Planting Potatoes in Iowa

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Why We Love Planting Potatoes

We have absolutely loved planting potatoes the past couple years and plan to continue planting them going forward. Here are a couple reasons why we love planting potatoes and why they do so well here in Iowa!

Also, make sure to check out our previous Iowa Garden Harvest blog to see what all we plant!

1. Set it and forget it!

And by set it and forget it, I mean after they are planted there isn’t much upkeep afterwards. No trimming, pruning, they aren’t overly finnicky, most garden bugs don’t bother them, and don’t require excessive watering! Since all the potato growing action happens underground, you don’t have to worry about animals or kids messing with the produce as well.

2. We’ll actually cook potatoes

This may seem silly, but you’d be surprised the amount of home gardeners who grow things and then realize they don’t even want to cook it or eat it. That’s how we felt after growing zucchini and squash year after year. Sure, they are fun to watch grow and are relatively easy to take care of, but we simply didn’t want to cook and eat it that often.

Now potatoes on the other hand, we can’t get enough of them! We personally love making baked potatoes, diced breakfast potatoes, mashed potatoes. roasted potatoes, and more! It’s so versatile for us, and we love eating them so it was a no brainer.

3. They store well and for a long time

Once we harvest our potatoes, we store them in the basement cabinets (another win for Iowa basements!), where they can stay cool, shaded and dry. If you store them like this, then they can last up to weeks or months! We go through the smaller potatoes first and work our way towards the bigger potatoes, and that has worked out perfectly for us!

4. They take up garden space

This one might be a little more specific to us, but we have a large garden for two people! It can sometimes be overwhelming to have a lot of plants in the garden and maintain them all to their exact specifications. After a couple years, we decided to use an approach planting only a few crops, but a lot of them.

This had made our lives a lot easier, and there’s less constant maintenance in the garden.

How We Plant Our Potatoes

Potato Selection

Three bags of seed potatoes, including yukon gold, red norland and russet goldrush.
A selection of yukon gold, red and russet seed potatoes.

We prefer to use seed potatoes from a garden/hardware store. This appears to be the best pricing for the amount we want. We also don’t have to fuss with using grocery store potatoes and attempting to cut them or wait for eyes to appear.

We decided to grow 20 Russet Golds, 15 Reds, and 15 Yukon Golds. Choose whichever type you love to eat!

Tilling the Garden

Image of man using a garden tiller in a home garden plot in Iowa.
Tilling our garden plot

For potatoes it is important to till the dirt prior to planting. Potatoes will grow better with looser soil so they can expand without being suffocated by heavy dirt. This also makes the digging process in the next step a lot easier as well.

We do own a tiller, but you can also rent them at local hardware stores if they have equipment rental options. Kempker’s True Value is a great option for equipment rentals if you are near one of their Iowa locations. That’s also where we bought our seed potatoes!

Prepare the Spacing

Home garden plot in Iowa with no plants yet, just dirt.

I don’t get overly technical and exact with my garden spacing, as most plants will grow how they want. It is important to have generally straight lines, follow the spacing instructions of the seed packet, and to help prepare how many rows you’ll need for the number of potato seeds you have.

We had all these left over electrical flags that we’ve accumulated over the years. This ended up being a great way to help set up my rows and keep them straight! This worked out pretty well. I also tied twine to one end and strung it across as I was digging to make sure I was keeping my rows fairly straight.

Digging / Trenching

Home garden plot, a trenched row of dirt with potato seeds in it in Iowa.

Next step is to start digging! The picture above is using a “trenching” approach were I dig a long trench, place the potatoes within it, then cover it up. Then I used a tall shovel to create the trenches, and a metal rake to move the dirt over the seeds.

I won’t lie, digging these trenches are the hardest part of the planting potatoes! In order to shovel the five rows I needed, it took me a couple hours to complete. Not a bad workout! I also used my twine as a guide to help keep the trench straight.

Place Seeds & Cover With Soil

Again, I don’t overly measure anything when I place seeds. I knew I needed to plant 10 potatoes in each row, and attempted to space them evenly within the row, and it still conformed with the seed packet spacing guidelines.

Then I used the metal garden rake to rake the piled dirt onto the seeds.

Mulching / Weed Suppression

At this point you can choose if you want to mulch or put anything down between each row to help with weed suppression. Last year we laid down mulch, and that worked alright, but was a bit of a pain to lay out. You can see the bit of mulching around the plant (from last year) in the picture below.

Small potato plant growing from the ground in Iowa garden.
Young potato plant

This year I laid out some leftover landscaping fabric between the rows and held them down with bricks. It’s not beautiful, but it should work for now!

That’s it!

Since potatoes take anywhere from 80-100 days to grow, this is that “forget it” part that I mentioned earlier. Just make sure the potato plant that grows above ground is looking green and happy and you should be fine!

Tip: I would recommend not overly watering this one compared to some of your other crops, but this also really depends on the type of rainfall that has happened.

Good luck, and let me know if you’re planting potatoes this year, or if you have any favorite potato recipes to share!

Check out our entire 2020 Iowa Garden Harvest blog post to see what all we like to plant and harvest!

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