Image by mike warren
By Amy Grant
Let’s talk potatoes. Whether French fried, boiled and turned into potato salad, or baked and slathered with butter and sour cream; potatoes are one of the most popular, versatile and easy-to- grow vegetables. Though many people are familiar with when to plant potato crops, others may question how deep to plant potatoes once they’re ready for growing.
Information on Growing Potato Plants
When undertaking the cultivation of potatoes, be sure to purchase certified disease free seed potatoes to avoid some of the nasty diseases like potato scab, viral disease or fungal issues such as blight.
Plant the potato seed about 2-4 weeks before your last late frost date…depending on the potato variety and whether it is an early season or late season type. Soil temperature should be at least 40 degrees F. and, ideally, moderately acidic with a pH between 4.8 and 5.4. Sandy loam amended with organic matter to improve drainage and soil quality will promote healthy growing potato plants. Apply the manure or compost in early spring and combine thoroughly using a rotary tiller or spade fork.
How Deep to Plant Potatoes
Now that we have the basics for planting potatoes figured out, the question remains “how deep to plant potatoes?” A common method when planting potatoes is to plant in a “hill.” For this method, dig a shallow trench, about 4 inches deep, and then place the seed spuds eyes up (cut side down) 8-12 inches apart. Trenches should be between 2-3 feet apart and then covered with soil.
The planting depth of potatoes starts at 4 inches deep and then as the potato plants grow, you gradually create a “hill” around the plants with loosely hoed soil up to the base of the plant. Repeat in 2-3 weeks. This “hilling” prevents the production of solanine, which is a toxin that potatoes produce when exposed to the sun and turns potatoes green and bitter.
Conversely, you may decide to sow as above, but then cover or “hill” the growing potato plants with straw or other mulch, up to a foot. This method makes the potatoes simple to harvest by pulling back the mulch once the plant dies back.
And lastly, you may decide to skip the “hilling” or deep mulching, especially if you have great potato growing soil and optimal conditions. In this case, the planting depth of potatoes should be about 7-8 inches for the seed spuds. While this method makes the potatoes slower growing, it requires less effort during the season but is not recommended for cold, damp areas as it makes for a difficult digging out process.