what-are-seed-potatoes

Seed Potatoes Can Fill Your Garden

The most common way to grow potatoes in your garden is to start them from seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are, quite simply, potatoes that have gone to seed. Planted properly, these “starter” potatoes will yield a crop of spuds for you and your family to enjoy all year long. Before planting, though, you’ll want to know how to identify seed potatoes.

What is a Seed Potato?

When a potato goes to seed, it becomes capable of making new potatoes. Planted and tended properly, a few seed potatoes will grow a new crop for you. The term “seed potato”, however, is not exact; while potatoes do produce seed sometimes, these are almost never used for planting; seed potatoes with white shoots are what get planted.

How does a potato go to seed, to become capable of reproduction? Basically, those potatoes you have in your kitchen can become seed potatoes for you. We’ve all gone to get a potato to cook with and found some growing white shoots; those are seed potatoes!

When a potato goes to seed and then is cut into sections and planted, or planted whole, it will grow into a complete potato plant, with roots, stems, leaves, and potatoes.

Letting Your Potatoes go to Seed

Most farmers will grow their new potato crop with leftovers from last season’s planting. To get seed potatoes out of the spuds in your kitchen:

  • Put a few potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Don’t wash or pare them.
  • Wait for them to develop swollen eyes and white shoots.
  • Cut them into smaller pieces, one or two shoots per segment, let them dry for a few days, and plant them.

It’s necessary, if you cut your seed potatoes into pieces before planting, that you let them dry before putting them into the ground; this is particularly important if you are planting while your soil is still cool and wet. Often, a farmer will take the cut seed potatoes and coat them in wood ash to help them dry.

If Your Spuds are Slow to Seed

A gas given off by certain fruits and vegetables, ethylene, can help push reticent potatoes to grow shoots. If your potatoes are showing no signs of going to seed, or if you want them to develop shoots more quickly, put them in a paper bag with apples, bananas, or onions. These will give off ethylene gas and encourage seeding.

Which Potatoes to Use

You can use virtually any potato to plant. Potatoes from the grocery store are just as good as store-bought seed potatoes, and a lot less expensive. You can use spuds from your neighbor’s garden, you last crop, or anyplace else. To grow organic potatoes, use organic seed potatoes!

Many farmers and other experts do recommend using heirloom potatoes to seed over hybrids. It’s believed that hybrid potatoes will not grow as hearty and healthy a crop as heirlooms. If you are interested in growing a hybrid variety of potato, it might be worthwhile to consult a seed catalog or other specialist.

Seed Potato Health

It should be noted that seed potatoes can carry potato diseases from season to season. Be sure you’ve got healthy seed potatoes before planting. Look for insects, mold, or other signs of disease on the potatoes you choose to use for seed. If you have any questions or concerns, discard the tuber and start over.