• Matt Suprunowicz

How to Grow Potatoes from Seed Pieces


How can we use “overripe” potatoes to grow them outside?


 

This Lesson Plan is part of the Gardening and Nutrition modules of SustainEd Farms' virtual programming.

Background

Perhaps you’ve let potatoes sit in your pantry for too long, watching the potatoes form sprouts before eventually throwing the potatoes away (or, hopefully, composting them). However, there is a practical use for your sprouted potatoes: using them to grow more potatoes! Potatoes are tubers (thickened root structures that function as nutrient stores), and these tubers allow the potato plant to create additional shoots to increase the total photosynthetic capacity of the plant -- a form of asexual reproduction.


Using sprouted potatoes to grow more potato plants may be easier than you think. Some store-bought potatoes have been treated to prevent sprouting, so it is important to actually wait to see any signs of sprouting before considering planting. Potatoes can grow well at high altitudes, can resist moderate levels of frost (and can therefore be planted somewhat early), and prefer sandy/loamy and acidic soil composition. With these things in mind, this lesson will guide you through planting potatoes in your garden.


Learning Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Use overripe, sprouting, fingerling potatoes to grow new potato plants

  • Understand the potato tuber and shoot system

Academic Vocabulary

aesexual reproduction / noun. - reproduction that does not involve a change in chromosomes, and therefore results in offspring with identical DNA (clone)

callus /ˈkaləs/ noun/verb. - scarred tissue of a plant that has been hardened over to prevent disease

tuber /ˈt(y)o͞obər/ noun. - an enlarged part of the stem (or root) of some plants that stores nutrients and can allow self-propagation


Directions

1. Gather your materials. You will need the following supplies:


fingerling potatoes (other varieties will work) · knife + cutting board · trowel (or shovel, or hands)


2. Watch this Youtube video to see a demonstration of how to grow potatoes. Then, follow along with the remainder of the lesson by reading the steps below.


3. Identify sprouts or “eyes” on the potato. These are the budding points from which new shoots will grow, and they appear as small indentations on the surface of the potato. Each “seed piece” that you generate must have at least 1 - 2 of these eyes in order to grow the potatoes successfully. Cut the potatoes into small seed pieces using a knife and cutting board, making sure to include a few eyes on each individual piece. If the potatoes have already sprouted, the buds serve as good visual indicators for cutting locations. Each seed piece should be at least a few inches in diameter. Remember, after a few seasons of cloning through this method, you will have to start over from seed due to the senescence (deterioration with age) of the genetic line.


4. Allow the potato seed pieces to callus over for 3 - 5 days. Place them on a well lit countertop or out in the sun. The callus will help protect the potatoes from harmful diseases (rot).


5. Identify an optimal spot in the garden for potatoes. As a member of the nightshade family, potatoes are relatively heavy feeders. They should be placed in an area where potatoes and other members of the nightshade family (eggplant, tomato, peppers, etc.) were not planted in the year prior. As root crops, potatoes can help loosen the soil to make it more porous. If you have an area of the garden that struggles to retain water, consider planting the potatoes there. Additionally, potatoes prefer acidic soils that are neither damp nor packed tightly, and enjoy the full sun but cooler weather.


6. Using a shovel, trowel, or your hands, prepare a trench 5 - 8 inches deep. Dig trenches a few feet apart so as to allow room for other crops between the potatoes, if desired. Eventually, the nearby soil may be “mounded” onto the potatoes to allow for oxygen infiltration and prevent overexposure to sunlight (which may cause the potatoes to become green).


7. Place the potato seed pieces in the prepared trench 6 - 12 inches apart. Cover the trench with the surrounding soil, and water the new potato seeds moderately.


🥔🐞Keep an eye out! … The pest known as the Colorado potato beetle is a major problem for potato growers in North America and Europe. The beetle larvae are particularly devastating as they consume the foliage of nightshade family plants. As quick breeders, they can wipe out crops yields if left unnoticed.


Additional Resources:

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan:

How to Grow Potatoes from Seed Pieces
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