I recently learned how to make seed potatoes grow eyes for planting in the garden. I am going to grow potatoes this year for the first time. My plan is to grow some potato plants in grow bags and some in the garden. After purchasing seed potatoes this week, new potatoes, and yukon golds, I noticed that the potatoes did not have eyes sprouting, yet.
I want to be able to plant my seed potatoes in the next couple of weeks and want them to have a good start. I decided to pre-sprout my potatoes. The process of pre-sprouting potatoes is actually called “chitting”. The chitting process can give you at least a two week head start when growing potatoes and they will be ready for planting. Pre-sprouting, or chitting, is not necessary but will get your potatoes growing earlier in the garden, and will give you an earlier harvest and higher yields.
How to Get Potatoes to Sprout Eyes
The method I chose for the sprouting process, is to place the whole seed potatoes eye side up in egg cartons.
Then I placed them in a sunny spot. In the light, the sprouts will grow sturdy and green and they won’t be leggy and easy to break off.
This common way and easy method of producing your own potato sprouts is the best option in my opinion. The photo below shows the seed potatoes already show sprout growth after three days.
The Ideal Sprouts
The ideal sprouts on a seed potato should look similar to the sprouting potato in the photo below. Sturdy and thick with some green shoots.
Below is how potatoes usually sprout in the dark and not how you want your sprouts to look like.
If a seed potato has buds that are slightly white and have been in the dark, it is possible to put them in the light and the white buds will turn green and be good sprouting potatoes.
You do not want too many sprouts on your seed potato. Three or four shoots per potato is good and the rest of the sprouts can be cut off of the potato. Either wear gloves when removing the sprouts or wash your hands afterword, as sprouts contain a toxic chemical called Solanine. Potatoes that turn a green color also contain this toxin.
Four to five sprouts may yield more potatoes, but the potatoes will be smaller. One or two eyes per piece will produce less but larger potatoes.
The ideal sprout is green and about 1/2 inch to one inch long. Long sprouts can break off easily. If the sprouts start getting too long and you are not ready to plant, move them to a cooler dark place and it will slow down the growth.
Should You Use Store-Bought Potatoes as Seed Potatoes
Certified seed potatoes are what is usually recommended to use to grow potatoes. You might wonder if you could use old potatoes bought from the local grocery store that have sprouted. We all have had that bag of potatoes in the pantry that gets sprouts. The main reason not to use store-bought potatoes for planting is that seed potatoes are certified to be free of disease, while grocery store potatoes are not. these potatoes can carry bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases, such as potato blight, which can cause your garden’s soil to become unusable for at least three years.
Preparing the Seed Potato
You can plant a whole seed potato or cut them into pieces.
If you do plant them whole, you should plant smaller potatoes about egg-sized, with at most three eyes on each potato.
If you do cut the seed potatoes into pieces, give them a day or two to cure and callus over.
When to Plant Potatoes
The time for planting seed potatoes is early spring. Potatoes are a cool weather crop and can be planted 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date. The soil temperature should be at least 55° degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 45°degrees Fahrenheit at night. Not only the temperature of the soil needs to be right, but the soil needs to be more dry than wet and not sticking together. If the spring is a wet and cold spring, you can always plant later and even later in containers.
How to Plant Potatoes in the Garden
To plant potatoes in your garden bed including in a raised bed garden, dig a trench that is 6-8 inches deep in well-drained soil in full sun. Plant the small pieces of potato or small potatoes with the eyes pointing up in a single layer. Space the potato pieces every 12 to 15 inches. The rows should be three feet apart. After planting fill the trench with four inches of soil. After the plants start growing, fill in dirt and mound the dirt around the base of the plant as they grow.
How to Plant Potatoes in a Grow Bag
The following steps should be used to plant potatoes in a grow bag. First determine how many sprouted potatoes that you can grow in a bag. This will depend on the size of your bag. If the bag is 5 to 10 gallon size then about 1 to 2 potato plants will fit. For the larger bags, 15-20 gallon, four to six plants should fit.
First thing add about four inches of potting soil and organic material to the bottom of the bag, then place the seed potatoes or potato chunks on the surface of the soil with the cut side down and eyes facing up. Cover the seed potatoes with a few inches of soil. Roll the bag sides down so that sun can reach the plants when they sprout. Water the soil but do not add too much water. Keep the soil moist.
After the potato plants reach about six inches, add more soil to the bag and and mound up alongside the plant, being careful not to damage the new plants. Keep adding soil as the plants grow. Keep the bag watered.
Other Methods of Planting Potatoes
There are several other methods of planting potatoes including in a straw bale or in a laundry basket. As I stated above, I plan to plant my seed potatoes in a grow bag and garden bed, but may try other methods. I will update my website with a new article with my planting experience.
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