Fort St John
weather icon
11°C
← Back to Gardening Tips

The Definitive Potato Guide

Discover the essentials of growing potatoes in your own garden. Learn methods for planting, caring for, and harvesting potatoes, along with tips on choosing the right varieties and troubleshooting common problems.

Cleaned potatoes in a canvas bag

Buying

It is best to buy certified disease-free seed potatoes, which are available in multiple varieties at our store. Potatoes from the grocery store have been treated so they don’t sprout and will not give a good result. You want lots of sprouts to grow potato plants.

Preparation

“Chitting” the seed potatoes is the process of allowing seed potatoes to sprout before planting. This step can help speed up the growth and increase the potato yield. To chit potatoes, place them in a cool, well-lit area for a couple of weeks until sprouts emerge.

When to Plant

Potatoes like cool weather and can be planted 2-4 weeks before the last frost in spring. The soil needs to be 40 F°. If your potatoes have emerged from the soil and it looks like there may still be more frost be sure to cover your plants during the night with a frost blanket to protect the young leaves.

Containers

Use any large container 2-3’ tall with a 10-15 gallon capacity. Make sure there is good drainage. Add slow-release fertilizer 6-20-20 into the potting soil. In addition, use a diluted fish fertilizer or other liquid fertilizer. Potatoes grown in containers dry out faster and need more water which results in nutrients leaching out of the soil. Container grown potatoes will need more feeding than if they are grown in the ground. Fill the container with 4-6” of prepared soil, placing prepared potato pieces onto the soil with the eye buds facing up. A 20” wide container can hold approximately 4 potato plants. Cover with a couple of inches of prepared soil. Water thoroughly and place container in a sunny location - check for moisture daily. Allow plants to grow 6” then “hill” them. This is done by adding a couple of inches of soil around your plants and up the stems at the bottom. Bury one-third of the plant covering the lower leaves with soil. The buried stems produce more potatoes. You will need to repeat the hilling process a few more times as the plants grow. Potatoes can be harvested any time after the plants have flowered. As the season progresses your potatoes will grow larger if left to grow.

Potatoes growing in a pot in the Peace Region
Common Potato Types
  • Chieftan
  • Christina
  • Red Viking
  • Red Norland
  • Sangre
  • Red Pontiac
  • All Red
  • Red Gold
  • Autumn Rose
  • Rosara
  • Cerisa
  • Pink Gypsy
  • Russet Burbank
  • Innovator
  • GemStar
  • Jennifer
  • Warba
  • Columba
  • Kennebec
  • Dakota Pearl
  • Alaska Bloom
  • Sieglinde
  • Bintje
  • AmaRosa
  • Banana
  • Bellanita
  • French Fingerling
  • Prince of Orange
  • Russian Blue
  • Violet Queen
  • Carminelle
  • Jazzy
  • Yukon Gold
  • Excellency
  • German Butterball
  • Melody
  • Caribe
  • Purple Viking
  • Huckleberry Gold
  • Nicola
Red potatoes in a bowl
PH Adjustments

Applying sulphur to lower soil pH to between 5.0 and 5.2 can be useful in reducing scab where soils have a high pH. Sulphur 90 is a good product to lower soil pH by increasing acidity (this product can be tilled into the soil). Garden Sulphur powder can be sprinkled directly into the hole where your potato is planted to lower soil acidity just for the individual plant.

PH Soil Tester in stock at Dunvegan Gardens FSJ
Fertilizers

Use acid-producing fertilizers and use ammonium sulphate 21-0-0 as a source of nitrogen. Add potato fertilizer 6-20-20 for huge potato harvests.

Speciality potato fertilizer at Dunvegan Gardens Fort St John
Scabs vs Moisture

Scab is a soil-borne disease. It attacks potato stems, stolons, roots, and young rapidly growing tubers.

Soil pH and soil moisture seem to be the most important factors affecting the occurrence of scab.

Common scab can be particularly severe when potatoes are grown in neutral or alkaline soils (pH 7.0 and above). The disease is controlled if potato soils are kept at pH 5.0 to 5.2.

Warm and dry soil conditions can noticeably increase the amount of scab, particularly 2 and 5 weeks after tubers start to form.

When the tubers start to form (when you start to see flowers) and 5 weeks after it is essential to have enough moisture. Dry soil during this period will increase the chances of scab occurring. Irrigate regularly during this period.

Avoid using too much lime, fresh animal manures, and wood ash. Lime should be used in the existing area after potatoes are rotated to a new area in the garden.

Scab-Resistant Varieties

  • Cheiftan
  • Red Norland
  • Alta Rose
  • Gold Rush
  • Russet Burbank
  • Nicola
  • Viking
  • Rode Esterling
  • German Butterball
  • Blue Gold
  • Satina
Crop Rotation

Rotating potato crops to a new area in the garden is ideal to lessen the chance of scab on potatoes. Ideally rotate with legumes. Avoid planting other root crops into an area previously planted with potatoes.

Harvesting

Potatoes are typically ready for harvest when the foliage turns yellow or dies. Dig carefully to avoid damaging the tubers. Gently remove the potatoes from the soil, and allow them to dry in a cool, dark place for a few days before storing them.

Garlic is a wonderful flavor to so many recipes. Use it in soups, in salad dressings, grill it, roast it, add it to roast beef or make your own garlic mashed potatoes, yum! You can also can it, dry and then grind it.

Did you know you could eat the scapes as well?  To cook the scapes, just steam them for a few minutes, or lightly fry or gill them with a bit of sesame oil. Young ones are tender and delicious, milder taste than the clove, like shallots and chives.  If you have too many scapes, try pickling them.

Here’s a list of garlic varieties that grow well in the North (mainly hardneck varieties):

  • Russian Purple
  • Russian Red
  • Spanish Roja
  • Siberian
  • Metechi
  • Mexican Purple
  • Legacy
  • Duganski
  • German White
  • German Red
  • Bogatyr
  • Regular White (softneck)
Classic Potato Salad
  • 2 pounds Waxy Potatoes (such as red-skinned potatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt (plus more as needed)
  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 medium stalks Celery
  • 1 Large Shallot (or 1/4 small onion)
  • ¼ cup Scallions (chopped, fresh parsley, tarragon, or dill, plus more for garnish)
  • 3 Hard-Boiled Large Eggs (optional) 
  • Black Pepper (freshly ground)

Instructions

Cut the potatoes into large bite sized chunks. Place the potatoes and 1 tsp of salt in a large saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover them.

Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender all the way through.

Meanwhile, dice celery, mince shallot and chop scallions, fresh parsley, tarragon or dill. Pell and dice hard boiled eggs.

Drain and cool potatoes in a colander and rinse under cool water. Drain well, then transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.

Add mayonnaise and Dijon to the potatoes and fold to combine.

Mix in the remaining ingredients. Taste and season with more salt or pepper.

Serve. Can be made up to 1 day ahead.