Raised beds provide control over soil composition, resulting in optimal potato growth with well-draining soil and plenty of compost.
Weeds are less of a problem in raised beds due to the use of barriers, leading to healthier potato plants with less competition.
Harvesting potatoes from raised beds is easier on your knees and back, thanks to the raised height providing greater access to the plants.
Raised beds allow for control over soil composition, providing well-draining soil with plenty of compost for optimal potato growth. Weeds are less of a problem in raised beds due to the use of barriers, resulting in healthier plants with less competition. Harvesting potatoes from raised beds is easier on your knees and back, as the raised height provides greater access to the plants.
Raised beds eliminate a lot of common potato growing problems letting you grow bountiful harvests of these tasty tubers. Follow these six tips and you’ll be growing potatoes in raised beds in no time!
The Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening
Raised bed for potatoes
Your natural garden soil may have a little too much clay, sand, or rocks, but raised beds don’t have that problem. Since you choose what soil goes in your raised beds you control the composition of sand vs clay as well as any amendments, manure, and compost your soil has. This control is helpful when growing potatoes since they prefer well-draining soil with plenty of compost worked in. Raised beds also decrease soil compaction, allowing the roots to burrow deep into the soil.
Weeds are less of a problem in raised beds because when you create the bed you often lay down a base layer of cardboard or gardening plastic. This barrier stops weed seeds in the soil from taking hold which results in healthier potato plants with less competition. This leads to one of the greatest benefits of raised beds which is how easy they are on your knees and back! Since you don’t have to bend over as far to get to the weeds, it’s a lot easier to pull them as soon as they pop up. It also helps at harvest time since the garden raises your plants off the ground for greater access.
Setting up a Raised Bed Garden
Before planting potatoes it’s important to properly set up your raised garden bed. Choose a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day. You want to fill your beds with a well-draining, rich soil with some well-rotted compost to feed your potatoes nutrients throughout the growing season. Get rid of any weeds before planting.
You can make your raised bed using a variety of materials including untreated wood, stones and rocks, cinder blocks, concrete, and bricks. Treated wood is now considered safe to use as the levels of rot-resistant chemicals that leach into the soil are minimal according to the EPA. Stay away from any pallets that you don’t know the history of as they may have been treated with unsafe chemicals.
Avoid building your raised bed wider than 4 feet. You need to be able to reach from one side to the other without stepping into your bed. Since potatoes need at least 12 to 18 inches of growing space you’ll need to make sure your raised bed is at the very least a foot deep — however, the deeper you go, the larger your harvest.
Best Potato Varieties for Raised Beds
Different varieties of potatoes
When it comes to varieties that do well in raised beds, look for compact plants. All fingerling varieties do well in raised beds because the potatoes are smaller, and the plants take up less room. Early season varieties are also smaller and work well in raised beds.
Irish Cobbler: An early season variety that produces medium-sized squarish potatoes that taste amazing mashed, baked, and boiled.
Banana: A fingerling potato that matures late and produces small, yellow skinned potatoes in large quantities. Banana fingerlings have a waxy skin making them the perfect addition to salads.
Norland: A red-skinned, good storage potato that matures early in the season.
Planting and Hilling Your Potatoes
Potato plants grow pretty big with most growth below the soil. When planting seed potatoes keep them 16 inches apart for early varieties. This allows the roots plenty of space to spread out.
To start planting, dig holes about 6 inches deep. Since you’re growing in a raised bed, this will put your potaotes halfway to the bottom of the bed. Place your seed potatoes in the trench, ‘eyes’ up, and cover them with 4 inches of soil.
When the plant is 6 inches tall add soil so only the top few leaves of the plant are visible. This process is known as hilling since you’re creating a hill shaped mound of dirt for your tubers to grow. Hilling ensures the growing tubers aren’t exposed to sunlight. Tubers that see the sun could produce a toxic, bitter substance called solanine which turns the potato green; these potaotes are unsuitable for eating.
Watering Potato Plants
Watering potato plants
Potatoes require a moderate amount of water. Too much and the growing tubers will rot, too little, and you’ll stunt the plant’s growth. This is why filling your raised bed with well-draining soil is so important. Potatoes need roughly an inch or two of water every week. If you live in an arid climate, you’ll need to water your growing plants every three or four days to keep them hydrated. Planting in a raised bed makes it more likely that your plants will be under-watered as opposed to over-watered since the soil in raised beds tends to dry out faster than in-ground garden beds.
Potatoes prefer deep watering. Keep the water stream at the plants roots and avoid overhead watering if possible to cut down on the chances of soil-born diseases. If you have to use an overhead sprinkler do it in the morning, so the sun can help evaporate excess water from the potato’s leaves.
There are two main times when you can dig up your spuds: when the plants first bloom early in the season and when the plants have died back at the end of the season. Early potatoes grow for 60 to 80 days and are usually ready for harvest by mid-summer while late maturing potatoes are harvested 100 or more days after planting.
If harvesting early potatoes be careful digging them up. The skin on new potatoes is very thin easily damaged. Early potatoes are often small and you should use them right away.
You can also harvest potatoes a few weeks after the plant’s foliage has yellowed and died. Leave the potatoes in the raised bed for a few weeks to give their skin time to thicken and cure. To harvest, gently dig around the base of the plant with a garden fork until you unearth the tubers attached to the roots. Luckily, this is easier to do in a raised bed since you don’t have to bend over as far!
Enjoying Your Bounty!
Potatoes are a staple vegetable in a wide variety of recipes. As long as you pick the right variety, prepare your raised bed properly, and follow the guidelines for watering you’ll be harvesting delicious spuds in no time!