Potato Growing Help & Advice

This page contains a number of help, advice, information and guides to help you with your potato planting.

Correct potato husbandry can be an arduous task in some circumstances. Good ground preparation, harrowing, plowing, and rolling are always needed, along with a little grace from the weather and a good source of water. Three successive plowings, with associated harrowing and rolling, are desirable before planting. Eliminating all root-weeds is desirable in potato cultivation. The potatoes themselves are generally grown from the eyes of another potato and not from seed. Home gardeners often plant a piece of potato with two or three eyes in a hill of mounded soil. Commercial growers plant potatoes as a row crop using seed tubers, young plants or microtubers and may mound the entire row. Seed potato crops are ‘rogued’ in some countries to eliminate diseased plants or those of a different variety from the seed crop.

Frosts & Cold Weather

Potatoes are sensitive to heavy frosts, which damage them in the ground. Even cold weather makes potatoes more susceptible to bruising and possibly later rotting which can quickly ruin a large stored crop.

At harvest time, gardeners usually dig up potatoes with a long-handled, three-prong “grape” (or graip), i.e. aspading fork, or a potato hook which is similar to the graip but its tines are at a 90 degree angle to the handle. In larger plots, the plow can serve as the fastest implement for unearthing potatoes. Commercial harvesting is typically done with large potato harvesters which scoop up the plant and the surrounding earth. This is transported up an apron chain consisting of steel links several feet wide, which separates some of the dirt. The chain deposits into an area where further separation occurs. Different designs use different systems at this point. The most complex designs use vine choppers and shakers, along with a blower system or “Flying Willard” to separate the potatoes from the plant. The result is then usually run past workers who continue to sort out plant material, stones, and rotten potatoes before the potatoes are continuously delivered to a wagon or truck. Further inspection and separation occurs when the potatoes are unloaded from the field vehicles and put into storage.

New Potatoes

Immature potatoes may be sold as “New Potatoes” and are particularly valued for taste. These are often harvested by the home gardener or farmer by “grabbling”, i.e. pulling out the young tubers by hand while leaving the plant in place.

Harvesting your Potatoes

Potatoes are usually cured after harvest to improve skin-set. Skin-set is the process by which the skin of the potato becomes resistant to skinning damage. Potato tubers may be susceptible to skinning at harvest and suffer skinning damage during harvest and handling operations. Curing allows the skin to fully set and any wounds to heal. Wound-healing prevents infection and water-loss from the tubers during storage. Curing is normally done at relatively warm temperatures 10 °C  to 15 °C  with high humidity and good gas-exchange if at all possible.

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