Small Seed Potatoes

What's the best size for seed potatoes?

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Q. Is it necessary to cut seed potatoes before planting, or, if they are small, can I simply toss them into the ground whole? —Sally Knapp, via email

A. Instead of starting from seeds in the usual sense, potato crops grow from sections of potato tubers, called seed potatoes, that are buried in the ground. “Seed potatoes are cut to a size that is known to produce a productive plant,” explains Nora Olsen, Ph.D., extension potato specialist at the University of Idaho Kimberly Research and Extension Center and president of the Potato Association of America. “If the seed potato is of adequate size, it can remain intact or what we refer to as ‘whole’ seed.”

Compared to whole seed, cut sections of seed potatoes may sprout more rapidly in the garden, she says, but cutting also increases the seed’s vulnerability to pathogen invasion and decay. “We do not recommend planting a seed piece or whole tuber smaller than 1.5 ounces,” or about the size of a golf ball, Olsen says. “If you plant a whole seed or seed piece below this size, the resulting plant may not be as vigorous and large as desired and may yield fewer and smaller tubers.”

Ask Organic Gardening is edited by Deb Martin
Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, February/March 2014

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Photo Credit: (cc) Doug Beckers/Flickr

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