Growing potatoes efficiently?

sweetwilliam89(5b)January 28, 2014

We have a somewhat small area of land so trying to be space efficient is something to consider. If I understand it's suggested to grow potatoes with 18-24" between potato rows (I think some may say even more space is better). To max useable space we've been wondering if it works o.k. to grow another type of vegetable/berry in the space between the potatoes. We're thinking possibly radishes, green onions, strawberries, lettuce etc (shallow rooted veggies), but don't know if that will limit the production for the potatoes or other veggies.

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dajsnipe

I normally grow bush beans with my potatoes, it also adds nitrogen to the soil. But if your really cramped for space you should try towers or even straw bales.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 7:20PM
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dave_f1 SC, USDA Zone 8a(7b)

Could just plant your potatoes in a solid bed, so plants are 12 in apart in all directions. If you're planning to hand-dig the tubers. I suppose you could interplant any shallow rooted veggie that would be harvested before the potatoes. Maybe lettuce or spinach? I plant potatoes in a raised bed 12 in apart with straw mulch or chopped leaves spread before they come up.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 7:27PM
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sweetquietplace(6 WNC Mtn.)

I think you're forgeting about hilling up your potatoes. You're going to need every bit of the 18-24" spacing. And the vines are going to sprawl. A few varieties are compact and neat, but the majority are going to flop over after they reach a certain height. I use 36" row spacing and that allows me to walk between the rows, pick off slugs, spray, hill up, lay down mulch, swipe a few new potatoes...you get the idea. Some people use double rows and that might work for you. But, for me, I like to straddle the row while preparing and planting it.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 7:28PM
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dave_f1 SC, USDA Zone 8a(7b)

You don;t necessarily have to hill your potatoes with soil. But that may be the most efficient way on a large scale. Depends if you are planting a small 50 ft2 area or a bunch of hundred foot rows. If you have a small plot it may be easier to use leaves/straw instead of mounding with soil. That works well.

There are some misconceptions and mystery with hilling and potatoes. Hilling (with straw/leaves/soil) helps to keep the tubers from poking through the soil and then greening with sun exposure. It also loosens the soil where the tubers are and helps smother weeds. Hilling with soil can help with drainage in heavier soils. Doesn;t really give you that many more tubers, most will be right at the level you planted at. I've tried hilling up soil and then planting deep into the hill and that worked well. Easier to dig tubers that way too.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 8:26PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

To max useable space we've been wondering if it works o.k. to grow another type of vegetable/berry in the space between the potatoes.

Possible but not recommended. Not only would you lose the needed workspace, have shading problems for the low growing crops in between, and the ability to hill your potatoes and so lose production, but they would be competing for nutrients. You'd have to beef up the nutrient supply on a regular basis for the good of the potatoes and those extra nutrients could well result in poor production of other crops - especially radishes, beets, beans and the like that don't like high N soil levels.

So it is a balancing act and if not done carefully ends up with poor results for all the crops.

As a general guideline growing potatoes is a BIG garden crop. The production amount often doesn't warrant all the space used up in a small garden space where other crops can be grown more productively.

Consider as an alternative using a couple of the many potato growing containers available. They come in various sizes and materials, are easy to use, and save that limited garden space for several other crops.

Dave

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 8:28PM
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ltilton

I don't like to go walking around in my potato bed for fear of compacting the earth and possibly damaging the tubers nearest the surface. That rules out another crop.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 8:33PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

IMO, you should not plant anything between potatoes.

Normally potatoes are planted in rows, about 12"-14" apart and the rows about 2 -2.5 ft. apart. Commercially rows are much farther apart but in home garden that is not necessary. If you plant the rows back-to-back you can get a bigger bang for the buck. This way you will have one walkway per two rows.

JMO

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:19PM
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sweetwilliam89(5b)

Thanks for all of the advice. We weren't planning on planting too many plants (least not compared to some folk) about 60 or so for the two of us. And we certainly had no intention of selling any of them. Maybe a 30 foot row done twice. Actually we don't eat too many potatoes, but we thought it would be fun to try it out. I hear that straw (not hay) can be used to cover them up too and we have several bales we could use for that. thanks again for the suggestions

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 8:38AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

We weren't planning on planting too many plants (least not compared to some folk) about 60 or so for the two of us.

That's a lot of potatoes. 60 hills is far more than the average backyard home gardener would plant. So you must have more garden room than implied in your initial post. :)

Actually we don't eat too many potatoes, but we thought it would be fun to try it out. I hear that straw (not hay) can be used to cover them up too

You are going to have approx. 250-300 potatoes from those 60 hills assuming standard varieties and normal growing conditions so if you don't eat many potatoes you can easily cut your plans in half.

Dave

PS: and yes hay can also be used just like straw

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:51AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

60 potato plants is definitely not a small amount. Your potato patch is nearly the same size as my entire garden, in terms of square feet. Just wanted to point that out. (I mean this in a friendly way.)

I can't give any advice on growing potatoes. I've tried twice and both times were failures. Once about a decade ago and then again last year. They don't like me or my soil. Everything else I plant grows great.

Rodney

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 12:12PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I plant wide rows of 3 potato rows. There is no reason to plant things in single rows except tomatoes.


They do need a little hilling and also need space to walk in to kill potato bugs. Leeks need hilling too so that is one idea. I have done bush beans and peas with them but decided it didn't work great. Now I try to get them all dug out ASAP and put in fall crops.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 3:34PM
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wisbill

I plant roughly 2 dozen potato plants and that is more than enough potatoes for 2 of us. Unless you need as many potatoes as stated above by Dave you can cut way back.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 2:52PM
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VivVarble(8B)

I'm planning on using containers as I've limited space. We LOVE potatoes so I'm hoping the containers will still produce well. I've seen various types of containers with various results. So here's to hoping it goes well or my girls might just be very sad. Good luck!

~Viv

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 10:09PM
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jonfrum(6)

I've grown potatoes one foot apart, with rows one foot apart. Production would be better with more spacing, but I got three varieties in to a four foot wide bed.

From above:

"I think you're forgetting about hilling up your potatoes. You're going to need every bit of the 18-24" spacing"

I disagree. Plant your spuds in trenches six inches wide (hoe width) and six inches deep, and fill the trenches as the plants grow. You're not building a mountain here, just covering the spuds to prevent sun from getting to them.

"A few varieties are compact and neat, but the majority are going to flop over after they reach a certain height"

Which is why you run twine between stakes to keep them from flopping over. And if they do flop, so what?

" I use 36" row spacing..."

You have space to burn! The vast majority of gardeners don't. Thirty-six inch row spacing is farm spacing, not gardening practice.

And regarding the cost/space value of spuds - if you were only concerned about value, you probably wouldn't garden at all. Your average backyard gardener is very lucky to break even when all costs are considered. Personally, I like eating the potatoes I've harvested, even though I could get a five pound bag on sale for $2.50 on a good day.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 2:24PM
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sweetwilliam89(5b)

Thanks again everyone for your advice. I'm most certainly willing to follow the suggestions of those who have gone through the hard work before. I was planning on digging a trench but I do like the idea of straw to cover things up as we have some excess bales that need to be put to some good use. Perhaps as mulch for the garden paths also. My numbers of 60 plants actually came from checking on the internet. One state extension report I saw said there should be 100 feet (they were using a standard spacing of one foot per palnt) of potato plants per person or 200 feet for two. And, a state MG manual suggested there shold be 150 potatoes plants for two people. Thus, I was hoping that just 60 plants would be enough for the two of us. Guess I don't have wonder too much about that (hehe). And thanks a bunch for the inspirational pictures I hope our garden can be half as nice.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 6:01PM
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dave_f1 SC, USDA Zone 8a(7b)

sweetwilliam...100 ft or 100 plants will produce way too many potatoes for most people. What's one person gonna do with 500-600 potatoes?? Alot of spuds to dig up too!! Might want to use your limited space for other things.

jonfrum...thanks for reiterating the fact that most gardeners don;t need to copy what large scale commercial growers do. I agree with trench method and small hills or just planting spuds into a raised area is a good way to go.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:28PM
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ltilton

Another voice agreeing with the straw method. I mulch my potatoes with straw, and the ground stays cool and moist all summer, just what they want.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 8:04PM
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Campanula UK Z8

After 15 years of potato growing, we have distilled it down to the most basic method. Using raised beds, we use a bulb planter to plant the seed potatoes in rows, with 1foot centres. We plant in 4foot wide beds of varying length and get 3 potatoes across the 4foot span. This has proved to be the optimum measurement taking into account available space and total yield. We don't earth up (hilling) because the seeds are planted deep. We only grow 2nd earlies (Kestrel) to avoid late blight.

The earthing up only protects from the light and can be extra frost protection....but as we plant late, we never have to bother.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 9:40AM
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2ajsmama

I think those estimates were based on annual potato consumption - if you have a place to store them and don't ever want to buy any from grocery store.

We used hay to hill up around the plants and it worked for keeping them from greening but had a lot of half-eaten ones - I think if we had used soil the field mice might not have been getting to them as much, though the groundhogs might have.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 6:46PM
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veggievicki(7b)

There's a video on youtube where a gentleman planted one or two seed potatoes in a five gallon bucket. Then he dumped them out and got as I recall two or three pounds of potatoes from each bucket. It seems like he basically could have got as much yield had he put two in each bucket as the ones with two seed potatoes gave him pretty much twice as much harvest. I'm thinking of giving it a try and using succession planting. If they're in buckets, I was thinking when it starts getting pretty hot I might be able to move the buckets into shade and go a little further into the warm weather.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:55PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Potatoes do poorly in any containers because they need so much water.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 8:18PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

How to Plant Potato?

Because it is a root type crop, needs to be planted deeper.

Here is how I, as backyard gardener, do it:

-- Make furrow(/s). about 10".
-- plant seeds at the bottom of that an in front the continuous hill formed by furrowing.

-- as the plants grow, keep filling around them. As you continue doing this FURROW(s) become hills and HILLS become FURROWs. INTERESTING !

Remember that the roots will grow downward and sideway relative and from the seed. So you need to fertilize the soil below the seeds before planting. The stolon, on which the tubers grow, do not draw any nutrients from the soil. They need a fluffy cool medium.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 10:40PM
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defrost49

I plant the fingerling potato sampler from Fedco last year plus a small amount of German Butterballs. Unfortunately, the German Butterballs were still in the barn drying when the temperatures dropped and I lost most to freezing although was able to salvage some for Thanksgiving. The fingerlings (5 lbs total of several different kinds) were very productive. We still have a lot to eat. There are only 2 of us except for once a week family dinners when I sometimes serve potatoes.

My first hilling was done with dirt. The next with straw but I waited too long and the job was harder getting straw under plants so I lost a few potatoes that were exposed.

I was also careless about exposure to sunlight. One variety in a box was exposed to sun when it came thru the south facing windows in the garage doors. Dumb!

This year I will do more hilling with dirt but do a final hilling with straw. Two bales were enough for my smallish patch. I don't see how any thing else can be planted next to the potatoes but I did put beans very close to one row.

A neighbor had very good luck because of our wet spring and his too wet garden growing potatoes in felt buckets. Don't know where he got them but I saw what might be similar in the Gurney's catalog.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 9:57AM
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veggievicki(7b)

I got red and white seed potatoes at my local feed store. planted those three wide in a three foot wide row. I think it ended up being about 30 feet of row. They did great like that. I don''t hill much. Run the rototiller down the path and rake that on. Add compost. I bought a bag of yukon gold at Walmart. Got it pretty cheap. Seems there were about 25 in the bag so I planted a four by six bed with a foot apart. It did very nicely.Hardest part is amending the clay enough that they're not a nightmare to dig when the time comes.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:17PM
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