How To Grow The Best Red Potatoes At Home
Image by Mike Mozart
Red potatoes are a delight in the kitchen and the garden. They are easy to grow and, given the best conditions, will produce an abundant crop at harvest time. Let’s look at how to grow red potatoes in your home garden.
Plant red seed potatoes 8cm (3inches) deep in loose soil that has lots of well-rotted compost. Wait until the soil has warmed to at least 6°C (43°F) in the spring. Keep the plants 30cm (1ft) apart in rows that are 6cm (2ft) wide. Hill your potatoes a few times during the growing season, and keep them watered. Small potatoes can be harvested early, but wait until the plants have died back in the fall to harvest full-sized tubers.
Red potatoes are, quite simply, a potato that has red skin and white flesh. Red Potatoes are quite easy to grow. The simplest way to get started is to buy a bag of red seed potatoes from a garden centre, and stick them in the ground. While they will often grow in any soil and in most locations, these tips below will greatly improve your plant health and produce more potatoes.
Before you plant your red potatoes, it is important to find the best seed potato and prepare it for planting.
Potatoes grow best in well-drained loamy soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, but most parts of your garden with loose soil will work well. Prepare the potato bed in your garden by loosening the soil to a depth of at least 20cm (8 inches). If you can loosen the subsoil deeper than that it will greatly aid drainage and aeration. Compacted or lumpy soils will impede or stunt tuber growth.
It is also important to remove any rocks, twigs, or anything else that might impede the growth of the tubers. Any obstacles that the potatoes encounter while growing can make them bent and misshapen. Potatoes will generally handle cool weather, but wait until the soil temperature is at least 6°C (43°F) before planting. The soil temperature (and many other aspects of growing potatoes) can be improved by growing the potatoes under black plastic.
Mix a good amount of well-rotted compost or manure into the soil. This will not only feed your heavy-feeding potatoes throughout the season, but the added organic matter improves soil texture, providing better aeration and drainage. Phosphorus and potassium help build a plant’s roots are especially good for potatoes. They are readily available in good quality compost and manure. Nitrogen is also good for potatoes, but too much nitrogen causes more plants to grow than potatoes.
Take any large seed potatoes and cut them in half. You want at least two eyes on each seed potato, but 3 or 4 is better. Too few eyes and you won’t get as many potatoes. Too many eyes and you will produce a beautiful plant without any tubers.
Dig a hole about 8cm (3inches) deep and put in your seed potato with the eyes pointing up (they will become the green stems of the plant). Cover the seed potatoes by filling the hole and lightly packing the soil. Space the potatoes 30cm (1ft) apart in rows that are 60cm (2ft) wide. The potato plants will begin to emerge 2 to 3 weeks after planting.
Remember that potatoes also grow well in containers, cages or bags.
Potatoes need to be hilled a few times while they are growing. Hilling potatoes protects the plants from frost, keeps the potatoes away from sunlight, and suppresses the weeds. Once the plants are about 30cm (1ft) tall, hill your potatoes by piling about 15cm (6inches) of soil on the plant. The buried plant will quickly emerge again, and you can repeat this process a few more times throughout the summer and fall. You can also hill the potatoes with straw instead of soil.
While hilling your potatoes is important, there are several ways to grow potatoes without hilling them. In another article, we discuss four ways to grow potatoes without hilling.
It is important to keep your potatoes well watered. Not only are potatoes heavy-feeders but they are also heavy drinkers. A potato is composed of about 80% water, so providing consistent water will significantly improve your harvest.
Red potatoes generally come in early and mid-season varieties, making them ideal for growing in most locations. Check with a local garden centre or seed potato company to find which red potato variety is best for you.
While the potatoes are growing, you can sneak your hand under the plant a pull out a few small potatoes for a summer meal.
For a good-sized harvest, however, most potatoes are mature in around 100 days from planting. Typically, it is best to wait until the plants have died back with a hard fall frost. This article, here, goes into more detail about when is the best time to harvest potatoes.
To harvest your potatoes, carefully dig around the plants with a garden fork to loosen the soil. Be careful not to dig too close to the base of the plant or you risk skewering the potatoes with the tines. It is always exciting to gather the potatoes as they emerge from the soil. This is a particularly fun garden “chore” to do with children.
As a general rule, red potatoes do not store as well as white or yellow varieties, so bear this in mind when choosing which red potato you want to grow. However, than can still be cured and stored for several months for good winter eating.