How many potato seeds should I plant?

When it comes to growing potatoes, one of the most important decisions is determining how many seed potatoes to plant. The number of seeds you plant will directly impact your potential potato harvest. There are several factors to consider when deciding how many potato seeds to plant, including the size of your growing area, your desired yield, and the potato variety. Following some key guidelines can help ensure you plant the right quantity of seeds for your needs.

Determine the Size of Your Growing Area

The first step is measuring the area where you intend to grow potatoes. This could be a dedicated garden bed, container, or other planting area. The overall square footage will determine how many seed potatoes your space can accommodate. As a general rule of thumb, plan for approximately 3-4 square feet per seed potato. However, you can plant more densely or sparsely depending on preferences. Just keep in mind that overcrowding can limit tuber size and increase disease risk.

Estimate Your Desired Yield

Consider how many potatoes you hope to harvest. This will help calculate how many seed potatoes are needed. On average, a single seed potato can yield around 5-10 pounds of potatoes at harvest. However, the exact yield depends on the potato variety along with growing conditions. High yield varieties under ideal conditions can produce up to 20 pounds per seed. Heirloom varieties may yield closer to 3-5 pounds. Estimate your target harvest weight and then divide by your expected yield per seed potato.

Factor in Potato Variety

The potato variety also influences how many seed potatoes to plant. Certain types of potatoes produce more tubers and have higher yields. Varieties that yield more tubers per seed, like Yukon Gold or Red Norland, may only need around 4-8 seed potatoes for every 10 feet of row space. Lower yield varieties, like fingerling or purple potatoes, often need 10-12 seeds per 10 feet of space. Consider the productivity of your chosen potato type when deciding how many to plant.

Allow Extra Seeds for Replanting

It’s smart to add a few extra seed potatoes to your count to allow for potential re-planting. Seeds can be damaged during planting or fail to sprout. Having back-up seeds enables you to fill in any gaps a couple weeks after the initial planting. Add 5-10% more seeds than your calculated amount to ensure you have extras on hand.

Plant in Rows or Hills

How you arrange your seeds also influences spacing. Planting in rows allows placing seeds closer together – generally 8-12 inches apart in all directions. Hilling seeds in mounded soil provides more spacing between plants – up to 16-24 inches. If planting in rows, you’ll need more seeds per square footage than hilling. Adjust your seed count accordingly.

Start Small Your First Year

When in doubt, start conservatively. It’s better to plant fewer seeds your first year growing potatoes. This allows you to learn your garden’s conditions and how the variety performs. The tubers from the initial small crop can then be used as your seed potatoes for the following year. Gradually increase your seed potato quantity over successive seasons as your experience grows.

Seed Potato Count Guidelines

As a very general guideline, the table below provides estimates for how many seed potatoes are needed per row foot and per 10 foot row. This can help calculate the amount needed for your specific garden size.

Planting Method Seed Potatoes Needed per Row Foot Seed Potatoes Needed per 10 Foot Row
Rows 2-3 20-30
Hilled 1-2 10-20

These are rough estimates and should be adjusted based on variety, yield, and spacing preferences. Use the lower numbers for high yield or closely spaced rows. Use the higher numbers for low yield heirlooms planted more sparsely.

Account for Germination Rate

Not all seed potatoes will successfully sprout and grow. Expect a certain percentage to not germinate due to damage, disease, or dormancy issues. The germination rate for certified seed potatoes is around 80-90%. For home-saved seeds or uncertified sources, expect 70% or less to sprout. Divide your desired number of plants by the germination percentage to determine how many seed potatoes are needed.


You want 25 potato plants from uncertified seed potatoes with an expected 70% germination rate.

25 plants desired / 0.70 germination rate = ~36 seed potatoes needed.

Determine Optimal Potato Planting Density

In addition to row foot and overall garden size, aim for a suitable planting density for your seed potatoes. The plants need adequate space for the tubers to size up. But you also want to maximize the use of your growing area. Find the right balance using these spacing guidelines:

  • Minimum spacing: 8-10 inches between seed potatoes in all directions
  • Moderate spacing: 12 inches between seed potatoes in all directions
  • Maximum spacing: 16 inches between seed potatoes in all directions

For example, with rows spaced 36 inches apart you could do one of the following:

  • High density: Place seed potatoes 12 inches apart in the rows
  • Moderate density: Place seed potatoes 15-16 inches apart in the rows
  • Low density: Place seed potatoes 18-24 inches apart in the rows

Additionally, some gardeners purposefully plant seeds more densely and then thin some of the sprouting plants. This ensures you end up with the desired final plant density after accounting for seeds that don’t sprout.

Stagger Planting for Multiple Harvests

You can grow more potatoes in the same space by staggering plantings 2-3 weeks apart. This provides multiple smaller harvests throughout the season rather than one large final harvest. With this method, you can increase seed potato count up to 1.5x the garden’s recommended capacity. Just divide the staggered plantings evenly over the season.

Interplant with Early Maturing Varieties

Another option for boosting yields in limited space is to interplant early maturing varieties alongside later maturing types. The early potatoes can be harvested first, leaving more room for the longer season plants to fill in the gaps. Determine how many plants of each variety you want, and add them together for the total seed potato count.

Use High Yielding Potato Varieties

To maximize harvests from fewer seeds, choose prolific potato varieties suited for your region. Some top yielding types include:

  • Russet Burbank
  • Yukon Gold
  • Norland
  • Kennebec
  • Purple Viking
  • Caribe
  • Mountain Rose
  • Austrian Crescent

Compare yields and disease resistance when selecting seed potato varieties.

Prepare Optimal Soil for High Yields

Investing effort into soil preparation can enable each seed potato to thrive and produce higher yields. Target an ideal growing environment for your potatoes:

  • Rich, loose, well-draining soil approximately 1 foot deep
  • Raised beds or hills to prevent waterlogging
  • Soil pH between 4.8-5.5
  • Good nutrient levels including phosphorus and potassium
  • Free of rocks and debris over 1 inch diameter

By giving your seed potatoes the best possible start, they will reward you with plentiful tubers.

Start Seeds at Proper Time

Potatoes require fairly long, cool growing seasons. Start seeds at the appropriate time for your region so plants reach maturity during the ideal window. This maximizes production from each seed. Generally aim for:

  • Northern climates: Plant from mid April to mid May after frost danger passes
  • Central climates: Plant March – early April
  • Southern climates: Plant January – February

Review regional guidelines and track soil temperatures when scheduling seed planting. Starting too early or late reduces yields.

Use Disease-Free Seed Potatoes

Diseased seed potatoes produce significantly lower yields. Inspect all tubers closely before planting. Look for:

  • Cuts, cracks, bruises, or lesions
  • Discolored flesh or skin
  • Patches of rough skin with dots underneath
  • Mold, rot, or water-soaked areas
  • Distorted, weakened sprouts

Avoid using any seed potatoes showing these signs of disease. Purchase certified disease-free seeds or cut out problem areas on home-saved tubers.

Cut Large Seeds for More Plants

You can stretch your seed potato supply by cutting large tubers into smaller pieces before planting. Each viable piece containing at least 1-2 eyes can sprout into a plant. Target pieces around 1.5-2 ounces with at least 2-3 eyes. Just allow cuts to cure over 1-2 days before planting. With this method, a single large potato can produce up to 10 seed pieces.

Employ Optimal Planting Techniques

Use proper planting techniques to avoid damaging seeds and give them the best start:

  • Plant seed potatoes 4 inches deep
  • Space rows 2-3 feet apart
  • Cover lightly with 4 inches of soil initially, the hill up plants as they grow
  • Handle seeds gently to avoid bruising
  • Keep seed potatoes out of sunlight prior to planting
  • Plant sprout side up
  • Set sprouted seeds in soil immediately

Following optimal potato planting practices reduces plant loss and maximizes harvest potential.

Provide Consistent Water

Potatoes need consistent moisture for tubers to size up. Water requirements depend on soil type and weather conditions. General guidelines include:

  • 1-2 inches of water per week from rainfall or irrigation
  • Increase watering as plants grow and tubers enlarge
  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to target soil near roots
  • Avoid overwatering that causes soil waterlogging

Employing smart irrigation practices keeps your crop uniformly moist for top yields.

Fertilize Appropriately

Fertility is also key for productive potato plants. Potatoes need consistent nitrogen throughout the growing season paired with adequate levels of phosphorus and potassium at planting time. Organic fertilization options include:

  • Compost or well-rotted manure
  • Fish emulsion
  • Seaweed extracts
  • Worm castings
  • Bone meal for phosphorus
  • Wood ash for potassium

Inorganic fertilizers should be based on soil test recommendations. Proper nutrition supports vigorous vine growth and abundant tuber formation.

Hill Potatoes for Larger Tubers

Potato hilling is the process of gradually mounding up soil around the base of plants as they grow. Hilling encourages larger, higher yielding tubers in a few key ways:

  • Protects emerging tubers from sunlight to prevent greening
  • Keeps soil loose, cool, and moist around developing tubers
  • Adds more space for tubers to expand as roots re-establish
  • Stimulates plants to form more tubers

For best results, hill plants when they reach 6-8 inches tall. Repeat hilling every 2-3 weeks until mounds are 8-10 inches high.

Control Pests and Diseases

Left unchecked, pests and diseases can quickly decimate a potato crop. Be diligent about prevention and control strategies:

  • Use crop rotations to minimize disease pathogens
  • Eliminate diseased plants and tubers immediately
  • Disinfect tools between use
  • Apply approved organic pesticides and fungicides as needed
  • Use row covers to exclude insect pests
  • Hand pick common pests like Colorado potato beetles

Swiftly treating any issues before they spread preserves productivity from each planted seed potato.

Harvest Potatoes at Right Time

Knowing when to dig up your potato crop maximizes yields from the space and seeds planted. Harvest time varies by variety. In general, begin harvesting new potatoes 2-3 weeks after flowers appear. For full sized tubers, dig plants 2-3 weeks after vines start dying back. Avoid harvesting too early or tubers won’t be fully sized. Use a garden fork to gently unearth potatoes without bruising.

Cure and Store Properly

Giving tubers time to cure helps prepare them for storage. Cure freshly dug potatoes by holding at 60-70°F and 90% humidity for 1-2 weeks. This thickens skins and heals wounds. Store cured tubers in complete darkness around 40°F with adequate ventilation to get the longest shelf life from your harvest.

Key Tips for Determining Seed Potato Count

When deciding how many seed potatoes to plant, keep these key tips in mind:

  • Allow 3-4 square feet per seed potato, adjust as needed for variety and spacing
  • Plan for 5-10 pounds yield per seed potato on average
  • Factor in potato variety – high yield types need fewer seeds
  • Add extra seeds for potential re-planting
  • Use lower seed counts for hilled planting, higher for rows
  • Start conservatively your first year, then increase
  • Account for realistic germination rates
  • Use high quality, disease-free seed potatoes
  • Cut large tubers into multiple pieces for more plants
  • Stagger plantings and maturity dates to maximize space

With these tips in mind, you can strategically determine the right potato seed count for your garden’s needs and harvest goals.


Deciding how many potato seeds to plant requires considering several factors – garden space, target yield, planting method, and potato variety. Use general spacing guidelines of 3-4 square feet per seed potato as a starting point. Adjust your seed count higher or lower based on your specific goals, constraints, and growing practices. Plan conservatively your first year, then increase quantities as you gain experience. Employing best practices for soil, water, and pest management enables each seed to thrive and produce its maximum yield. With the right number of robust, disease-free seed potatoes planted at the optimal spacing and depth, you can achieve a prolific harvest from each plant.

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