How to Plant Potatoes from Eyes: Planting, Irrigation, and More

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Far from being the empty carbs that many dietary gurus claim, potatoes are in fact nutritious and edifying. At only 110 calories for a medium-sized spud, this root vegetable is free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. In addition, it conveys 45 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin C. The potato is also a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, iron and fiber.

Given the myriad ways in which potatoes are prepared and served, this inexpensive produce is a compelling bargain. Even more economical is growing them from home. Learning how to plant potatoes from eyes is highly profitable.

Understand Potato Physiology

The potato we eat is classified as a tuber, i.e. the fleshy underground stem of the potato plant. This plant is a herbaceous species of the nightshade family of crops, which includes eggplants, peppers and — believe it or not — tobacco.

Growth begins when sprouts emerge from the planted eye. Leaves, branches and roots form during phase two, and then the tubers develop (extending from the main stem) between one and two months after planting. Beginning as stolons that elongate laterally, they become tubers when they enlarge in width.

Eventually, the tubers consume most of the nutrients absorbed by the plant. After approximately five months, they grow to harvest-worthy maturity. By this time, the skin is coarse and hard enough to endure the gathering process. This is the goal for those who want to learn how to plant potatoes from eyes.

Potato plant

Begin with Seed Potatoes or Pieces

The strategy of how to plant potatoes from eyes can begin with whole seed potatoes or cut pieces of potato. The key is that at least one eye must be present. The eyes on potatoes are neither visual organs nor deformities. They are simply nodules from which new potatoes grow. In times of old, the highest quality yield from the garden were reserved for use as seed. Today, however, they are available at nurseries or garden centers.

Whether using whole potatoes or cut-up chunks, the gardener should make sure the potato is largely rid of moisture. This helps to ward off rotting. Also, the eyes should bear sprouts. When planting pieces, wait a couple of days after cutting for the cuts to callus, thereby protecting them from any impurities of the soil. More eyes will, of course, give more potatoes. Fewer eyes, though, can yield larger ones.

Plant at a Shallow Depth

Being tubers, potatoes develop best just beneath the soil surface–about two to three inches. Since they grow downward and horizontally, gardeners best separate each row by three feet and each plant by 12 inches within the row. Once the plants emerge about six inches in height, usually between one and three weeks after sowing, create mounds in each row to protect growing tubers from sun/heat damage. Known as “hilling,” this procedure requires little more than a hoe.

For container growers who want to know how to plant potatoes from eyes, the task is doable in a burlap sack or large trash barrel. Perforate the bottom with three or four holes and line them with coffee filters. With about three inches of soil (and some compost) at the bottom, plant the eyes and add dirt as the plants grow taller.

senior couple planting potatoes

Irrigate and Mulch

Any shopper who finds knobs or cracks on a potato should know that–somewhere along the line–moisture applications were inconsistent. Water is critical especially when the plant begins to blossom. Soil consistency determines irrigation frequency, with sandier ground needing more than the weekly applications suitable for clay soils. Sprinklers work sufficiently for garden-grown potatoes but watering should ease off as the plants approach maturity.

One way to preserve moisture is mulching. Doing so cools the soil, inhibits weeds and saves water. Sometimes, it is even a decorative feature to a garden plot. Shredded leaves, shredded bark or simple grass clippings succeed well as mulch material. In the end, this lengthens the growing period, often increasing the harvest yield as a result. Whether mulching or not, discovering how to plant potatoes from eyes must include adequate attention to irrigation.

Care and Feeding

Potatoes need phosphorous and many soils release only trace amounts. This means any fertilizer should have adequate phosphorous content. In fact, any soil that is below a pH level of 6.5 may be too acidic for robust potato production absent optimally nutritious plant food. If leaves do not expand fully, or are darker green or brown in hue, these are tell-tale signs that phosphorous uptake is deficient.

Other avenues to healthy potato growth concern temperatures and pests. If you suspect a freezing night, covering the plants with a sheet or towels can shield the roots from the worst of it. Warm weather, on the other hand, invites potato bugs. Spraying the plants with soapy water is a quick, easy and economical way to repel these destructive insects.

Harvest Time

Anyone examining how to plant potatoes from eyes will eventually face harvest time. While you can pull up baby-size potatoes after a little more than three months, five months will give up fully grown tubers. The plant is dead at this point (and can be poisonous). Do not compost or recycle: throw it away. However, the dirt from container plantings is perfectly re-usable. Examine the harvest carefully for the best ones to cut up and plant later.

harvesting potatoes

Summing Up

Potatoes are famous for culinary versatility, nutrient density and economic sensibility. Compared to other garden vegetables, they are also relatively low maintenance. Recognizing the centrality of the eyes to re-planting and growth, gardeners can control the size and number of potatoes they will reap.

In any event, the elements of successful potato raising are not complicated or overwhelming. Remembering how the tubers grow; their nutritional requirements and hydration needs; and the rate at which they mature will help assure a successful crop. Once understood, the basics are the same year after year.

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Jonathan E. Bass

Graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. I am currently a gardener. I have a small garden behind my house. I love it.

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