It happens every winter. You buy a bag of potatoes and before you can use them, they begin to sprout. Rather than throwing them out, you may be contemplating growing grocery store potatoes in the garden. Will store-bought potatoes grow though? The answer is yes. Here's how to turn this pantry waste into an edible crop.
Are Store-Bought Potatoes Safe to Grow
Growing grocery store potatoes which have sprouted can produce a delicious crop of potatoes which are safe to consume. However, there is one caveat with growing potatoes from the store. Unlike seed potatoes, which are certified to be free of disease, grocery store potatoes may be harboring pathogens like blight or fusarium.
If you're concerned about introducing disease-producing plant pathogens into your garden soil, you can always grow sprouted potatoes in a container. At the end of the season, discard the growing medium and sanitize the planter.
How to Grow Store-Bought Potatoes
Learning how to grow store-bought potatoes is not difficult, even if you have little or no gardening experience. You will need to hold onto the sprouted potatoes until planting time in the spring. The general recommendation is to plant potatoes when the soil temperatures reach 45 degrees F. (7 C.). You can also contact your local extension office for the ideal time to plant potatoes in your area. Then, follow these simple steps for growing grocery store potatoes:
Step 1: If you're growing potatoes in the ground, work the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm.) a few weeks before planting time. Potatoes are heavy feeders, so it’s best to work in plenty of organic compost or slow-release fertilizer at this time.
If the plan is to grow grocery store potatoes in pots, begin gathering suitable containers. You need not spend a fortune on dedicated planters. Five gallon buckets or 12 inch (30 cm.) deep plastic totes work fine. Be sure to drill drainage holes in the bottom. Plan on one to two potato plants per bucket or space potato plants 8 inches (20 cm.) apart in totes.
Step 2: Two days before planting, cut large potatoes into pieces ensuring each piece contains at least one eye. Allow the cut area to cure to prevent the potato from rotting in the ground. Smaller potatoes with one or more eyes can be planted whole.
Step 3: Plant potatoes 4 inches (10 cm.) deep in loose, fine soil with the eyes facing up. Once potato plants emerge, hill soil around the base of the plants. To grow grocery store potatoes in a container using the layering method, plant the potatoes near the bottom of the pot. As the plant grows, layer soil and straw around the plant's stem.
The layer method does best with indeterminate varieties of potatoes, which continue to sprout new potatoes along the stem. Unfortunately, growing grocery store potatoes with the layering method can be a bit of a gamble as the variety or type of potato is usually unknown.
Step 4: Keep the soil moist, but not soggy during the growing season. After the plants die back, carefully dig to retrieve garden-planted potatoes or simply dump the planter for container-grown ones. Curing potatoes before storing is recommended.
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Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.
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