Cutting Seed Potatoes before Planting is a common planting practice that will save seeds and produce more plants in your garden.
As the weather starts to warm a bit in the spring it’s time to plant your seed potatoes. No matter what garden zone you live in, you usually start planting potatoes without any frost protection about 2 weeks before your last frost date. (To learn what garden zone you live in check out this post)
Cutting Seed Potatoes
Cutting seed potatoes is a pretty common practice for many gardeners. But cutting seed potatoes before planting comes with a few drawbacks along with its many advantages.
If you are looking for a quick answer to your cutting seed potatoes questions and how to cut seed potatoes then watch the video I filmed above as part of my 5 minute Friday video series. If you want more details on cutting seed potatoes then read on!!
Potato Anatomy 101
If you look at a seed potato you will see that each potato contains many “eye’s”. The small dimples you see on the surface of a potato are the eyes. As a seed potato gets ready to plant it will start to “chit” or sprout from those eyes. Those sprouts are what will eventually become the potato plant. And really each plant only needs 3 or 4 of those sprouts to establish and be productive.
So when you have a larger seed potato like this one in the photo above, it may have 15 or more sprouts. It is possible to cut this seed potato into 2 or even 3 pieces, dividing the sprouts between each chunk. Each of the pieces will then sprout, grow and become its own potato plant.
Cutting Seed Potatoes
It is important to know how to cut your seed potatoes. When cutting seed potatoes I like to try and keep the pieces big and chunky. I also like to be sure that each piece has at least 4 or more eyes left on it after cutting. So most often I only cut the seed potato into 2 pieces. A particularly large seed potato may get cut into 3 pieces. There are a few folks out there that will disagree with this and say you can cut the seed potato into much smaller pieces with only 2 eyes. But I feel like you give the potato plant the best chance for success with chunky pieces with at least 4 eyes.
To cut your seed potatoes simply use a sharp knife, select a line that will give each piece at least 4 eyes and cut off a big chunk! Be careful to not cut through any of the eyes as this will destroy the future sprout. It’s that simple, suddenly 1 seed potato becomes 2 or 3 allowing for more potato plants from less seed. After cutting seed potato I like to have a piece that is at least 2 or 3 inches long and wide.
If you live in an area where there are soil born viral or bacterial diseases that affect plants in the Solanaceae family (Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peppers & Egg Plants). Then you might want to reconsider cutting your seed potatoes. Many garden experts recommend against cutting seed potatoes if you have these types of diseases in your garden. The idea is by cutting your seed potatoes you open them up to more vulnerability to soil born problems.
I have personally never had any problems with diseases on my potatoes that have been caused by cutting the seeds. But there is that possibility. So if you have had potato disease problems in your garden in the past then please skip cutting your seed potatoes. Also, keep your garden clean, any time you have diseased plants in your garden pull them out and dispose of them in the garbage. Do not put them in your compost bin. Practicing good crop rotation will also help keep disease problems down in your backyard garden.
Curing Cut Seeds Before Planting
One way to combat the disease issue is to let your seed potatoes cure for a few days after cutting and before planting. To cure them you simply need to let the cut potatoes sit in an airy, dry place that is out of the sun for 2 or 3 days. The cut side of the potato will dry and harden and get a leathery texture. This “hardens” up the cut side of the potato and helps keep soil born diseases out of the potato plant.
Planting after Cutting Potatoes
Once the potato seeds are cured (or right away if you are not curing) simply plant your cut seed potatoes with the cut side down and the eyes facing up and cover them with around 2 or 3 inches of soil. Then as the season progresses continue to mound soil up on the greens as they emerge.
Cutting seed potatoes is a quick and easy way to double the number of seeds you have and increase the number of plants for a much larger harvest this fall!!