The Joy of Growing Your Own Potatoes


Potatoes are an absolute delight to grow in your spring garden. There’s something incredibly satisfying about digging up these earthy treasures from the soil, like embarking on a miniature treasure hunt. And let’s not forget the incredible taste of homegrown potatoes – there’s simply no comparison.

When and Where to Plant Potatoes

If you want a bountiful harvest of potatoes, it’s crucial to begin planting in February. By doing so, you’ll be rewarded with a ready-to-harvest crop in May and June. It’s advisable to acquire certified seed potatoes from reputable garden centers. These special potatoes have been carefully nurtured to be free of diseases and typically yield superior results compared to those found in grocery stores.

Remember, the key to successful potato growth lies in rich, well-drained soil. Wet soils can lead to disease issues and crop failure. Ideally, potatoes thrive in consistently moist conditions with organic-rich soil, such as those enriched with compost or rotted horse manure. Moreover, maintaining a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.0 is crucial. If you’re unsure of your soil’s pH level, consider having it tested.

Potatoes grown in dry, sandy soil or soil with a pH level above 5.5 are more susceptible to a bacterial disease called potato scab. This unsightly condition manifests as brown, corky scabs all over the potato skin.

How to Plant Seed Potatoes

There are several potato varieties that flourish in our region. One personal favorite is the ‘Yukon Gold,’ known for its creamy, golden flesh. Other successful varieties include ‘Kennebec’ and ‘Red Pontiac,’ a red-skinned potato with white flesh and deep-set eyes. When it comes to planting, cut seed potatoes into pieces roughly the size of an egg, ensuring each piece possesses at least one sprout, commonly referred to as an ‘eye.’ These cut pieces can be planted immediately or sprouted indoors for a few weeks in a warm, sunny spot.

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In the garden, it’s best to plant seed pieces 6 inches deep and approximately 10 inches apart within the rows. Leave around 3 feet of space between each row. As a general guideline, 12 pounds of seed potatoes can comfortably plant a 100-foot row, yielding over 200 pounds of delicious spuds. Once harvested, these potatoes can be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place such as a garage or shed, where they’ll remain fresh for three to four months or even longer.

While your potatoes grow, be on the lookout for their arch-nemesis, the Colorado potato beetle. These pesky critters usually emerge in our area during late April, laying clusters of bright orange, football-shaped eggs on the back of potato leaves.

Take the Year-Round Gardening Challenge!

As a personal challenge, why not attempt to grow at least one type of vegetable in each season? It may sound daunting, but it’s far more achievable than you might think. In southeastern NC, vegetables can thrive outdoors from late winter to late fall. If you’re up for the challenge, join the Year-Round Gardening Challenge by completing a quick online survey. This survey will inquire about your gardening aspirations, the size of your garden, and your level of gardening expertise. By participating, you’ll also have the option to subscribe to the Food Gardener email news service. This subscription will provide you with regular updates on planting times, recommended varieties, insect and disease management, sustainable and organic pest control methods, as well as upcoming classes and events.

Ames Farm Center

Learn More!

For further information about potatoes, visit the Home and Garden Information Center at Clemson Extension.

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To expand your gardening knowledge or seek guidance on landscape care, consider reaching out to your local Cooperative Extension office. You can locate your county Extension center here. Their horticulture agents are more than happy to provide valuable assistance.

If you’re specifically interested in the Pender County region, you can contact the Pender Extension Lawn and Garden webpage to stay up-to-date with the latest gardening news. Alternatively, sign up to receive weekly gardening updates through their email news services:

  • Subscribe to Pender Gardener: To subscribe, send an email to [email protected] (leaving the subject line blank) and write “subscribe pendergardener” in the body of the message.

  • Subscribe to Food Gardener: To subscribe, send an email to [email protected] (leaving the subject line blank) and write “subscribe foodgardener” in the body of the message.

So go ahead, dive into the wonderful world of potato cultivation and experience the joys of growing your own food!