The potatoes were planted March 1st. Here we are three weeks later and the potatoes are starting to break through the soil. One of my favorite times after planting is seeing the first sprouts break through the top of the ground.
When the cuttings were planted they were not planted in a mound. The mound will be made as the plant grows.
A common question is how far down do you plant the seed potatoes? I usually plant them about 3 inches deep, or the width of your hand. With well drained sandy soil the potato sprout will have no problem pushing to the top of the soil.
The next step is to let the plant get maybe 6 inches tall, spread some fertilizer along the the row, then use a rake the pull dirt up around the plant. We want to use a balanced fertilizer, such as 13-13-13, or 10-20-10, and some bone meal.
Do not use a nitrogen rich fertilizer as the potato top will grow but no tubers will grow.
While shopping for fertilizer you are going to see a series of 3 numbers on a bag of fertilizer. Each number says how much nitrogen, phosphate and potash the fertilizer contains.
What Do Fertilizer Numbers Mean
Nitrogen, the first number promotes leafy greens and tall plants. Examples of plants that would use a lot of nitrogen are turnip greens, spinach, okra, cucumbers and corn. Anything that needs to grow tall, long vines or large leaves will need nitrogen.
Phosphate, the second number is for root growth. Examples of plants that would use phosphate are potatoes, turnips and rutabagas.
Potash, the third number promotes pod growth. Examples of plants that would use Potash are beans, peas and okra.
Most crops do well with a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13. Some, such as corn do well with a nitrogen rich fertilizer such as 16-6-12. The first number which the nitrogen content, in this case 16 provides the nitrogen for the stalks to grow. The third number which in this case 12, provides potash for the corn to grow.
Fertilizer for Potato Plants
Most of the time I use 10-20-10 on my potatoes. but this year I have a bunch of old bags of 13-13-13 I need to use. Rather than buying 10-20-10 for the potatoes this year I am going to use the left over 13-13-13 from previous years.
What you do not want to use is something like 16-6-12 on potatoes. With tubers we want to focus on root growth. In this case we want the potatoes under the ground to grow.
The topsoil was broke up with a tractor and disk, then tilled to break up the soil even more and form the rows. 13-13-13 was spread along the row, then one pass was made to till the fertilizer into the soil. The seed potatoes were planted about 3 inches deep.
Now that the sprouts are breaking the top of the ground I am going to wait until they are about 4 – 6 inches tall, spread some 13-13-13 along the row, then use a rake to pull soil over the fertilizer. we do not want to get the fertilizer right up against the potato top.
The ideal time to fertilizer and pull soil is just before a rain. The rain helps the fertilizer dissolve into the soil.
Commercial fertilizer will work for about 3 – 4 months, then it starts to lose its effectiveness. If you want a slow release fertilizer for your potatoes add some bonemeal, mulch and compost in with the commercial fertilizer.