IN THIS GUIDE
Growing your own potatoes can be a wonderful way to become more self-sufficient. But can you grow potatoes from store-bought potatoes?
The answer is that yes, you can grow potatoes from store-bought potatoes – but a better question is perhaps whether doing so is a good idea.
You might be attracted by the idea of planting store-bought potatoes rather than buying seed potatoes – but this may not always be the most sensible option, and you might not always achieve the best results.
We’ll help you decide whether or not this is the best option for you, help you choose potato varieties, and explain how to prepare and plant them in your garden.
Why Grow From Store-Bought Potatoes?
Growing potatoes from store-bought potatoes can be tempting.
It is a much more affordable option than buying special seed potatoes for the purpose.
Store-bought potatoes are usually inexpensive, and you will often have to pay more for seed potatoes.
What is more, you don’t even necessarily have to plant the whole of a bought potato in the ground.
You can also eat some of a potato and plant small scraps with ‘eyes’ on them once you are done.
Using scraps to grow new food can be a good way to reduce waste and to get started with growing your own for less.
If you successfully grow healthy tubers the first year, you can potentially save tubers from your own organically grown plants to plant the following year.
Why It is Not Always a Good Idea
Unfortunately, while it may be tempting to grow from shop-bought potatoes, this is not always a good idea.
The main reason is that store-bought potatoes are not certified seed potatoes, which means that they can introduce harmful potato diseases into your soil which will be difficult, or even near impossible, to get rid of once they arrive.
Potatoes can be infected with a range of soil-borne fungal diseases such as wilt, black dot and – worst of all, potato blight, which can be a particular problem here in the UK.
Tubers can rot in the ground before they even sprout, and the micro-organisms which cause the problems will remain in the soil and mean that you cannot grow potatoes or any other susceptible plants in this growing area for a number of years.
In the past in the UK (and presently in North America and other jurisdictions) another reason why it is not a good idea to use store-bought potatoes is that potatoes for sale were (are) often treated with a harmful sprout inhibitor called Chlorpropham. [source]
This has been banned in the EU and UK since 2019 and was prohibited for sale from January 2020. [source]
However, it is still used in North America.
Chlorpropham will wash and wear off over time, and sometimes, bought potatoes would still sprout after a certain period, but this substance stays in the environment for a long time and may bioaccumulate.
It is detected on potatoes even after they are boiled, and the recent ban in Europe and the UK is over toxicity concerns. [source]
So if you live somewhere where a sprout-inhibitor is used, we would certainly not recommend choosing to grow from potatoes on which it was used.
Is it a Good Idea for You?
Whether or not you should grow potatoes from store-bought potatoes very much depends on your priorities, and on how much risk you are happy to take in your garden.
First things first, think about where you have purchased your potatoes.
Organic potatoes produced by local, sustainable farmers on a local farm will likely pose far less of a risk than those from a major supermarket store.
If your budget is very tight, growing from store-bought potatoes may sometimes be a better choice than not growing at all.
So while it does come with risk of diseases, it can still sometimes be worthwhile to take that risk.
That way, at least you know that you will not be introducing diseases to your garden soil.
The following year, providing that you have not encountered any issues, you could consider saving back a few of the tubers to plant in a larger garden area the following year, to save more money in your garden moving forwards.
Just remember to practice crop rotation to ensure that you do not build up disease, and remember that you may still get better results if you buy in certified seed potatoes instead.
Choosing Seed Potatoes
If you would rather not take the risk, and can afford to do so, choosing and purchasing certified seed potatoes is certainly the best option.
Remember to do your research and think about which potatoes you like to eat, and how you like to cook them.
There are first early, second early and maincrop potatoes which are typically harvested at different times, and at different sizes.
It is always best to make sure that you purchase through a trustworthy supplier, and to choose organic seed potatoes where possible.
These schemes ensure that the seed potatoes meet specified minimum health and quality standards.
These seed potatoes must be healthy, true to variety and free from mixtures – guarantees which you will obviously not get if you plant random potatoes from the shops.
How to Chit Potatoes
While not strictly essential, it can in my opinion be a good idea to chit potatoes before you plant them in the ground or putting them in containers.
Whether you are using store-bought or certified seed potatoes, this can allow you to verify that the tubers have sprouted with green shoots before you place them below the ground.
Chitting potatoes begins early in the year, when you simply place the potatoes or certified seed potatoes on a cool yet bright windowsill to sprout green shoots from the small dimples known as eyes.
You should do this around 6-8 weeks before you plan to plant out your potatoes.
In spring, when the time comes to plant out your potatoes where you live, simply prepare your growing area or containers and carefully transfer your potatoes to the place where they are to grow.
Just be careful not to knock off the shoots if you chitted them first.
Put them into place with the shoots facing upwards, then gently cover them over with soil/ potting medium.
For best results, you should consider adding some comfrey leaves or other organic material into the planting hole to provide fertility.
Then simply water them into place.
See our storage guidelines for tips on keeping potatoes ready to eat.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.