Inexperienced potato growers often question whether they should plant potato pieces with the eyes up or down. Growing potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) in your home garden is, however, relatively easy. They grow well and produce a delicious crop that also stores well. Instead of planting seeds or seedlings, home gardeners use chunks of seed potatoes that have developed eyes to start the tubers. Proper planting helps your potato crop thrive.
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Plant seed potato pieces with the cut side down and the eyes pointing up.
When to Plant Potato Pieces
Before prepping your seed potatoes, you need to have your planting time in mind. The potato pieces can go into the ground in early spring as soon as the frost is gone and the soil can be worked. However, the soil has to reach 45 degrees Fahrenheit before potatoes start to grow.
Potato plants can handle a light frost, but a heavy frost can damage the plants. To avoid heavy frosts, wait to plant until two weeks before the last typical frost in your area. Potatoes grow best in cool weather, so it's a balance between starting them early enough while the weather is cool and avoiding a heavy, potentially damaging frost.
Soil conditions are also an important factor in potato planting. In addition to determining soil temperature, check its moisture. Overly damp soil isn't ideal for planting potatoes, because the tubers may rot. If the soil is so wet that it sticks together, let it dry a little before planting.
Preparing Potato Pieces
Once you have your planting date in mind, mark the calendar for one to two weeks prior to the date. This is when you should start prepping your seed potatoes. Always buy certified disease-free seed potatoes when growing your own. Potatoes from the grocery store are sometimes treated with sprout inhibitor. They can also be infected with diseases that can damage your crop.
To encourage sprouting, place the seed potatoes in a sunny spot that's between 60 and 70 degrees F for the week or two before planting. One or two days before planting, cut the seed potatoes into 2-inch squares with one or two eyes per piece. The cuts should develop a thick callus before planting to keep the potato pieces from rotting. You can also plant a whole potato if it's small enough, roughly the size of a golf ball or chicken egg.
Choosing a Planting Spot
Carefully considering site location is just as important to your potato crop's success as knowing how to plant the potato pieces. Potatoes need full sun with at least six hours of sun every day.
The soil should drain well. Ideal soil for potatoes is slightly acidic with a soil pH ranging from 5 to 7. Use a soil tester to check the current pH. You can adjust soil pH to get it into the ideal range. Amending the soil with organic matter, such as compost, can also help your potatoes grow well.
Plant Potato Pieces Eyes-Up
Your prepared area should have a trench that's about 6 to 8 inches deep. Space the potato pieces 12 to 15 inches apart in the trench. If you have multiple rows, space them 3 feet apart. When placing the potato pieces in the trench, put the cut side down and the eyes up. Cover the potato pieces with 4 inches of soil, allowing them to grow before filling the trench the rest of the way with soil.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.