Starting potatoes from seed tubers is a fun, cost-effective way to grow a tasty crop. Often, the seed potatoes begin sprouting before planting. While most gardeners believe the sprouts should be rubbed off, leaving them intact can actually help the plants establish. This article covers how to properly plant sprouted potatoes.
Should You Remove Potato Sprouts Before Planting?
Many gardeners mistakenly believe sprouts on seed potatoes should always be removed prior to planting. However, leaving intact sprouts can be beneficial:
Gives plants a head start – Sprouts are ready to start growing immediately.
Minimizes stress – Removing sprouts can damage and delay the plant.
Maximizes yield – Plants with intact sprouts tend to yield higher.
Saves time – No need to scrub off eyes and sprouts beforehand.
As long as sprouts are reasonably small (less than 1⁄4 inch), leave them be and plant as normal. The plants will thrive.
Storing Potatoes with Sprouts
Ideally, seed potatoes should not sprout until just before planting. To prevent premature sprouting:
Store in complete darkness. Light causes sprouting.
Keep at around 40°F. Cooler temperatures discourage sprouting.
Check frequently and remove any sprouting tubers.
Despite best efforts, some sprouting before planting is common. As long as sprouts remain short, the potatoes can still be planted normally.
How to Cut Potatoes with Sprouts ?
If seed potatoes have long sprouts, you can cut them into smaller planting pieces as usual. Follow these guidelines:
Make cuts so a sprout is on each piece. Try to retain 2-3 sprouts per section.
If needed, gently twist and pull sprouts to remove all but a few per piece.
Cut sections with sprouts a little larger, around golf ball size, to account for some loss.
Allow cut pieces to dry out for 1-2 days before planting.
Cutting sprouted tubers into planting sets allows you to retain some sprouts on each piece.
Ideal Conditions for Sprouted Potatoes
To give sprouted seed potatoes the best start, be sure to prepare the garden bed properly:
Light, fertile soil with lots of organic matter. Incorporate compost before planting.
Soil pH between 4.8-5.5. Add lime if needed to reach this ideal acidic range.
Full sun. Choose a planting spot with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Pre-sprouting increases frost sensitivity. Wait until 2-3 weeks after the last expected spring frost.
Providing prime conditions reduces transplant shock for the tender sprouts.
Planting Sprouted Potatoes
When ready to plant, follow these steps for sprouted seed potatoes:
- Create Trenches : Dig trenches 8-12 inches deep with enriched soil at the bottom. Space rows 2-3 feet apart.
- Place Potato Sprouts :Arrange potato pieces sprout-side up in trenches 12 inches apart. Handle gently to avoid breaking sprouts.
- Cover Lightly with Soil : Cover potato sets with just 2-3 inches of soil initially. As plants grow, continue burying stems until trenches are filled.
- Water Thoroughly After Planting : Gently water after planting and as needed to keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
- Use Row Covers if Frost Risk Remains : Place fabric row covers over planted areas if cold snaps could threaten tender sprouts. Remove once risk has passed.
Follow proper care guidelines, and the intact sprouts will help plants establish quickly.
Caring for Potatoes After Planting
Once planted, sprouted potatoes need attentive care for robust growth:
Provide steady moisture. Water at soil level to avoid damaging sprouts by wetting foliage.
Fertilize lightly with a balanced fertilizer or compost/manure tea every 3-4 weeks.
Weed diligently to prevent competition for water and nutrients.
Once flowering starts, mound soil over stems, leaving just the top leaves exposed.
Monitor for pests like potato beetles, aphids, and cabbage worms. Control organically if found.
When leaves start dying back, stop watering to aid maturation.
Meeting the plants’ needs throughout the growing season will maximize production.
Harvesting Potatoes Started from Sprouts
In about 60-100 days, potatoes started from sprouted seed will be ready for harvest. Follow these guidelines:
Time harvest 2-3 weeks after vines start dying back.
Use a digging fork to gently unearth potatoes from soil. Take care not to stab tubers.
For the biggest yields, wait until a light frost kills off vines before harvesting.
Cure freshly dug potatoes 1-2 weeks in a dark, dry area before storage or consumption.
Enjoy bumper crops of homegrown potatoes raised from sprouted seed tubers.
Storing the Harvest from Sprouted Potatoes
Mature potatoes keep best in certain conditions. To successfully store your sprouted seed potato harvest:
Sort out any damaged or diseased potatoes before storage. Eat those soon rather than storing.
Ideal storage temperature is 40-50°F with high humidity around 90%. A root cellar works well.
Keep potatoes in complete darkness. Light causes outing and shortens storage life.
Place tubers in open crates, baskets, or boxes with ventilation. Avoid plastic bags.
Check stored potatoes regularly and remove any showing signs of decay.
With proper harvest and storage methods, your potato crop grown from sprouts will last for months after maturity.
Starting potatoes from sprouted seed tubers, when handled carefully, can give plants an advantage while still producing abundant yields. Just be sure to provide sprouted potatoes with ideal growing conditions for results that match or even exceed planting unsprouted tubers.