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Planting Seed Potatoes

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Back before supermarkets, when gardens supplied the vegetables put on the table, the last of the potatoes in the storage bin were used for seed potatoes. Experienced gardeners set aside their blemish-free, healthiest potatoes for seed. Today you can go to the garden center and select from several varieties.

Seed potatoes can be planted whole, or cut into pieces with at least one eye per piece. Seed potatoes with more eyes will grow to produce a larger quantity of potatoes but the potatoes will generally be smaller. Seed potatoes with fewer eyes will produce fewer potatoes, but those potatoes will tend to be larger.

If you choose to cut your seed potatoes into smaller pieces, cut them two days prior to planting. This allows the cuts to callus or heal over slightly. This prevents soil-borne diseases from infecting your potato crop.

Plant your whole or cut seed potatoes two to three inches deep in the soil. Rows of potatoes should be about three feet apart and the potatoes within the row should be planted twelve inches apart.

If your potato crop suffered from scab disease in the past, move your potatoes to a different section of the garden. This will help prevent further scab infection. Potato scab appears as rough patches on the skin of the potatoes.

Depending on the warmth of the soil, potato plants will begin to emerge from the soil one to three weeks after planting. When the plants are about a foot tall, use your hoe to mound six to eight inches of soil continuously along the entire row of plants. This is called hilling. Hilling ensures that the potatoes will grow deeply under the soil, away from sunlight which would cause them to become green. Keep the potato plants evenly watered while they are growing.

Once your potato plants have bloomed, you can begin to harvest small "new" potatoes. This is usually about eight weeks after planting. In the fall, after the foliage has begun to dry and die back, the entire crop can be dug.

Before storing them in a cool, dry and dark place, make sure the surface of your freshly dug potatoes have dried a bit. Spread them out in a dry spot out of direct sun, such as a garage or shed, for a day or two before putting them in storage.

Freshly dug potatoes taste better than any you'll buy at a grocery store. Grow some yourself and discover how easy and fun it is to produce a crop of delicious potatoes for your family.

This resource was added April 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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