Have you ever forgotten about an old potato in the back of your pantry, only to discover it’s sprouted weird-looking roots? If so, don’t toss it—you’ve got yourself a prime potato that’ll regrow new spuds if you plant it.
From prepping and planting to caring for your new potato plant, here’s everything you need to know about this rewarding and simple gardening trick.
Finding a sprouted potato in your pantry is ideal, especially in early spring. Believe it or not, that one measly spud can produce an abundance in just a few months, with minimal prep work.
The root-like things you see on the outside of the tuber are called “eyes” or “buds,” and they’re growing for a reason. Potatoes naturally tend to reproduce on their own, even in harsh growing conditions, like your pantry or potato bin.
So, if your kitchen gets too warm or the potato encounters light, it triggers sprouting, hence the little white (or sometimes, green or red) eyes. To avoid sprouting, it’s best to keep your tubers in a dark, dry location.
You’ll also find some potatoes sprout more than others. The organic kind you get from the farmer’s market or someone’s garden sprout best because they’re free from treatments and grown naturally.
Grocery store potatoes don’t always sprout because they’re typically treated with a sprout inhibitor which, as you probably guessed from the name, prevents sprouting. That’s not to say a supermarket potato won’t sprout, though—they absolutely do.
If you happen to discover a sprouted spud and you want to capitalize on it, you’ll need just a few supplies for your harvest.
The first thing you’ll need for your sprouting potato is some soil. Look for an all-purpose mix that drains well and won’t retain too much moisture. Soggy soil isn’t good for spuds and can even cause them to rot.
If you plan to grow your potatoes in a container, use potting soil instead of garden soil. Espoma’s is an excellent all-purpose mix for a container garden, particularly if you’re growing herbs or vegetables. It’s 100% natural, which means you’ll be growing potatoes without the help of synthetic fertilizers, which is better for both you and the environment.
Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix
Excellent for organic gardening.
Adding a soilless mix will provide a cleaner medium for your potatoes to grow. Noot’s organic mix drains well, is lightweight, and free from critters and contaminants.
Noot Soilless potting Mix
It's 100% organic.
Compost can help improve soil structure and aeration and should be added to your garden every year. Homemade compost should be added in the fall so it has enough time to break down into the soil by spring.
Blue Ribbon Organic Compost
Natural fertilizer and soil builder.
Once you’ve grabbed all three mediums, combine them in a wheelbarrow or large container until well mixed. For best-growing conditions, test your soil’s pH levels. These will tell you the levels of acidity and alkalinity in the soil, so you can ensure optimal plant growth.
Potatoes grow best in a somewhat acidic environment of about 6-6.5, but they’ll also grow in soil with a pH level of around 5. These Garden Tutor test strips will test your soil’s pH levels, so you can ensure you’re tubers have the best chance of growing.
Garden Tutor Soil pH Test Kit
Test your soil's pH levels in under 60 seconds.
If you’re using a container to grow your plant, make sure it’s large enough. Grow bags are a fantastic alternative to rigid planters because they drain well, are easy to transport, and take up little room when stored during the winter.
You can fit one, two, or possibly even three, seed potatoes in VIVOSUN’s seven-gallon bags. You’ll also love how easy it is to transport them if an unexpected cold snap is on the way.
VIVOSUN 7 Gallon Grow Bags
Perfect for growing potatoes.
Prepping and planting your sprouted potatoes is a pretty straightforward process, and it can be done in just a few simple steps.
First, make sure you’re planting those seed potatoes at the right time of year, which is typically about 2-4 weeks before your area’s last frost date.
Step 1: Prepare your seed potato by cutting it into egg-size sections, making sure each section has at least one or two “eyes.”
Step 2: Place your seed potato pieces cut-side up on a windowsill. The sunlight and air will help the moist surfaces scab over and prevent them from rotting.
Step 3: After combining your potting soil, soilless mix, and compost, fill a large planter about 2/3 with it. Place your potatoes cut-side down and sprout side up about 10 inches apart. You’ll want them to be about four inches below the surface of the soil.
Step 4: Place your planter in an area that receives at least six hours of full sunlight every day. Your plant will also need about 1-2 inches of water per week.
Potatoes like soil that’s at least 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit, and gets lots of full sun. Again, they also won’t do well in overly saturated soil. Sticking your finger deep into the soil will give you a good idea of whether it’s wet. If it feels relatively dry, you can go ahead and water, but if it feels very moist, you should skip a day.
A few weeks after planting your potatoes, you’ll notice little sprouts starting to appear. Once the plant grows a few inches high, use a mini hand rake to help hill the soil. Hilling is a critical part of caring for your potato plants as they grow. It ensures that they’ll stay deep underground and out of sunlight.
Mr. Pen Mini Hand Rake
Perfect for hilling potato plants.
As your potato plants grow, continue to pull more soil up and around the base of each plant so they remain covered and supported. You’ll do this a few times during the growing season as the plant gets taller, but you can stop hilling when it’s about six inches tall.
There are a few ways you can tell if it’s time to dig for edible potato treasures. First the flowers will have bloomed, and second, the foliage will have started to die. Generally, it’s time to harvest new potatoes (those that are intentionally harvested early for their small size and thin skin) about two weeks after the plant stops flowering.
Mature potatoes can be harvested about two weeks after the plant’s foliage has died. Once you notice the plant leaves begin to yellow, and then brown, cut off the foliage. Let your potatoes sit for 1-2 more weeks, and then dig one or two up to inspect.
If they’re large and healthy enough, it’s time to start harvesting!
With a spading fork, press down into the soil at least 8-12 inches away from your plant, and then push the fork upward to help loosen the soil. While wearing your gardening gloves, carefully dig through the soil and pull out all those beautiful tubers.
Radius Garden Stainless-Steel Digging Fork
Perfect for loosening soil and harvesting potatoes.
After you harvest all your potatoes, cure them by letting them sit in a dry, cool, dark place for another 1-2 weeks (this will help them last longer). Then, just wash, peel, cook, and eat!
Next time you find an old sprouted potato in your pantry, save it for spring planting! Whether you live in an apartment or have a full kitchen garden out back, it’s easy to grow your own potatoes. So, save that spud and enjoy homemade fries whenever you want ’em!