Potato Growing Tips

Need some potato growing tips to reduce insects, improve yields and grow a better crop? PoconoGardening.com gets lots of questions about potato growing. Let's get to it.

Why are my potato plants so leafy?

When you plant whole seed potatoes or sets with more than 3 eyes, or sprouts, you will have a garden filled with lovely, leafy plants.

When it comes time to harvest, you may notice that the amount and size of potatoes does not seem to measure up to your less leafy potato plants. Especially if you are looking to harvest new potatoes. Why is this?

When a potato is planted the eyes sprout into the stems that will break the surface and become the green, leafy parts of the plant that you can see. These stems will flower and then begin to die back.

The plant creates tiny potatoes at the same time that the flowers are being formed. By the time the blossoms have been pollinated and are beginning to fall off, the potatoes should be ready to harvest as new potatoes.

If your plants have many stems and are very leafy the plant is putting so much of its energy into leaf production there is not much left for the potato production. If you are fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer you will exacerbate this situation.

Why does this happen?

The plant starts putting energy into storage (potatoes) when it receives environmental cues. The flowers have been pollinated, the stems begin to die back and it is receiving less energy input from the photosynthesis in the leaves.

When a plant has 6 stems, each with flowers opening at different times and producing a ton of energy through photosynthesis, the cues to begin energy storage are not there. It may not set very many potatoes, will set very late in the season or the potatoes might be there, just very small.

This is part of the reason you are supposed to cut the seed potatoes into small pieces that contain only one or 2 eyes. Less eyes mean less stems.

Also, your choice of fertilizer plays a role. When you give potato plants fertilizer that is high in nitrogen it encourages leaf production. We are going to cover fertilizers in depth soon, but for now just remember that potatoes need fertilizers than are higher in phosphorus and potassium.

My favorite fertilizer for my potatoes is

What to do.

When you are ready to plant your potatoes, make sure that you plant pieces with 3 eyes or less, but not smaller that 1 square inch. If you have seed potatoes with lots of eyes and you do not want to cut them smaller, you can cut the extra eyes off. Make sure you wait a day or two for the cuts to dry and cure before planting.

What if you have already planted them and they have pushed up 5 or 6 stems? You can't dig them up. Using very sharp scissors or shears, cut back the additional stems. Make you cut just above the soil line. If you have mulched them thoroughly, pull back the mulch, trim the stem and put the mulch back.

I trim the stems so that each plant has no more than 3. It does not matter what cultivar we are growing, its just our standard practice. You can experiment to see what works best for you.

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