertically, ensuring that the sprout faces upward.
- Space tubers around 1 1/3rd feet (30 to 40 cm) apart, and bury them at a depth of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm).
Also, if you are planting several rows, ensure that rows are spaced around 2 to 2 1/3rd feet (60 to 70 cm) apart.
As an alternative, you may want to try simply returning a large potato to the ground upon harvesting, mimicking what would happen in nature.
- This will save you time in spring since you won’t need to go through the entire germinating and sowing steps.
- However, there is a catch: you might lose the seed potato to underground pests over the winter.
- Also, if ever the potato sprouts early and frost is expected, you will need to protect your plants against freezing with a cold frame or garden cloche until frosts are past.
- This works best if you’ve been able to acclimatize your potatoes over several seasons and keep sowing “survivors“.
Exposure: Potato needs sun to develop well.
Caring for and growing potato
Although it is rather easy to care for, a potato plant benefits from being given attention to regularly in order to increase productivity and harvest.
- Ridging potato, an important step
When all plants reach a height anywhere from 1/3rd to 2 1/4th feet (10 to 55 cm), ridge their base with light soil.
Ridging means to build up a small mound at the base of the potato plant stems in order to secure the plant to the soil, protect it from wind, and let it grow at its best.
- Watering potato, a special need to provide for
Potatoes are very sensitive to drought and do not cope well if the ground lacks water for too long.
Watering every evening is recommended when it is hot and that you see the leaves wilting. Avoid wetting the leaves as this might favor diseases such as mushrooms.
In order to remove any risk of the ground being too dry, it is recommended to mulch the base of the potato stems.
Potato harvest and different varieties of potato
> It is useless to harvest potatoes before the foliage turns completely yellow.
> This phase of yellowing is key to signalling that harvesting is imminent.
> But it also signals that there should be no further delay because a completely desiccated foliage means that you have waited too long.
Once harvested, keep them in the dark in a cool, dry and ventilated place.
Potato varieties grouped according to their flesh
> Potato varieties with firm flesh
‘Roseval’, ‘Belle de Fontenay’, ‘BF 15’, ‘Amandine’, ‘Charlotte’, ‘Bernadette’, ‘Chérie’, ‘Pompadour’ and the famous ‘Ratte du Touquet‘ are varieties that all boast a firm flesh.
> Potato varieties with mealy flesh
‘Monalisa’, ‘Ostara’, ‘Désirée’, ‘Bintje’, ‘Manon’, ‘Estima’, ‘Apollo’ or ‘Resy’
Varieties grouped according to their harvest dates
> Summer harvest, from May to July
‘Belle de Fontenay’, ‘Monalisa’, ‘Manon’, ‘Ostara’, ‘Amandine’, ‘Bernadette’, ‘Charlotte’, ‘Chérie’, ‘Rosabelle’
> Fall harvest, from September to November
Most famous among a great many more, there is the ‘Nicola’, the ‘Bintje’ and the ‘Désirée’
Insects and diseases that attack potato
Potatoes are nonetheless vulnerable to certain diseases and parasites that must be taken care of and treated quickly.
- Aphids – leaves lose their original color and roll themselves into cylinders.
- Potato blight – brown spots appear on leaves and spread to reach the entire foliage and the potatoes.
- Colorado potato beetle – this is the most prevalent of insects that can threaten potato plants.
- Rhizoctonia solani
- Bacterial rot
Potato pinworm or leafminer
Together with tomatoes that are part of the same Solanaceae family, potatoes can also be attacked by a moth called the tomato pinworm or leafminer. This parasite can destroy up to 100% of a harvest.
- This shows how to fight against the tomato pinworm (potato and tomato share the same parasite)
All there is to know about the potato plant
Studies show that potato has been in use for over 8,000 years, but it is only after it arrived in Europe that cultivation spread across the world. Today, potatoes are grown in more than 150 countries and grow under virtually all climates.
Potato undoubtedly forms one of the most common staple foods in the world.
- Easy to grow and with a high productivity, potato is more and more cultivated by knowing gardeners and amateurs alike.
- This ensures high-quality produce as well as a host of different varieties that are not commercially available anymore.
- With a high vitamin B1 and C content as well as a strong source of carbohydrates, you will also appreciate potato for its high iron and potassium content.
Special tip about potato
At planting time, after having dug your rows to a depth of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm), place your tubers and cover them with the finest possible earth.
- A potato with purple flesh, the vitelotte noire, or ‘black vitelotte’.
- Find all potato-related pages.