How To Fertilize Potatoes – The Secret To A Big Potato Harvest!

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One of the biggest secrets to growing a large, healthy potato crop with lots of foliage and plenty of potatoes is knowing when and how to fertilize them properly—and when to stop!Potatoes are heavy feeders that need plenty of nutrients throughout the growing season. Without these additional nutrients, plants may struggle to develop a strong leaf set, let alone produce a sizable harvest of potatoes.

Many gardeners either forget to fertilize their potatoes or do it incorrectly. Even when they do remember, the timing and amount of fertilizer often don’t meet the plants’ needs.

Harvested potatoes and plants
In order to have a successful harvest, potato plants need additional power with the help of fertilizers throughout the growing season.

A lack of nutrients is especially problematic when growing potatoes in containers or raised beds. The limited soil and space mean that plants can exhaust the available nutrients well before the growing season ends.

Since you can’t see the potatoes until you dig them up, it’s hard to know how well the plants are doing. This is where proper fertilizing comes in to ensure success. The good news? It’s easy to do!

How To Fertilize Potatoes

Before Planting

Before planting seed potatoes, amend the soil with plenty of aged compost. Whether you’re planting in containers or in rows in the ground, adding a couple of inches of compost will provide a great nutrient boost right from the start.

These nutrients help seed potatoes sprout and establish strong root systems. Besides nutrients, compost adds organic matter to the soil, creating looser soil that allows potatoes to expand and grow more easily.

Sprouted potatoes being planted in fertilizer
When planting seed potatoes, amend the soil with plenty of aged compost. Not only will the compost improve the soil conditions, but it will add initial power to the plants, helping them to sprout and produce roots much faster.

You can also apply a slow-release fertilizer before planting as an alternative to compost. While it won’t improve soil composition, it will still provide seed potatoes with the nutrients they need to sprout and start growing. Either way, it’s important to give your crop an energy boost right from the start!

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Powering Potatoes During The Season – How To Fertilize Potatoes!

The initial dose of compost or slow-release fertilizer will be enough to support the plants through the early sprouting phase. During this time, keep the plants well-watered, as proper moisture is crucial for robust potato growth. However, avoid overwatering since standing water can cause the potatoes to rot.

When the plants reach about six inches tall, it’s time to start hilling and begin regular fertilizing. Hilling involves adding more soil around the base of the plants, which protects the growing tubers and encourages additional growth.

As you hill the plants, mix compost into the soil to provide extra nutrients. Additionally, start using granular or liquid fertilizers to further support the plants’ growth.

What To Use To Fertilize Potatoes

Fertilizers contain a specific mixture of nutrients, labeled with ratios of N-P-K: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Each of these nutrients plays a crucial role in the growth of potato plants.

  • Nitrogen is essential for good foliage growth and can help reduce the risk of early potato blight. However, too much nitrogen can limit yields and reduce the quality of the tubers.
  • Phosphorus and potassium are more important for strong root growth and healthy tubers. Since potatoes are a root crop, these two nutrients are vital for a successful harvest.
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Choosing A Fertilizer

When fertilizing potatoes, it’s important to select an all-purpose fertilizer that has a higher ratio of phosphorus and potassium. A ratio of 5-10-10 is an ideal choice for potato crops. Product link: 5-10-10 Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer

A fertilizer with a reduced nitrogen number allows plants to produce plenty of lush, green foliage without overpowering them. The increased phosphorus and potassium levels encourage excellent growth below the soil, promoting strong root development and healthy tubers.

Granular fertilizers are an excellent option for potato plants. You can use the granules to side-dress the plants throughout the growing season. Always refer to the directions on the package for the specific amount and frequency of application to ensure proper usage.

A glove holding fertilizers for potato plants
Granular fertilizers are perfect for side dressing plants as they grow bigger.

It’s crucial to ensure that granular fertilizer granules do not come into contact with any plant foliage, as this can lead to burning of tender plant tissues. After fertilizing, if feasible, water your crop to wash any fertilizer off the plants.

Liquid fertilizers offer an alternative option. They usually need more frequent application than slow-release granules, typically every two weeks. When selecting a liquid fertilizer, opt for one with higher levels of phosphorus and potassium compared to nitrogen for optimal growth.

When To Stop Fertilizing

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