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Potato planting and height

Posted by ZachS z5 Littleton, CO (My Page) on
Sun, Feb 23, 14 at 21:44

So I picked up some seed taters for this year. I have Sangre Red and Purple Majesty (both of them being Colorado tubers I figured they'd be pretty well suited for my locale). My problem is, on the bag the planting instructions are darn vague, and the diagram they have is really confusing me.

I haven't grown potatoes in a pretty long while and it was before I habitually kept a journal so I'm going off of memory here, but I remember planting the seed about 3 inches deep and mounding up as it grew. The directions on the package are telling me (and it's identical for both) to plant the seed 8" deep and the total height of the plant is going to be 8" above ground (no mounding involved from what I can decipher) and the spuds will grow in 8" of dirt below the ground.

I have never heard of an 8" tall potato plant, the ones I remember would be towering over that. I have read that there are some potatoes out there that don't really need much hilling up whereas some varieties really benefit from the practice, but this really has me stumped. If anyone has any experience with these guys some enlightenment on the subject would be appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Potato planting and height

I have not had experience with those varieties, but I have grown potatoes.

8 inches deep is awfully deep for normal varieties. 3 inches is a bit shallow I would think. I like 5 inches for loose soil...which is what potatoes like. As far as hilling up goes, I prefer to plant deeper and hill moderately. I think high mounding exposes tings to dryer and hotter conditions...not good for potatoes.


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RE: Potato planting and height

You can plant 8" deep, but just cover with a couple of
inches of dirt until the sprouts are up a bit. Then add another couple of inches. When the sprouts grow over that, add some more dirt.

You will love the Purple Majesty. I grew them last year and will plant twice as many this season. Hope you have some kids or grand kids so you can watch their expression when you cut open one of these potatoes.

I think the vine was about 14" above the hilling.


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RE: Potato planting and height

I agree, the 8" must be referring to the bottom of the trench, but only cover with a couple of inches of dirt at planting time. Then by the third hilling the dirt is about 8-12" inches above the surrounding level. My vines often get close to 3 feet high before they collapse - so 8" tall vines doesn't sound right.


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RE: Potato planting and height

  • Posted by ZachS z5 Littleton, CO (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 9:37

I like the idea of less hilling, Wayne. Not only for the reason you bring up, but also because coving up all the vines I feel will impede photosynthesis. I may be wrong about that, but I have one source on my book shelf that says to only allow about 4" of leaves and to just keep piling on the dirt if it gets more then that. How the heck is it supposed to photosynthesize with only 4" of leaves? I don't imagine your overall yield would be very high, or at least any higher then smaller mounds, with that method.

As far as 8" trenching with several coverings goes, that sounds much more plausible, and is most likely what they intended to convey, but they sure didn't do a good job of it. Literally it package says "Full sun, spacing: 15 in, depth: 6-8 in, height: 8 in" with a drawing of some tubers growing below ground and a line that says "6-8 in" and some leaves growing above with a line that says "8 in." The 8 inch vines seemed much to short to me, too.

I've got a 3 year old who I think is convinced all we are growing is carrots. Maybe he'll be amazed with purple taters, then again he might be upset with me that I didn't fill the whole garden with his precious carrots haha.


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RE: Potato planting and height

I would say this: If your soil is wet and heavy and getting into subsoil at 8 or 9 inches, I would not go that low. If your soil is deep, loose, and not too wet down that low and still rich lower than 8 or 9 inches, by all means plant deeply unless you are subject to extra heavy rains where water might collect down there.


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RE: Potato planting and height

  • Posted by ZachS z5 Littleton, CO (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 15:17

Hmm, for me 8" may be a bit too deep. After about a foot, my rich, soft garden soil turns into clay, although, I have a stockpile of dirt/compost I can pile on as well. I may have to go with a 5-6" trench and do more hilling.

Too much water has never been a problem for anyone here that I'm aware, except last year when half the state got flushed out to Nebraska.


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RE: Potato planting and height

I like to plant spuds using a trench. I make a 4-6 inch trench with a hoe - that's about six inches wide - scratch in some fertilizer, and put the seed potato in the bottom. I cover with about half the soil, and them fill in the trench as the plants grow. That puts the tubers that grow underground, and I very rarely have one show itself above the soil surface. No need to go deeper, and no need to hill up any more than that.


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RE: Potato planting and height

Zack, what you are reading is in fact the traditional method. Three hillings early on, and indeed each time covers well up the stalks. The vines grow very quickly at that stage, within a week or two it's time for the next hilling. After the last hilling the vines grow far beyond the top of the hill and that is when all the tubers set.

The method works very well.


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RE: Potato planting and height

pn, If you plant the potatoes deeper to start with, what is the purpose of high hilling. It seems to me that it makes a ridge that dries out quickly and gets hot. Also, if that is supposed to make more numerous potatoes, that isn't what I want. I prefer to get a few less potatoes and nicer size in them.


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RE: Potato planting and height

You get more, smaller tubers by crowding your plants. More space between plants and rows makes fewer, bigger spuds.


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RE: Potato planting and height

jonfrum, That is true. Also letting only a couple stalks a plant will give fewer but larger spuds than say 6 stalks.


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RE: Potato planting and height

  • Posted by ZachS z5 Littleton, CO (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 16:42

Awesome information guys thanks. I will be planting the seed potatoes whole because I can only fit 8 plants and I have 10 seeds (so cutting them seems impractical and unnecessary, plus they are all about egg size anyways) So, I would just trim the extra stalks down to 1-2 as they emerge & grow, or is there a way that it is done before you plant (other then cutting up the seed) .


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RE: Potato planting and height

Remember that the soil below and around the seed potato provides the nutrients for the plant NOT the soil that is hilled with. So you make a good fertile foundation,


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RE: Potato planting and height

  • Posted by ZachS z5 Littleton, CO (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 21:30

thanks Seyson, I keep my soil light and fed as deep as my garden fork will let me so i should be okay there :)


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RE: Potato planting and height

ZachS, I chit my potatoes. I store the seed potatoes in a garage after buying them. By then the garage is warming up some and they want to start sprouting. So I take them out on the floor [with rug or paper underneath] with fair lighting and the short sprouts turn green and remain very thick and sturdy...and come up quickly after planting. If a whole potato has three or four sprouts on it and is too small to divide, I will leave just 2 sprouts per piece.


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RE: Potato planting and height

Chitting or greening seed potatoes can help a faster sprouting but it is not necessary. In case of store bought seeds, you will will find out which ones won't sprout (just in case).


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RE: Potato planting and height

  • Posted by ZachS z5 Littleton, CO (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 15:38

Yeah, I don't remember if I pre-sprouted them or not when I grew them before. I've currently got them in a cold closet in the basement with no light since I probably wont be planting them until mid-late April (I'm hoping I didn't buy them early but I think they only get one shipment of seed potatoes each year and once they're gone, they're gone) so, Ill bring them out around the beginning of April to where it's warmer and with light to chit them. Then I just pick off the extra stems that spout huh? Too easy.


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RE: Potato planting and height

Maybe 8 inches is a bit deep for the trench. I probably do more like 4-6. It is true a high hill gets hot, but if the vines have grown well they pretty much cover it before mid-summer.


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