Potato Plant Growth

Gardeners often by-pass growing potatoes in their garden because they seem complicated to grow.

Since potatoes are tubers, not root crops, common questions arise during their planting. You might wonder how far apart to plant potatoes for a successful harvest, and that’s a common issue for gardeners. The spacing for potatoes can affect their performance as well. 

So how far apart do potato set rows need to be for maximum growth potential in the home garden?

Proper spacing of potatoes depends on the type of gardening you’re doing and the type of potato that you’re growing. Larger potatoes naturally need more space. However, the general recommendation is that you plant each potato 12 inches apart to allow for ample growing space. Each row needs to be three feet apart.

But there’s more to learn about how far apart to plant potatoes to optimize their growth. Continue reading to discover more about their growth and spacing requirements.

Understanding Potato Plant Growth

Understanding Potato Plant Growth

Understanding spacing is essential for growing potatoes effectively, and it’s pivotal to grasp their growth pattern to space them correctly.

While potatoes grow beneath the surface, they aren’t classified as root vegetables. They are tubers, characterized by their thick, starchy, underground stems. Unlike vegetables like carrots that grow deeper into the soil, tubers expand upwards and outwards.

This unique growth pattern necessitates “hilling” or mounding soil around the stems to keep them continuously covered as they develop.

How do potatoes grow?

It all starts with a potato. Have you ever forgot a bag of potatoes in your cabinet? I do it all of the time! When you finally realize the bag is there, you find sprouted vine-like tentacles everywhere. 

Those tentacles are the start of a new potato plant. Potatoes sprout eyes that grow into future potato plants. If you plant them, you’ll grow potatoes.

Technically, you can grow potatoes from the ones at the store in the produce section, but it’s wiser to use certified seed potatoes that come from reputable companies. Their selection tends to have fewer disease problems.

How Far Apart to Plant Potatoes

How Far Apart to Plant Potatoes

Just like any plant, spacing potatoes correctly is an essential step. Plants need room to grow and develop. 

The most significant factor in how far apart to space potato plants is how much space you have available and how you’re choosing to grow them.

Square foot gardens are different from in-ground gardening, so let’s take a look at how you can grow potatoes and the recommended space for each.

Square Foot Gardens

For those without tons of room to grow in rows in the ground, square-foot gardening is the best way to maximize your growing space. You’ll be shocked by how much you can grow in limited space. 

If you want to grow potatoes using square foot gardening, it’s best to plant fingerling or small varieties of potatoes. These types adapt to the smaller spacing easier and don’t need as much room to grow.

  • Your garden bed needs to be able to hold 10-12 inches of soil. Make sure to measure the depth before planting to ensure you have adequate space
  • Start by laying 1-2 inches of soil at the bottom of your garden beds. Use good quality soil designed for containers or potting mix and add compost for a boost of nutrients.
  • Each seed potato should be placed at a rate of one per square foot. You make this a bit easier, and you can create a square-foot grid, which you can see made by The Garden Glove.
  • Once placed correctly, cover the potato tubers with an inch or two of soil.
  • As your plants continue to grow, hill around them with the reserved soil you have. Make sure the potatoes themselves are never exposed to direct sunlight, which can cause them to have a splotchy green look and make them inedible.

Here’s what’s surprising about using this method.

A 4’x4’ garden bed can hold 16 potato plants! You’ll end up with a good deal of potatoes at the end of the growing season.

In-Ground Gardens

In-Ground Gardens

If you decide to use in-ground gardening techniques, you’ll need more space than you would if you use square-foot gardening. 

Here’s what you need to do.

  • Dig a trench in your garden as long as you want to make it. That’ll depend on how much space you have available. Typically, the trench needs to be 6 inches wide and 8 inches deep, which gives you space to amend the soil.
  • Once dug, add a few inches of compost at the bottom of the trench for nutrients and draining purposes.
  • If you want to dig more than one trench, be sure to space them 2-3 feet apart. Not only does this give the plants plenty of space to grow, but it makes it easier to tend to your plants when they’re spaced well
  • If you’re using large seed potatoes, you can cut them into pieces if they have multiple eyes. However, you need to wait a few days to let the cut sides dry to stop rotting
  • Plant a potato in the trench every 12 -15 inches. Then, add 2-3 inches of compost over the seed potatoes. You can decrease this spacing if your space is limited or if you want to grow only baby potatoes.

Grow Bags Or Buckets

Grow Bags or Buckets

f you really don’t have space to grow potatoes or lack a garden space entirely, you can still grow potatoes. Grow bags or buckets work just as well, and gardeners can even have a prolific harvest. 

A 5-gallon bucket will work to grow potatoes, but you have to make sure you add plenty of drainage holes at the bottom and sides of the bucket. Potatoes will die in standing water. 

Grow bags are crafted with materials that let the water drain out. Make sure you’re using a container that is breathable and permeable. 

  • Add 2-3 inches of compost and soil at the bottom of your grow bag or bucket. Use a potting soil mix that is high quality. 
  • Be sure to plant no more than one or two seed potatoes in each container. 
  • Once growing, you can treat these potatoes like any other method and add more soil to ensure that the plants and tubers stay covered.

Potato Spacing by Plant Type

Not only does how to plant matter, but the potato variety you select matters as well. If you pick a larger potato, it’s naturally going to require more space to grow. Smaller sized potatoes need less space. 

Even if you aren’t sure if their ending size, all potatoes develop small at first.

So, if you don’t have a lot of space for potato growth, you can harvest them early to get smaller potatoes if you don’t have a lot of space for big ones.

Examples Of Smaller Sized Potatoes:

Examples of smaller sized potatoes:
  • Purple Majesty
  • Purple Pelisse
  • Yukon Gold
  • Bambino
  • Super

Examples Of Larger Sized Potatoes:

Examples of larger sized potatoes:
  • Russets (Idaho Potatoes)
  • White Rose
  • California Long Whites
  • Princess Laratte

5 Tips for Growing Potatoes

5 Tips for Growing Potatoes

Now that you know how far apart to plant potatoes, here are some tips to ensure you end up with the most successful harvest possible this year.

1. Pick A Sunny Spot

Pick a Sunny Spot

Potatoes need to be planted early in the spring in a sunny location. They won’t grow as well in a shady or partially shady spot.

2. Ensure You Have The Right Soil

Ensure You Have the Right Soil

Potatoes are aggressively rooting plants. They’ll produce the best crop for you if you put them in high-quality, loose, well-draining soil. Make sure the pH range is between 5.0 to 7.0.

3. Protect From A Hard Freeze

You should plant potatoes before the last frost date in your area, but that means a hard freeze is still possible. Potatoes cannot handle a hard freeze, so make sure you cover them with straw or extra soil for protection. Otherwise, you put your plants at risk; they can die.

4. Water Often

Water Often

Potato plants need plenty of water once the spuds start to form. In general, you need to provide 1-2 inches of water each week for proper development.

5. Harvest When The Leaves Die Back

Harvest When The Leaves Die Back

The best time to harvest potatoes is when the plant leaves start to die back. At this point, the potatoes are at their mature state. You can harvest smaller potatoes by digging them up when the plant has blooms on it.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how far apart to plant potatoes is a crucial part of growing potatoes in your garden. If you don’t give enough space between each plant, it could cause your plants not to grow large enough or to face more diseases and pests. Make sure you know proper spacing before you plant your potatoes!

Amber Noyes

Written By

Amber Noyes

Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.

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