Kenosha Potato Project

Potato Planting Tips 

Planting Garden Potatoes in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Potato grow anywhere - and farmers have fine-tuned the art of planting for the greatest profit. BUT IN YOUR GARDEN you want to plant for the BEST QUALITY.


Possible time to plant: March 15th to June 30th
Some people plant potato before Easter. One farmer told me that potato can be planted on St. Patrick Day (March 17th). Perhaps in the economy of the farm it makes sense to plant so early ... but a delayed planting may result in much stronger vines. In fact tubers are stunned by cold temps - like tomato - and therefore it is SILLY to plant too early.
  • Pre-sprouting seed potatoes [aka chitting] - Ronniger Potato Farm suggests that exposing the tubers to medium intensity light and warm temps (like inside the home or heated greenhouse) tend to stimulate the development of strong sprouts. Further benefits could include stronger vines, quicker tuber maturity as well as a larger tuber yield. (Scroll down to read about "wet pre-sprouting")

It seems logic that the pre-sprouted tubers would get stunned by cool soil! Following this thought I'm suggesting to wait early May to plant.

Biodynamic teachings - European Biodynamic booklets suggest that crop development may benefit from planetary influx. The strongest being the moon, which has the power to move oceans ... most root crops benefit from the influence of a descending moon. Potato are placed in the soil with eyes facing up and benefit from an ascending moon for a few days.

In 2010 the best days are May13 - 14 and June 9 - 10, these periods are followed by about 2 weeks of descending moon. The descending moon promotes root growth.


Best tuber depth
  • I like to dig 6" deep furrows. Some gardeners like 4" better. Since tubers always set above the seed piece, if the seed piece is a little deeper, the vine will have more room to develop tubers below ground level. Additional tuber set above ground level will be covered with soil by timely hilling.
  • Pay attention at harvesting time how different cultivars set tubers at different depth! *** Please report this detail for notation in the potato catalog. *** We are especially interested to note cultivars with shallow tuber setting. Such cultivars with shallow tuber setting will need taller hilling, or will do well growing in barrels.
  • Contrary, deep tuber setting cultivars would not be recommended for growing in barrels.
  • The depth is in relation to the seed tuber placing. For instance, if you place your seed piece at 6" depth and, at harvest time, you find most tubers at that depth, then you are dealing with a deep setting cultivar. If you find most tubers to be above soil line, then you are dealing with a shallow tuber setting.


Best spacing between seed pieces
  • I like 6" spacing. Crowded vines will not fully develop the foliage. Tuber size will be smaller.
  • To harvest large and very large tubers keep the spacing at 12" - 18".


Whole-tuber seed piece vs. "cutting pieces"
  • It is advised to use seed pieces of 1 - 2 oz weight. You need to check for eyes, and you need to keep the size of each piece to the shape of a walnut. Smaller pieces may spoil and not sustain the vine growth. The cutting should occur 2 - 3 days before planting to allow the cut side to seal.
  • I prefer to plant whole tubers for the strongest energy delivery to the emerging vines. Walnut size seed pieces work best for me, therefore I like to eat smaller and larger tubers - while I save the walnut sized for next year.


Don't plant your tubers up-side-down!
  • I'm confident you have no doubt on how to plant a garlic clove or an onion .. to ensure it IS NOT planted in the wrong direction - which obviously would cause a great waste of energy.
  • Potato is planted in large fields without ANY CARE about direction ... but in my garden I only plant 3 - 6 tubers per variety. And each tuber is correctly placed in the ground to maximize the energy of the tuber in pushing up vine sprouts.
  • Do you know how to tell the up-side of a tuber? Follow this link to find out!


Filling the furrows and observe vine emergence
  • After placing the seed piece at the bottom of the furrows, spaced about 6", perhaps 8" if the seed tubers are larger, and cover with at least 2" of compost.
  • Rifill the furrows with the dirt first removed when you digged the furrows. You want the furrows refilled to prevent for water to collect in shallow spots.
  • Keep track of the vine emergence date - different cultivars will take a different number of days to emerge - get to know your cultivars, so you can time your planting more accurately next year.


Planting in a container
  • You need a "shallow tuber setting" variety - this year we are experimenting with Sequoia and Alaska Red. Tubers develop at the end of stolons - look for varieties with a surface stolon growth, rather than "deep" at the level of the seed piece.
  • It is paramount to allow for good drainage and full sun. Either you plant the tubers in the soil and build up a container as the vines grow tall, or you plant the potato in a wide container that allows the light to reach the vines. Tall, narrow containers will not work.
Vertical growth = higher yields
On-going reports on the results of growing different varieties in bins, bags and boxes can be found on the dedicated web site

Searching for better varieties - The consideration is based on the need for taller growing vines, and higher tuber setting.

This is exactly the opposite to the needs of the potato industry-farming! Farmers want tubers that grow uniformly at the same soil level to improve harvesting, and prevent surface greening. Also, as long vines tangle harvesting equipment, tall potato vines are a hassle for them.

Heritage varieties - We have found reports of heritage varieties that were out-lawed by Government Agencies that wanted to prevent cross-pollination with these undesiderable traits.


Advanced propagation techniques - wet pre-sprouting

Pre-sprouting is a method that accelerates the setting of eyes and the development of sprouts. One of the great benefits that I've experienced with green sprouting is perhaps the correct setting of the seed piece in the soil .. with the sprouts clearly showing me how to plant correctly. Pre-sprouting is done with the tubers placed on dry surface under moderate lights.

With micro tubers, very rare varieties, or very difficult varieties (perhaps varieties that require a longer growing season) .. time may be gained by wet-sprouting. Instead of placing the tuber on dry surface, place the tuber on soil in a Jiffy pot. Eventually the soil will be watered and kept moist to promote a quick root system development.

Go to this web page to read more details.


web page updated: June, 2011
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