Potato Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors


  • Buy seed potatoes of early varieties for planting as soon as soil can be worked in the spring.
  • In the North, plant seed potatoes of later varieties from mid-May to early mid-June, 4 to 5 weeks after planting early varieties. In the South, plant seed potatoes of late varieties 1 to 2 weeks after early varieties.


  • Cut seed potatoes into small pieces with two to three eyes per piece a few days before planting.


  • Dig trenches 6 inches wide, 8 inches deep, and 30 to 36 inches apart. Spread 5-10-10 at a rate of 1 pound per 25 feet or its equivalent along the bottom of the trench and cover with 2 inches of soil.
  • Plant small whole seed potatoes or cut seed pieces 10 to 15 inches apart in the trench and cover with about 4 inches of soil.


  • Protect emerging plants with soil or other cover in case of a hard late spring frost.
  • Hill the soil up against the plants about a week after leaves emerge from soil. Repeat 2 to 3 weeks later.
  • Side-dress when you hill for the second time with compost, seaweed, or fish emulsion, or about 1 pound of 5-10-10 per 25-foot row.
  • Be sure to provide adequate water 6 to 10 weeks after planting, when the potatoes start to form.
  • See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common potato pests such as Colorado potato beetle, European corn borer, and leafhoppers.


  • Harvest small, new potatoes about 10 weeks after planting.
  • Harvest storage potatoes after the vines have died and tubers have developed tough outer skins. In the North, harvest before fall frosts arrive.

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