Potatoes grow from a seed potato: a section of potato that contains an “eye” that grows into a vine. As the vine grows, the plant produces thick roots that use nutrients from the soil and grow into the tubers that are harvested at the end of the growing season.
There are two types of potatoes: indeterminate and determinate. What’s the difference?
Determinate potatoes are fast-growing and produce tubers at the soil depth just above where the seed potatoes were planted. With this in mind, these varieties do not need the soil mounded or additional layers of soil. Sow the seed potatoes in loose soil about four inches deep. These grow as a bush, then flower and die with naturally self-limiting growth. They produce early, in about 70-90 days, so they tend to be smaller in size compared to indeterminate varieties.
Indeterminate potatoes grow in multiple layers so mounding is necessary around the plants. This produces better yield in about 110-135 days. Start out by covering the seed potatoes with four inches of soil. When the plant reaches about 6″ high, add several inches of soil or straw until there is just 2″ of plant sticking out. Continue adding layers as the plant grows. Because of the layering, these are well suited for potato bags or small vertical spaces.
Standard potting soil is fine to use in potato bags but the plant will need nitrogen and potassium in the soil to set the tubers and produce enough carbohydrates for the tubers to grow into a sizable potato. Mix a general 10-10-10 fertilizer into the soil before filling the bag. This will feed the plants during the growing season. Once you go through the process of layering, allow the vine to grow and die back. Once the vine dies back, the potatoes are ready to harvest.
When planting in the ground, crop rotation is key to growing any “nightshade” crop like potatoes, peppers and eggplants. A three or four year rotation is ideal to keep Colorado Potato Beetles guessing where your crop is planted. This means to move the location of your potato crop every few years. Don’t plant your seed potatoes in the garden in the same location as your fall crop of beets, peas or beans because these vegetables can be a host plant to various diseases and insects. In-ground potatoes can benefit from generous amounts of compost or other organic matter.
Some internet searches will disagree with the types of potatoes in each category, so it’s up to you to try the potato in which most suits your need.
Gold Rush Katahdin
Red Chieftain Red Pontiac
Starchy/Floury: High in starch and low in moisture with a dry, fluffy texture. Great for boiling, baking, mashing and French frying. They don’t hold shape well, so not good for potato salads and au gratins.
Waxy: Low starch and high moisture with a creamy, firm, moist flesh. Holds its shape well after cooking. Great for boiling and in soups, casseroles, roasting and potato salads.
All Purpose: Medium starch and moisture content that falls between starchy and waxy. A true multi-purpose potato that can be used for almost any cooking application.
Yukon Gold: A mid-season all-purpose potato. An oval slightly flattened variety with a light-yellow flesh and sweet taste. It has a waxy texture and moist flesh which makes it best for boiling, baking grilling, roasting, pan frying and French frying.
Gold Rush Russet: A mid-season maturing starchy variety. Attractive oblong-to-long tubers with smooth russeted skin and extremely white flesh are especially delicious for baking and fries. It produces high yields and is resistant to drought.
Katahdin: A main season maturing starchy variety with a smooth skin and yellow flesh with a classic potato flavor. Its fluffy, creamy soft texture makes it best for French fries, baking and boiling, but not good for potato salads.
Red Pontiac: A late season, red-skinned, all-purpose potato with very sweet, white flesh. Thin skin makes a great “new” potato. Keeps well. One of the easiest and most adaptable red potatoes there is to grow. Also great for mashing.
Kennebec: A mid-season maturing all-purpose high yielding potato. Its thin skin makes for easy peeling. Your classic chipping variety that also works well for French frying, baking and mashing. Holds its shape, making it ideal for salads.
Lehigh: A less than ten-year-old all-purpose variety named for the Lehigh Valley. It is a mid to late season high yielding potato with a yellow flesh and round shape that won’t fall apart when boiled yet great for baking and fries. A blue-ribbon winner at the fair.
Superior: An early season medium size and yield, all-purpose round, white potato that stores well. Holds shape when boiled yet great for baking, mashing, chipping and fries.
Red Norland: An early maturing red-skinned waxy, round potato with a great taste and various sizes. It is high yielding and stores well. Great for boiling, salads, frying and fries.
Red Chieftain: A mid-season, high yield oblong-to-round, smooth, red-skinned potato with a nice white flesh. Not good for chips or fries. Stores well.