Planting Potatoes: How to have a successful harvest

You love potatoes? Then you've come to the right place! In this article you will learn everything you need to know to grow your own potatoes. Whether in the garden, on the balcony or in the terrarium - planting potatoes is not so difficult if you follow a few tips.

Potatoes are not only delicious, but also healthy. They contain many vitamins, minerals and fiber. In addition, they are versatile: Whether as a salad, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes or fries - potatoes always taste good!

Depending on taste, ripening time and intended use, you can choose from a wide range of varieties. Whether red, purple or black, whether firm or floury, whether round or elongated - there is something for every taste.

In this article, we'll introduce you to some popular potato varieties and explain how to properly prepare, plant, care for and harvest them. Are you ready? Then let's get started!

Preparing potatoes: How and when to pre-sprout potatoes?

Before you can plant your potatoes, you need to prepare them. This means, first of all, that you pre-sprout them. This has several advantages:

  • You can start harvesting earlier.
  • You increase the yield per plant.
  • You avoid diseases and pests.
  • You save space in the bed.

The pre-sprouting is quite simple: You just need a box or carton with some soil or sand and a bright and cool place. This can be, for example, a windowsill in the basement or a greenhouse. The temperature should be between 10 and 15 degrees.

Place the potatoes in the box or carton with the "eye" facing up and cover lightly with soil or sand. The eye is the place where the sprouts sprout. You can recognize it by the small indentations on the skin.

The eye of a potato must be upwards during pre-sprouting
A potato eye. Source: Freud, CC BY-SA 4.0. Adaptations: Red circle added

Keep the soil or sand slightly moist and aerate regularly. After about two to four weeks, the potatoes should have formed short and strong sprouts. These should be about two to three centimeters long (~0.6 to 1 inch).

If the sprouts become too long, they easily break off and the potato loses strength. Therefore, you should not start pre-sprouting too early. The right time depends on the variety and the planting date.

Potatoes with sprouts about 1 centimeter long
Sprouting potatoes. Source: ZooFari, public domain.

Potato varieties for pre-sprouting

Not every potato variety is equally suitable for pre-sprouting. Early varieties, which are ready for harvesting after 90 to 100 days, are particularly recommended. These usually have smaller tubers and are less storable than late varieties. These five varieties are among them, for example.

  • Annabelle: firm, yellow, elongated, delicate taste.
  • Augusta: mealy, yellow, round-oval, mild taste.
  • Finka: mainly firm cooking, deep yellow, oval, strong aroma.
  • Rosara: firm-cooking, yellow with red skin, round to oval, diverse taste nuances.
  • Sieglinde: firm-cooking, yellow, long-oval, pithy bite.

When is the right time to plant?

After you have pre-sprouted your potatoes, you can put them in the ground. The right time depends on the variety and the weather. In general, potatoes like it warm and frost-free. The soil temperature should be at least eight degrees.

You can plant early potatoes from mid-March to early April. They are ready for harvest after about 90 to 100 days and are suitable for fresh consumption. Medium-early and late varieties follow from mid-April to mid-May. They take about 120 to 160 days to harvest and can be stored longer.

To determine the right planting date, you can use the ice saints as a guide. These are the days from May 11 to 15, when it often gets cold again. After the Ice Saints, the danger of late frosts is usually over.

If you want to garden according to the lunar calendar, you should plant potatoes when the moon is waning. This is said to promote underground growth.

How deep and with what spacing put the potatoes?

To plant your potatoes, you need a bed with loose, humus-rich soil. The soil should not be too wet, otherwise the tubers will rot. Ideally, you have already dug up the bed in the fall and enriched it with compost or manure.

In the spring you can once again loosen and smooth the bed. Then use a rake or rake to make deep furrows in the soil. The distance between the furrows should be about 50 centimeters (~19.6 inches).

In the furrows you now put your pre-sprouted potatoes with the eye upwards. The distance between the potatoes should be about 30 to 35 centimeters (~11.7 to 12.8 inches). Then cover the potatoes with soil so that they are about 10 to 20 centimeters deep (~4 to 8 inches).

To mark the planting rows, you can use wooden sticks or labels. This way you will know where to dig later.

How often and how much you need to water potatoes?

Potatoes need regular watering, but not too much. Too dry soil leads to small and uneven tubers, too wet soil promotes rotting and disease.

It's best to water your potatoes in the morning or evening when the sun is not so strong. Avoid wetting the leaves, as this can promote fungal infections.

The optimal amount of water depends on the weather and soil conditions. As a rule of thumb: Per week it should be about 10 to 15 liters per square meter.

You can test the moisture of the soil with your finger: if it feels dry, it's time to water. If it feels moist, you can wait.

Hill potatoes: what is it and why you need to do it?

An important maintenance measure when planting potatoes is hilling. This means that you pile the soil around the plants. This has several advantages:

  • You protect the tubers from the sunlight that makes them green and poisonous.
  • You encourage the formation of new tubers on the stems.
  • You prevent drying and the penetration of pests.
  • You suppress the weeds between the rows.

The hilling should be done at least twice during the growing season. The first time when the plants are about 20 centimeters high (~8 inches), and the second time when they have reached about 40 centimeters (~16 inches). You can also hill more often to increase the yield.

Several rows of potato plants, which were hilled
Potato plants with hills. Source: Piqsels

A field hoe with a wide blade or a rake is suitable for hilling. You use it to carefully pull the loose soil from the space between the plants. The stems should be covered about halfway, but the leaves should remain free.

Caring for potatoes: How to fight weeds?

Weeds are not only a nuisance, but also harmful to your potato plants. It competes with them for water, nutrients and light. It can also transmit or hide diseases and pests.

To control weeds, you have several options:

  • Tilling: This is the simplest and most environmentally friendly method. You regularly remove the weeds between the rows and loosen the soil between the rows and at the same time loosen the soil. This promotes ventilation and water supply.
  • Mulching: This is a good complement to hoeing. You use it to cover the soil between the rows with a layer of organic material such as straw, grass clippings or leaves. This keeps moisture in the soil, prevents weeds from growing and protects the tubers from sunlight.
  • Burning: You need a special gas burner for this, with which you treat the weeds briefly with a high temperature. This destroys the cell structure of the plants and makes them die. This method is especially suitable for young weeds and should not be used too close to the potato plants.
  • Herbicides: This is a chemical method to fight weeds. You need special agents for this, which are approved for potatoes. These act either preventively (before the potatoes emerge) or subsequently (after the potatoes have emerged). You should choose this method only as a last option, as it pollutes the environment and promotes resistance.

Prevent pests and diseases

Potatoes are popular not only with people, but also with many pests and diseases. To avoid or fight them, you can take the following measures:

  • Select resistant varieties that are less susceptible to certain pests and diseases.
  • Keep a good crop rotation and plant potatoes no more often than every four years on the same bed.
  • Pflanze Mischkulturen an, die sich gegenseitig schützen oder fördern. Zum Beispiel Bohnen, Erbsen, Kohl oder Ringelblumen.
  • Use healthy planting material from certified sources or from your own cultivation.
  • Maintain your potatoes regularly by chopping, hilling, watering and fertilizing.
  • Harvest your potatoes in time and store them in a cool, dry and dark place.
  • Remove infested plants or tubers immediately and dispose of them in household waste or burn them.
  • Use biological or chemical agents only as a last option and follow the application instructions.

Harvesting potatoes: When are the potatoes ripe?

The most beautiful moment in potato growing is, of course, the harvest. But when are the potatoes ripe? That depends on the variety and the intended use.

Early potatoes are ready for harvesting already about 90 to 100 days after planting. They usually have smaller tubers and are less storable than late varieties. They are suitable for fresh consumption as jacket or boiled potatoes.

Medium-early and late varieties need about 120 to 160 days until harvest. They usually have larger tubers and can be stored longer than early varieties. They are suitable for storage or processing into fried potatoes or French fries.

To tell if potatoes are ripe, you can look for the following signs:

  • The foliage of potato plants has turned yellow or brown and is beginning to die.
  • The peel of the potatoes is firm and can no longer be scraped off with the fingernail.
  • The tubers have reached the desired size.

You can also do a test harvest and dig up a plant to examine the tubers. If you like them, you can start harvesting.

Harvesting potatoes: How to dig up the potatoes?

To harvest your potatoes, you need a fork or a special potato fork with flat tines. Use it to carefully poke into the soil next to the plant and lift it along with the tubers. Be careful not to damage the tubers, otherwise they will rot more quickly.

A digging fork to harvest potatoes
A double digging fork. Source: Girardin, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Shake the soil off the tubers and place them in a basket or box. Remove the foliage and roots from the plant and compost them or dispose of them in the household trash. If you leave the foliage on the bed, diseases such as late blight can spread.

It's best to harvest your potatoes on a dry day. When the soil is wet, it sticks more to the tubers and can promote mold growth. If you're not going to use your potatoes right away, you should let them dry out a bit before storing them.

Harvesting potatoes: How to store the potatoes?

To store your potatoes, you need a cool and dark place. A cellar or garage with a temperature between 4 and 10 degrees Celsius (40°F to 50°F) and a humidity of 80 to 90 percent is ideal. Excessively high temperatures promote sprouting and loss of vitamin C. Too low temperatures change the starch content and taste of the potatoes.

Store your potatoes in air-permeable containers such as wooden crates, baskets or jute bags. Avoid plastic bags or buckets, as they hinder the tubers' ability to breathe and encourage rotting. Regularly sort out potatoes that are greening, sprouting or rotting.

Don't store your potatoes next to apples or other fruits that emit the maturing gas ethylene. This accelerates germination and the storage of solanine in the tubers. Solanine is a toxic substance found in green or sprouted potatoes. Cut off such areas generously or discard the affected tubers.

Potato varieties: Which variety for what purpose?

Potatoes come in many different varieties that vary in shape, color, taste and cooking type. Depending on how you want to prepare your potatoes, you should choose the appropriate variety to plant.

Potato varieties are divided into three cooking types according to their starch content:

  • Waxy: These varieties have a low starch content of 10 to 15 percent. They remain firm when cooked and are suitable for salad or jacket potatoes.
  • Mainly waxy: These varieties have an average starch content of 15 to 18 percent. They are still relatively firm when cooked, but become more floury when cooled. They are suitable for fried or baked potatoes, potato gratin or potato pancakes.
  • Mealy: These varieties have a high starch content of 18 to 22 percent. They disintegrate during cooking and become dry and fluffy. They are suitable for mashed potatoes, potato dumplings or potato soup.

Here is an overview of some popular varieties of potatoes and their properties:

Ackersegenlatemealyround to ovalyellowPorridge, dumplings, soup
Adrettamediummealyroundish-ovalyellowPorridge, dumplings, soup
Alliansearlymainly waxyround to ovalyellow with red eyesBoiled, salad, gratin potatoes
Annabelleearlymainly waxyround to ovalyellow with red eyesBoiled, boiled, salad potatoes


Potatoes are a versatile and healthy vegetable that you can grow in your own garden. To get a good harvest, you should choose the right variety for your purpose, plant, care, harvest and store the potatoes properly. With our tips and tricks, you can enjoy your homegrown potatoes all year round.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment or email us at We'd love to hear your feedback and experiences with potatoes. And if you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your friends and family. Have fun growing potatoes!

Planting Potatoes: How to have a successful harvest
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Planting Potatoes: How to have a successful harvest
Planting potatoes: Learn all about the best varieties, proper care, harvesting and storage of potatoes in our guide.

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