The Instacart Tater Test: Can You Plant Potatoes Bought At The Store?

Sometimes you just have to improvise. At the beginning of the pandemic, when we first realized that we were probably going to have to stay at home for an extended period of time, we decided to buy some veggies that would keep. We picked up 20 lbs of russet taters, 10 lbs of carrots, and 8 lbs of onions. You can do a lot if you have those veggies, spices, and a little meat, you are not doing too bad.

We stored our veggies in a Coleman cooler but that only kept them ok for about 6 weeks. After that, we had taters that either needed fed to chickens or planted. My husband and I decided to plant them in a raised bed. The results were pretty good. The Nooksakah russets we bought came up really well and we harvested them in July.

Bed of russet potatoes planted from common store-bought russets. This is one of the first potatoes we dug up and washed.

Later on, we got the notion in our heads to try to get a second crop of taters in the ground since we are in the South and have a long growing season. Since we have been avoiding grocery stores, we decided to add a variety of taters to our Instacart order. Thus the great Instacart Tater Growing Challenge began.

Here is a picture and list of the varieties we manged to get via Instacart.

  • Greenwise Organic Russets
  • Greenwise Organic Red ( I think these are really just Red Pontiac potatoes)
  • Honey Gold Organic (Likely just a variation of Klondike Gold)
  • Mixed Fingerlings (Our bag contained Banana and Red Finn)

How To Cut Up Taters To Plant

Potatoes have indentations called eyes. For best results, you want to cut taters up so that each piece that you plant has at least two eyes. This gives you two chances for a plant. Sometimes both with sprout and that is perfectly ok.

Fingerlings are a bit small so rather than cut them up a lot, we mostly cut them in half. They can sometimes have fewer eyes on them than a russet or other standard potato.

Plant potatoes on a 6 x 6 grid in a deep raised bed or in rows allowing 6 inches between taters and 24 inches between rows. You need to be able to get into hill your potatoes and weed them. Make sure to plant 3-4 inches deep. This will ensure that taters don’t become uncovered due to soil washing in a big rain. If you are planting on a slope you need to take precautions to make sure that you don’t have a major erosion problem.

Note: A lot of sites recommend planting potatoes 6-8 inches deep and further apart than I do. We come back and hill ours fairly fast. If you don’t want to hill your taters for a while, you might want to plant them deeper.

For info on fertilizing potatoes, check out this article from The National Gardening Association.

Cost

Planting potatoes from the grocery store is way more affordable than buying expensive seed potatoes from catalogs. No, you cannot find the wide variety that seed catalogs offer, but you can get some of the major varieties and even some specialty taters like fingerlings. It is also a good way to avoid throwing away potatoes that are starting to sprout and turn green. I will say that it is less expensive to buy seed potatoes at farm supply stores but those are only available briefly.

Stores carry potatoes year-round. After planting fingerlings bought at the store and seeing just how well they come up, I would definitely recommend this method as an inexpensive way to try growing them.

At $5 for 1.5 lbs, store-bought fingerlings are far less expensive than the $15-$21 that the same amount of fingerling seed stock would cost when ordered from a major seed catalog.

Results

Greenwise Organic Russet Potato patch. This patch was planted on July 2 and this photo was taken on August 3. We are pretty happy with the results.

The results from planting store-bought potatoes varied a lot based on the variety. Russets and fingerlings proved to be the most reliable. So far all the varieties that we planted have sprouted but as you can see from the picture above, the organic russets are the winners of the tater test. The fact that this is the second time we have got good results from russets makes me feel comfortable recommending them to gardeners that are having trouble finding seed stock.

The fingerlings are the runners up. Keep in mind that fingerlings are a bit slower to grow and they yield fewer potatoes per pound of seed stock planted. You should never expect to get more than half the yield of a good russet if you choose to grow fingerlings. The lower yield and slower growth are some of the reasons they are so expensive to buy in the grocery store or to plant.

Are some potatoes sprayed to prevent sprouting?

I used to think that potatoes were sprayed so that they wouldn’t sprout. After several plantings of potatoes from the store, I am of the opinion that this is not that common even if potatoes are not certified organic. I do tend to buy the “healthier” or organic brands though because I think it reduces the odds that they are sprayed with any type of sprouting inhibitor.

If you do pick out potatoes at the store yourself or if you have a chance to talk to your shopper you can watch out for potatoes that are older or even marked down. The ones that are already sprouting mean you are ahead of the game and can be assured that you will get a lot of successful potato plants.

The russets I got from Instacart I might not have picked out myself if I had intended on eating them. The quality was just ok. I would have needed to have cooked them fairly quickly but for planting they were great!

Have you planted potatoes from the grocery store? What varieties have you had the best experience with?

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