Grow potatoes by planting seed potatoes 4 or 6 inches deep in well-drained, fertile soil during early spring, and pile new soil around the plants every time the stems reach about 8 inches in height. This process is called hilling, and it produces lots of potatoes in a very small area.
Potatoes are a very easy crop to grow, but a few precautions ensure a good harvest. Always ensure that potatoes have access to water, and never let the soil fully dry. However, do not over-water potatoes, as this encourages fungi, nematodes and other destructive pests.
Potatoes require relatively cool soil for producing tubers. If soil temperatures rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant reroutes all of its energy into producing foliage, and it stops producing tubers entirely. Keep soil temperatures low by piling a 6-inch layer of straw around your potatoes. Using a layer of straw keeps soil temperatures up to 10 degrees lower than beds without straw.
Whether using straw or soil, always keep potato tubers fully covered. Upon exposure to light, tubers generate a protective green chemical called solanine. Solanine gives the potatoes a bitter, unpleasant taste, and it is toxic in large amounts.
Harvest the potatoes about two weeks after the plants flower. After digging the potatoes, prevent new growth and solanine generation by storing the tubers in a cool, dark, dry place.