There are many different ways home gardeners can grow potatoes. Each method comes with its own benefits and limitations, so choose wisely what method will work best for you. Take into account your personal gardening space and soil conditions for best overall yields.
1. Classic Hilled Row Method
This is the way most farmers grow potatoes and this method has sustained for millennia. You will need to dig long, straight, and shallow trenches first. Each trench should be about three feet apart. Loosen and prepare the soil and add your seed potatoes into the trench, approximately 12 inches apart. Cover with approximately three inches of soil. As the shoots grow up, add more soil and “hill” it – mounding it against the plant and burying the stems. Repeat this process over as needed to keep tubers covered.
Pros: Inexpensive. Easy to do. No fancy equipment needed. Typically high yields under right conditions.
Cons: Soil quality may be a problem. Compacted soil or soil low in organic matter can cause smaller yields of potatoes. Takes up more space than other methods.
2. Straw Method
Loosen and prepare your soil in a small patch or area, or in rows like above. Then place seed potatoes on top of the soil, approximately 12 inches apart. Cover the potatoes with 3 to 4 inches of seed-free straw. Add more straw to the mound as the stems grow. You’ll want to have at least a foot or more in depth.
Pros: Easy to work and it makes for easy harvests.
Cons: Smaller yields than with soil mounding. Field mice may make a home in your straw.
3. Plant Them in Raised Beds
Fill half the raised bed with prepared soil. Place seed potatoes approximately 12 inches apart in all directions. Cover with soil (or straw or a combination of the two), about 3 inches deep. As the potato stems grow, add more soil and/or straw until the bed is full. If you want high yields of potatoes, but lack space for hilling rows, this method is for you.
Pros: Good yields. Easy growing method. Easy to harvest.
Cons: Amount of soil needed can get expensive.
4. Use a Grow Bag
You can buy commercial grow bags at most gardening stores or online. These bags are made of heavy and dense materials that make them quite durable. Place a few inches of soil in the bottom of the bag. Then add your seed potato pieces – approximately 3-5 pieces will fit in the space. Continue adding soil until the bag is filled. To harvest, simply dump the bag out. You can also use a standard garbage bag to replicate this method, however you will need to punch holes for drainage. Garbage bags are also less durable than grow bags, and may not hold up as well. Spilling may be a problem.
Pros: Good for patio gardeners or small spaces. Dark color of grow bags encourage solar insulation, and this promotes good growth and results in a healthy crop as long as you water adequately.
Cons: Small yield compared to other methods, unless you buy several grow bags. Grow bags can be pricey. Not an aesthetically pleasing method for growing, but it works.
5. Use a “Tater Tower” or Wood Box
Build your own box or buy one already pre-made. This method uses a bottomless square box, much like a raised bed (but smaller in size) that allows you to add soil and grow “up.” In fact, you will follow the same planting instructions as you do for the raised bed method.
Pros: Good for smaller spaces or where soil quality is an issue.
Cons: Can be expensive to purchase, and time consuming to construct.
6. Make Wire Towers
Using chicken wire or flexible fencing, make a round tower in the shape of a cylinder approximately 18-24 inches in diameter, and at least 2 feet tall. Place several inches of soil in the bottom of the wire tower. Add 3-5 seed potatoes and cover them with 3 inches of soil or straw. Continue adding soil and/or straw as the potato shoots grow. To keep soil from washing away, many gardeners find it helpful to put straw around the sides of the tower and soil in the middle part. To harvest, simply pull up or push over the tower. Some mesh hardware will give you large enough “holes” where you can reach in and harvest directly.
Pros: Provides good drainage and a good choice for areas with poor soil drainage and poor soil quality. Another good option for patio and small space gardeners.
Cons: Too much rain can cause them to become waterlogged. Smaller yields than other methods.