Potato planting distance

"Because where I live everything is very small . . ."©

So I am planting potatoes every year. About 20 of them. This is how much I can afford for them out of my 1000sq foot garden located on 4 different levels. So there is no question about distance between rows… It is always ONE row :grin:.
Now, between the plants is a different story. I know you have to have 1 foot between plants. For Red Pontiac, that distance should shrink to 10 inches, otherwise you will end up with potatoes sized like two fists each. But here is my question. If you have 20 seed potatoes and just 10 feet of the 3 feet wide raised bed - what makes more sense - plant all 20 6 inches apart, or throw half away and plant just 10 12 inches apart? What generally happen when you plant too close - less tubers formed, smaller tubers or the plants just do not have enough air and get sick?

Smaller tubers

In your case, it would be best to grow fingerlings, which take the closest spacing

I grow russets and want big ones, so I space them at 2 feet

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Thanks! I do not plant fingerlings - bought in the store and didn’t like them much. I grow Red Pontiac, that I can plant closer(by experience), Yukon gold - I didn’t try it, but just found the professional grower article where he says that Yukon Gold responds well to high density. And a last one is Rose Gold - this one is new for me, I guess I need to try and see. But smaller tubers I guess I can tolerate.

Are you planting something else parallel to the potatoes in the bed or are you just going down the middle of the 3’ wide bed? I’ve got some beds which are roughly that wide, where I plant two rows of potatoes and am tempted to put in a 3rd.

Even if you are only doing a single row, I wouldn’t throw away half of them- just plant them closer. I’m not even sure how many inches apart I do- it varies from 6-12", with ~8" probably being most common.

The two main situations where I’ve had low yield:
1.) Planting tiny seed potatoes
2.) Planting in ground that is too hard and not worked through enough. This happened when I converted some lawn, but didn’t do a good enough job loosening the area.

I’m planning to give #1 another try, as there isn’t much I can do with the tiny leftover potatoes. But I probably won’t dedicate too much space to it.

One other possibility- if you don’t want to squeeze them too tight, maybe you can save some of the potatoes for succession planting. Either for the first round of potatoes, or another crop which finishes early.

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Thanks, I usually plant just one row - with two rows hilling becomes a problem - I usually dig a deep trench in the middle of the bed and gradually cover it it up as plants grow,when it is leveled, start hilling or adding some straw or leaves mixed with compost. With two rows no space to place the soil. My beds not always have suitable pass on each side(most of them are terraces). Saving seeds probably is not really possible. They already started to grow in refrigerator. Actually with Red Pontiac I can say I do have two crops already. I start hand digging in the end of June, and do it all summer long, moving along the row leaving plants to grow more. In October there are usually more potatoes where I already picked large ones. Believe of not, 20 plants feed two of us whole summer and fall long and we eat a lot of potatoes. I wouldn’t say Red Pontiac is the best tasting potato, but sure very productive one. Yukon Gold is better in taste, but yield is times smaller, so I only grow few for new potatoes treat. This year I will also try Rose gold - it is very tasty one(tried), and promised to be productive, but last year order came in late and I only planted it in pot for seeds, so can’t judge productivity.

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How do you define “tiny” seed potatoes?

I tend to think the size of an egg is about right

Here’s a pic of the leftover tiny ones. About thumb-nail sized…They grow, but there isn’t enough energy in the little potatoes to really get them started strong. I bet the yield would be decent if I started them indoors like tomatoes and really elongated their growing season.

Here’s some leftover harvest from last fall. I’ve been eating them until a few weeks ago, when most of the ones with the smaller eyes were gone. Now, I’ll just plant these out in a couple weeks. They’ve not been refrigerated- just sitting in the garage over the winter at 40-55F, along with a few other similar pots.

Here are some Crimson Goldfinger (a very tasty variety) which I got in the grocery store about a month ago.

Along with the above, I also ordered some potatoes from The Maine Potato Lady- always good to try some new types.


Those are tiny, all right!

I like to eat those cooked whole in butter when they’re very new


I hate digging them out so i grow them in 20 gallon root pouches. I fill them 2/3 of the way. And mound as the year goes on. I only grow a few each year. This year I’m gonna try Pinto Gold.


So if the bed is 3’ wide, you can offer an 18" diameter growing area, if you will reconsider doing a double row. That will give you 14 plants at an 18" spacing.

In situations like this I often offset one row by half the distance which gives a zigzag pattern.


Yes, I do it with other veggies, but how do you do hilling with it? As I said, my bed is about 3’ wide, one side is rocky hill without any way to keep the soil on it and no pass there, other side almost 3’ high above the pass, the bed side made from concrete blocks and I plant in them as well. :grin:. So I can’t dig the trench as I wouldn’t have space to store soil, and i can’t plant regular way, just bellow soil level, as I will not have available space where I can get soil from to hill. Only way I see is to pail extra material like leaves, compost, straw… But the bed is full, and I will have to deal with extra soil next year… I probably shouldn’t plant potatoes in such condition, but I do :grin:.

Potatoes need just under 2 square feet per hill to make a normal crop. Fingerlings need at least 1 square foot per hill. Hilling is to protect the potatoes from sunburn as they develop. Potatoes do not normally develop tubers from the covered stems. They only develop from the area that was underground as the plant developed.

In my experience, they do create tubers in the hills . Not all of them, but Red Pontiac does. They make long shoots (not sure from roots or from covered stems, but they go right to the soil level and create new tubers there, so you need to continue hilling, As soon as you continue hilling and it is enough of moister and nutrient they continue shoot up and create multi layer structure. This is what I use every year to get double crop from the same bush.

I make a hole, piling the dirt around the hole - kinda like a doughnut. I plant the tuber, cover it so just the tips are above the dirt, and then place a collar around it so the dirt that I removed from the hole and piled around it does not fall back into the hole when it rains. I made the collars from old gallon landscape pots from the nursery and cut the bottom out of them. As the stem grows above the top of the collar, I remove it and allow the dirt to surround the stem. The collars are maybe 4-6".
And, with a 9 inch radius, the area ~ 1.77 sq ft. So there you have it - just under 2 sq ft. :blush:


I have to try it! Thanks!

I use straw, not soil for hilling

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For me it dries out too much, If I use straw, I have to mix it with compost.

galinas, please look carefully at a developing potato plant and you will see how the tubers develop. The stem elongates from the planted piece of potato. The stolons that produce new potatoes develop from the segment of stem within about 2 inches of the planted potato piece. Once the stem differentiates, it can only produce green stem, leaves, and flowers. Many people think the stem of the plant can still produce stolons, but this is not correct. There is a qualified exception to this statement that a couple of wild species can produce stolons from any part of the plant that is buried.

As an aside, if you want a potato to produce seed, prevent it from making tubers by planting the potato piece at the surface of the ground. It will not produce stolons and instead will focus on making flowers and seed.


I do not oppose this fact. What I am saying, stolons that create tubers on Red Pontiac tend to grow outward and up and continue to do so while conditions are favorable. Stolons branching like stems, create something similar to what we call suckers in tomatoes. And this is not a theory, this is exactly what I watch every year. And because of that, they do create tubers in the hills, not only bellow original soil line. Stolons them self may be created bellow original soil line. But they grow up and outward in the hill. Once again, it is not a theory at all - this is what I see.

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I’ve seen this with some fingerlings, too.

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