How far apart you should plant your potatoes depends on the variety of potato, your gardening space, and whether you want new potatoes or a later variety that stores well.
In a garden plant seed potatoes from 8 to 18 inches apart in a row, depending on variety, and have rows spaced 24 inches apart. In a raised bed you’ll aim for one potato seed per square foot, so that’s one potato 12 inches apart in any direction. In a container, slightly higher and closer, about 1.5 potato seeds per square foot to improve odds of having a successful plant in the container.
In the rest of this article we’ll look more specifically at things to consider when deciding how far apart to plant potatoes as well as how deep to plant your potatoes and how to place the seed potato in the ground.
How Far Apart to Plant Potatoes Based On Variety
The best way to know the spacing needed between your potatoes is to go by variety. Some potatoes that produce small tubers have large plants and yields and need to be planted far from each other, like the Russian Banana Fingerling that should be planted 16-18″ away from each other.
This makes going by size of the tubers unreliable and it’s best even if you don’t know the exact variety of seed potato you are using to judge the general variety of it. Most Russets should be planted 12 to 16 inches apart and the rows 3 feet apart.
Wood Prairie is a seller of certified potato seed varieties and if you go to their site and click on one of the varieties listed you will see a suggested in row spacing given in the table. The Butte is a Russet variety and the suggested in row spacing is 16″. For the popular Yukon Gold it’s 10″.
You might choose to plant your seed potatoes 8 inches apart and rows only 2 feet apart if you plan on growing early varieties and harvesting new potatoes or if you’re growing a variety of potato that has a small plant or small tubers.
New potatoes are any early variety that you harvest before the tubers become completely mature. The benefits of harvesting new potatoes are numerous. You get potatoes from your garden early in the season, around 4-6 weeks sooner than you’ll get them if you wait for them to mature. You are growing the potatoes during the early season when the conditions are best for potatoes before it gets too hot. And you are freeing up space in you garden sooner. The cons are new potatoes don’t store well and won’t keep more than a month or so and the potatoes will not be as big as they could have been if harvested when they reached full maturity.
Plant Potato Eyes Up or Down?
Always plant your potato seeds with the eyes facing up and the cut side down if you cut your potato seed into pieces. Always properly sprout your potato seed. The benefit of properly sprouting seed potatoes is huge because you give the potato plant a two week head start and get it going in the early season while the temperature is just right for potatoes. Make sure there are at least two sprouts per seed potato piece. If you did cut your potato seed let it sit inside at room temperatures for 48 hours before planting so the cut side can toughen up and become more resistant to rot and disease.
How Deep to Plant Potatoes
Here is something a lot of gardeners don’t know. Potatoes fall into two categories, determinate or indeterminate. Determinate varieties grow in a single layer just above the seed potato. Indeterminate varieties grow in multiple layers above the seed potato. Determinate varieties include all early potatoes and most mid-season potatoes and indeterminate varieties are late season, also called maincrop, varieties of potatoes.
So, how deep do you plant potatoes? Depends on the variety and whether you plan on hilling your potatoes. Good practice dictates hilling your potatoes but you can get away without doing so. Check out “What is Hilling Potatoes?” to learn more.
If you don’t practice hilling plant your seed potatoes about 6-8 inches deep. If you do practice hilling, you’ll plant the seed potatoes 3-4 inches deep. Regardless make sure to cover potatoes with dirt if you ever see them peeking out of the ground and directly exposed to the light.
When planting in a plot of soil simply dig a trench 3-4 inches deep by dragging a shovel or mattocks along in a straight line. Plant your potato seeds in the trench, 3-4 inches deep. Cover with dirt and water. Plan on hilling the potatoes when they reach 6-8 inches tall by mounding dirt around the base of the plant up to about 4 inches. Always leave at least three inches of plant exposed. The purpose of hilling is to protect growing tubers from the sun and give indeterminate varieties more room to grow in.
Direct sunlight will turn a potato a green color and make it poisonous to eat. The routine is to hill 2 or 3 times through the plants life-cycle, about every 3 weeks or when another 6-8 inches of plant has emerged since the last time you hilled. BUT, if you see potato poking out of the ground you should cover it and probably do some hilling.
If you’re growing in beds you want to have 9-12 inches of soil across the bed. Do the same thing and make a trench with a garden tool. This time go about 6 inches deep and leave the top two inches of the trench unfilled. You want about 3 inches of soil left below the potato seed. Most of the soil in your garden should be in between the rows waiting for hilling. Plant the potato seed, cover with 3-4 inches of dirt and water.
If you’re growing in containers you want to have at least 2.5 gallons of soil per seed potato. So if you’re growing in a 5 gallon container you’d want to plant two seed potatoes. Smart Pots are a canvas bag and a more expensive option but drain great and promote root growth. They are commonly used for high value container plants and it makes sense to use if you have limited space and want maximum yields.
You want 3 inches of dirt below your potato seed. If you plan on hilling cover the potato with 3-4 inches of dirt, if not 6-8 inches of dirt. If you’re hilling the potatoes and get to the top of your container you can extend the top with cardboard shaped into a cylinder and duck taped together. Check out “How Tall Do Potato Plants Grow?” to learn how tall potato plants grow or “When Do You Plant Potatoes?” to find out when to plant potatoes!