A Guide to the Best Fertilizer for Potatoes

Last update: April 12, 2021

Our recommendation for the best potato fertilizer is Homesteader Hobbies Organic Potato Fertilizer. However, not surprisingly, the market is filled with products designed to help you get the most out of growing this unique crop. We’ve included more recommendations and advice below!

Our Picks for Best Fertilizer for Potatoes

#1 Homesteader Hobbies Organic Potato Fertilizer
Our rating
5/5
Description
  • 3 lbs. organic potato fertilizer

  • All natural ingredients

  • Non-GMO

412HamIQbL. SL300
#2 Winchester Gardens 6-3-9 Select Organics Potato Granular Fertilizer
Our rating
5/5
Description
  • It encourages all-around growth

  • Great for sweet potatoes, bakers, boilers and reds

  • Made with natural ingredients

613YfVR i1L. SL300

#3 Jobe’s Organic All Purpose Granular Fertilizer
Our rating
5/5
Description
  • Contains no synthetic chemicals

  • Fast acting fertilizer

  • It improves soil condition

615sWoEN 6L. SL300

#4 Voluntary Purchasing Group Inc. Muriate Potash
Our rating
5/5
Description
  • High source of potassium

  • Helps grow delicious potatoes and carrots

  • High yield formula

519T7LKiC4L. SL300

The Importance of Potato Fertilizer: A Video Overview

Applying potato fertilizer to your crop of tubers is far more complex than merely sprinkling stuff from a bag and onto your land. This video does a solid job of not only discussing why the use of the proper type of fertilizer is so important, and what the consequences may be if they aren’t properly used.

The Potato Growing Cycle

Growing potatoes is a tricky proposition for the home gardener. Unlike other crops like cucumbers or tomatoes, potatoes grow underground, which makes can make it harder for us to track their progress. In some cases, the tuber’s genetic code makes it possible to form new growth if it’s left abandoned in the back of your fridge over time, but that’s probably not how you want to cultivate.

To gain a good read on your potatoes, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the potato growing cycle. This cycle exists in five parts: Spouting, vegetative, tuber initiation, tuber bulking, and maturing. Potatoes will form during the tuber initiation phase, which is in the middle of the crop cycle. It’s at this time that applying fertilizer is most effective.

Fertilizer and Terroir: A Delicate Dance

Good terroir – that is, a proper balance of climate and soil – is essential to any successful crop growth, and potatoes are no exception. Before you utilize fertilizer on the tubers, you need to make sure the soil surrounding your crops hits on a few metrics. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

For one thing, potatoes need fertile, loose soil that’s well-drained and slightly acidic. Failure to do so will result in a funky, oddly-shaped yield. It’s wise to give your perspective planting area a soil test to ensure it meets specific pH requirements – typically around 5.8 to 6.5.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re limiting the sunlight that shines on the potatoes. Too much sunlight will cause your tubers to turn green. This discoloration causes its flesh to turn bitter-tasting. Usually, covering your potatoes with straw or mulch will help mitigate this issue.

A proper dose of fertilizer can help you adjust and enhance the shortcomings that your soil may have. These shortcomings do fluctuate from garden to garden, which is why conducting soil tests can be so important. Once you know the ways in which your soil may be lacking, you can deploy a fertilizer’s magic much more readily.

Applying Fertilizer to Potatoes

Deploying fertilizer to your potatoes depends on what type of fertilizer you’re planning on using. Although the market seems flooded with choices, pre-planting fertilizers can be distilled into two options: Organic and non-organic.

Like the term suggests, organic fertilizers are made from natural materials, such as manure or mixed compost inclusive of materials like bone meal or blood meal. The former substance can add extra nutrients to the soil while simultaneously lowering its pH level. The latter substance improves a soil’s ability to retain moisture.

Non-organic fertilizers contain various chemicals specifically formulated to help calibrate the soil to achieve ideal growing conditions. This method does take some of the prep-work that’s present in organic fertilizer such as mixing compost, but it does require an understanding of your soil’s composition so you can avoid over-fertilization.

Here’s another great video about making a DIY potato pot that self-fertilizes the plants:​

Know Your Nitrogen

Potatoes need nutrients to thrive. This isn’t exactly a revelation, of course – all crops need nutrients to thrive. However, it seems particularly of paramount importance to keep an eye on the level of the nutrient nitrogen surrounding your spud. An overabundance of nitrogen will lead to some impressive top growth, but not a whole lot of spuds.

If you’re going with granules, a good rule of thumb here is to use about one-fifth of an ounce. If you’re using a more traditional fertilizer, you’ll be able to determine how much nitrogen you’ll be giving the potato by reading the numbers on the side of the bag. These numbers will be presented in a near code-like fashion, like 10-10-10.

The numbers represent phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. The higher the number, the higher the concentration of that corresponding nutrient. If a soil test has determined that you’re lacking in nitrogen, you’ll look for a fertilizer that has a higher nitrogen number.

Our Recommendation: Homesteader Hobbies Organic Potato Fertilizer

Using an organic fertilizer may not be as quick and easy to use compared to their non-organic counterparts. However, it can lead to a broader sense of satisfaction. After all, you aren’t dousing your garden with chemicals. While this may not be a huge deal to some gardeners – including those just getting involved in the hobby – this could be the deciding factor for others.

Homesteader Hobbies Organic Potato Fertilizer works as a gateway of sorts to getting involved in organic fertilizer usage. Its mix of fish bone meal, blood meal, alfalfa meal, and other materials in that vein are indicative of what you’ll find in an organic fertilizer blend.

Another key component to using an organic fertilizer such as this. You don’t have to worry about periodically dousing your crops with fertilizer throughout the growing season, like you may with a water-soluble fertilizer. Once you input the fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season, your involvement with fertilizer is finished.

If this is the first time planting potatoes and the fertilizer doesn’t result in optimal yields, don’t get discouraged. Growing a food as complex as potatoes may take practice to perfect, so hang in there. Eventually, the hard work will be met with reaped rewards.

Photo by fhampe licensed under CC0.

Tracking Down the Best Soil for Potatoes

Last update: May 4, 2021

For potatoes, our top pick is Fox Farm Ocean Forest Soil. Potatoes have a reputation for being a bit of a dirty foodstuff, and with good reason. After all, it’s grown underground, and it’s pretty good practice to wash the tubers off once you extract them from their subterranean home. However, the soil that surrounds each potato isn’t just a conduit for messiness – it’s a crucial element for proper potato proliferation.

Our Picks for Best Soil for Potatoes

#1 Michigan Peat Garden Magic Top Soil
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
41liDOD7QmL. AC
#2 Fox Farm Ocean Forest Soil
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
71wY0oEqpXL. SL1500

#3 Xtreme Gardening Mykos
Our rating
5/5
Description
71pQfcycACL. AC SL1280

The Importance of a Good Soil

On one hand, potatoes aren’t too finicky about their soil. If the soil drains well, they can do a pretty well. On the other hand, this drainage component can be a little difficult to reconcile.

If you plant the potatoes in heavy, compacted, clay soil, they’re going to struggle. Because they grow underground, you will see the results of this unwanted labor when it’s too late to do anything about it.

The reason why compact, hefty soil is a bad thing is because it prevents the potatoes from receiving the nutrients and water they need to grow and thrive. In situations where the soil is particularly dense, water may not be able to get to the potato at all, which can cause the tuber to suffocate.

What Constitutes a Good Soil?

When you’re growing potatoes, you want to make sure the soil you plant them in is loose and loamy. This will help the moisture they need to trickle down to where they’re planted. However, nutrient reception is not the only reason loose soil is important. As they grow, they are going to have soil that will have enough “give” to provide them room to expand.

If you’re stuck with soil that doesn’t quite fit the bill in terms of its “give,” that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. There are several ways you can help turn your soil from hard and harsh to nutrient-rich dirt that’s perfect your spuds.

The Look at Creating Good Soil

Taking your soil from bad to great isn’t an overnight process. As this video demonstrates, it is a process that requires a decided hands-on approach. But if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and your clothes slightly smeared, the process like the one seen here can be a bit fun.

Turning Your Soil Around

While soil transformation isn’t quick, it’s relatively easy. If you can apply a combination of organic and natural tactics and give yourself an adequate timeline to do so, you can make that heavy block of dirt on your property potato-ready by the time the growing season comes around.

One of the big organic steps you can take is to add manure to your garden. We’re not talking about scooping up a fresh pile of animal poop to your dirt here. Rather, it’s best that you mix the dung with a compost made from organic elements, such as bone meal or blood meal.

This dynamic duo may not look all that attractive, but when they’re combined, they can add nutrients that can loosen the soil and allow plants like to potatoes to thrive. This, then, will theoretically produce results that will make you pretty happy.

Of course, using the manure/compost combo isn’t a matter of just leaving piles of the stuff on top of the dirt. It must be gently tilled into the soil prior to spring planting. Ideally, you’ll want to do this during the fall, as this will give the combo plenty of time to break down and add the much-needed give and nutrients.

A Little Help

Making your own soil can be time consuming, and a bit frustrating if your thumb hasn’t quite turned green yet. However, there are plenty of ready-made enhancements that can speed up the process and eliminate a couple of steps.

Some of the material you can purchase is ready-made organic compost that can be tilled directly into your soil. In some cases, this combo will add manure from various animals into the mix, so you won’t have to worry about having to deal with the possibility of incorporating dung into the mix.

Some of the soil you can pick up for your potatoes is straight up topsoil, designed to mix in with what you already have. The presence of this topsoil, when tilled, will naturally work in concert with the heavy clay soils to loosen them up, thus allowing for proper drainage.

Our Recommendation: Fox Farm Ocean Forest Soil

Adding a proper dosage of compost to your dirt is the best way to get it to turn from heavy to light. However, making compost yourself can be a messy, icky task that, if you’re just starting to learn the ins and outs of gardening, may turn into a massive turnoff.

This is why the Fox Farm Ocean Forest Soil works as a substitute. Its eclectic mix of materials includes things like earthworm castings, crab meal, and bat guano. This latter component provides the blend with an all-important manure ingredient that a lot of gardeners value during the growing season.

A soil product like this one also provides you with a good benchmark of how to go about building your own compost, should you decide to take that proverbial next step. The ingredients are a small sample size of the materials that can go into compost.

Some of the ingredients you can use may not look too surprising, like pine needles, dried leaves, seaweed, and kitchen scraps. Others may be a little surprising to the novice, such as coffee grounds and shredded cardboard. Yet these components can break down and coalesce into a wonderful mess of nutrients that will turn your soil into a gardening powerhouse.

Once this special transformation is complete, your soil will be able to embrace the potato plant and give it what it needs to thrive. It’s not the most glamorous of transformations you can make in your garden, but after you reap the benefits of a successful harvest, you may find it to be the most rewarding one.

Do you want to grow something a little bit more exotic than potatoes, for example, asparagus? Then we have a perfect guide just for you about the best soil for asparagus.

Related – Best Soil pH Testers

Photo by alex80 licensed under CC0.