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Avoid These Common Mistakes When Growing Potatoes This Season Full Guide of 2023

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mistakes to avoid when growing potatoesYou know how satisfying it feels to dig up a heap of homegrown potatoes. But you’ll miss out on that feeling if you make common mistakes while raising your crop. The good news is that avoiding these pitfalls is easy when you know what to watch for.

We’ve been growing spuds for years, so trust us when we say a bountiful harvest starts with using the right seed potatoes. Proper spacing, hilling and watering are also key to keep those plants happy and healthy.

With our experience-tested tips, you’ll learn how to dodge the issues that derail many first-time potato growers.

Growing a thriving potato patch is easier than you think when you sidestep these mistakes from the start.

Key Takeaways

  • Using store-bought potatoes treated with chemicals
  • Planting potatoes too close together or at the wrong depth
  • Not watering adequately or ensuring proper drainage
  • Neglecting to rotate crops and monitor for pests

Planting Seed Potatoes

Planting Seed Potatoes
Don’t break our tender sprouts, friend. When planting those cheerful tubers, take care in choosing and handling your seed potatoes. Avoid grocery store spuds; those chemicals stop our sprouting. Seek out certified organic seed tubers instead.

Space those spuds properly in fertile, well-drained soil. Crowding stresses our roots. Plant too early, and we may rot in cold mud. Plant too late, and we’ll struggle in summer’s heat. Set us just deep enough to snuggle our sprouts, 2-3 inches down. Place us lovingly in hills, eyes up, 12 inches apart.

With care in planting, we’ll nourish you through winter with our nutritious roots.

Choosing the Right Seed Potatoes

Choosing the Right Seed Potatoes
Let’s move from planting seed potatoes to choosing the right seed potatoes. While using the seed potatoes you already have on hand may seem convenient, it’s crucial that you start with high-quality, certified organic seed potatoes if you want a bountiful harvest.

Here are four tips for selecting seed potatoes:

  1. Buy certified organic – Conventional, store-bought potatoes often have chemical sprout inhibitors.
  2. Check for eyes – Seed potatoes should have 2-3 strong eyes per tuber. Avoid planting potatoes without eyes – they won’t sprout well.
  3. Know the variety – Pick early, mid, and late-season potatoes suited to your climate.
  4. Source locally – Get seed potatoes from local garden stores or regional suppliers who understand your growing conditions.

Starting with viable, locally-adapted seed potatoes gives your crop the best chance to thrive right from the beginning.

Proper Spacing and Overcrowding

Proper Spacing and Overcrowding
You’ll want to give your potato plants plenty of breathing room, pal. Overcrowding makes them stressed and prone to problems.

Proper Spacing for Potatoes

Variety Spacing (inches)
Small 12
Medium 18
Large 24

Give those spuds some space! Allowing air circulation prevents issues like rot and pests. Rotate crops yearly to replenish soil nutrients. Crowded plants compete for resources, get leggy and weak. Monitor soil to avoid compaction and sogginess. Waterlogged soil causes oxygen deprivation.

Planted too close together, the garden bed overcrowds. That leads to incomplete crop loss.

Hilling Up Soil and Preventing Tuber Greening

Hilling Up Soil and Preventing Tuber Greening
You’d better hill up the soil around your plants every few weeks for those 10-12 mounds that’ll keep the tubers from turning green, as grandma used to say.

When hilling potatoes, mound the soil up around the base of the plants, covering 2/3 of the plant’s height. This protects the developing tubers from sunlight, which can cause greening, increased solanine levels, and bitterness.

Be sure to provide proper drainage and ventilation when hilling, as too much moisture can lead to rot. Hill up the soil before the potatoes start emerging from the dirt. Repeat every couple of weeks until flowering for nicely covered, blanched tubers.

With good hilling technique, you’ll avoid exposing your potatoes to excess sunlight and have a bountiful harvest.

Providing Adequate Water and Proper Irrigation

Providing Adequate Water and Proper Irrigation
Don’t let your potato plants dry out or get waterlogged, providing 1-2 inches of water per week. Potatoes need consistent moisture, so check soil drainage and irrigation coverage.

Water deeply, not frequently, encouraging roots to grow downwards. Overwatering right after planting causes tubers to rot. Let soil partially dry between waterings, and always monitor moisture levels. Improper watering causes more problems than anything.

Time watering precisely, as wet foliage invites disease. And take care not to overwater once tubers start forming, or you risk a complete loss of crop.

Fertilization and Organic Matter

Fertilization and Organic Matter
You’ve been told too much nitrogen ruins potato tubers, so fertilize thoughtfully with aged manure to nurture your crop. Adding compost or manure before planting gives potatoes the organic matter and nutrients they need for robust growth.

Have your soil tested to determine deficiencies. Rotate crops yearly to prevent nutrient depletion. While potatoes are heavy feeders, over-fertilizing causes excess foliage growth and stunted, malformed tubers.

Apply a balanced organic fertilizer at planting according to soil test recommendations. Side dress with a nitrogen-rich amendment like alfalfa meal when plants begin flowering.

Insufficient fertility stresses plants, allowing pests and disease to take hold. With proper soil nutrition, your potatoes will yield an abundant harvest.

Weed Control and Mulching

Weed Control and Mulching
Keep those potato rows weed-free and thickly mulched so the plants aren’t competing for nutrients and moisture.

  • Weed early and often to prevent weeds from going to seed. A little time each week saves hours of backbreaking weeding later.
  • Use thick organic mulches like straw or leaves to smother weeds and retain moisture. Replenish as needed.
  • Place a barrier like cardboard or landscape fabric under mulch for better weed prevention.
  • For tough weeds, spot treat with natural herbicides like vinegar or saltwater instead of resorting to chemicals.
  • Group companion plants like beans and onions between rows. They shade the soil, deter weeds, and repel pests.

An immaculate garden with well-timed weeding and mulching helps your potato plants thrive unhindered while deterring yield-robbing weeds.

Pest Management

Pest Management
Scout potatoes regularly or the bugs’ll chomp ’em faster than you can blink. Stay vigilant for pests like aphids and Colorado potato beetles that target tender sprouts and leaves. Assess pest risk and use organic controls like neem oil or insecticidal soap before populations explode.

Practice smart crop rotation to break pest cycles. Interplant aromatic companions like marigold to deter bugs.

Unchecked pests quickly defoliate plants, leaving potatoes more vulnerable to diseases like powdery scab. Don’t let your hard work go to waste. A watchful eye and quick response keeps your crop safe from ravenous bugs.

With preventative care, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest.

Harvesting at the Right Time

Harvesting at the Right Time
Remember to let your potatoes reach full maturity before digging them up. Harvesting too early prevents potatoes from fully developing, leaving them small and lower yielding. Wait until the potato plant and leaves die back before digging. Test dig a plant or two first to ensure larger tubers.

Avoid damaging skins by gently handling them. Cure potatoes for 1-2 weeks in cool, dark conditions before storage.

  • Fully mature potatoes have reached their maximum size and have stopped actively growing.
  • Immature potatoes do not store well as they lack the necessary starch content.
  • Damaged skins can lead to rot and waste during storage.
  • Curing helps seal wounds and prevents disease infection.
  • Proper curing conditions include a temperature of 50-60°F with high humidity.

Curing and Storing Potatoes

Curing and Storing Potatoes
After letting them sit for a bit, you gotta move your taters to a dark, well-ventilated area before storage. Handle those spuds gently now – they bruise easily! Find a spot that’s cool (45-60°F), dark, and with good airflow to prevent rot.

Manage humidity between 90-95%. If it’s too dry, they shrivel, and if it’s too damp, they rot. Curing thickens skins, which is ideal for storage. Keep ’em out of light, which can turn tubers green and bitter.

With the right conditions, your harvest will last for months. Choose storage areas wisely, and you’ll be munching on homegrown potatoes through winter!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I rotate where I plant my potatoes each year?

Yes, rotate potato planting each year. Like dancers switching partners, rotation prevents disease buildup and nutrient depletion in the soil. Instead of an endless waltz in one part of the garden, change beds yearly for healthier plants and better harvests.

How do I know if my seed potatoes have gone bad and shouldn’t be planted?

Examine your seed potatoes before planting. Discard any with dark, mushy spots or sprouts that are shriveled or weak. Healthy sprouts are pinkish and firm. Rotting potatoes won’t thrive; choose vigorous seeds for optimal results.

Is it okay to plant different potato varieties close together or should they be separated?

Keep different potato varieties separated. Planting too closely risks disease spread and flavor cross-contamination. Give each type adequate spacing for size. Rotate planting beds yearly. Check labels for maturity times and nutritional needs, as varieties have distinct requirements.

What causes potato tubers to crack open or split? How can I prevent that?

Water evenly and deeply throughout the season. Avoid overwatering as excessive moisture causes tubers to swell rapidly. Hill soil around plants to protect developing tubers from the sun. Select varieties suitable for your climate and growing conditions to minimize stress.

Can I leave my potato plants in the ground through the winter? What do I need to do to overwinter them?

Don’t leave potatoes in the ground through winter. Dig up tubers before the first frost. Allow skins to cure, then store in a cool, dark place. Cold temperatures damage tubers left in the ground.


Growing potatoes can be rewarding, but there are many pitfalls to avoid. Did you make any of these common mistakes? Proper planting, spacing, watering, fertilizing, and pest control are key to a successful potato harvest.

Don’t cut corners with seed selection or harvest too early. Take the time to hill up soil, control weeds, and cure tubers properly before storing. Follow best practices in each stage of growth. With careful attention to details, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful potato crop free of mistakes to avoid when growing potatoes.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.