If you let most Volunteer plants grow in your garden you don’t know what you will get. But it’s different with volunteer potatoes!
Let me start this post off by saying I HATE volunteer plants in my garden. A Volunteer plant is one that comes up on its own either from the roots or fallen seeds of another plant. If you want to learn more about why I hate volunteer plants so much jump over to this post.
I consider most volunteer plants weeds, no matter what they are, and I pull them up. But often make one exception to this rule, and that is with volunteer potatoes.
Why do I let volunteer potatoes grow?
When any other plant comes up volunteer in your garden you have no idea where it came from or what it is really going to grow to be. The seed that the volunteer plant came from most likely is some type of hybrid and could grow, and waste space, just to give you a sub-par fruit. But this is not the case with volunteer potatoes.
A volunteer potato plant grew from a potato that was missed in the harvest the season before. Potatoes normally don’t reproduce by seed and so there is no chance of cross-pollination. So you will get whatever you planted the year before.
The other HUGE advantage of volunteer potatoes is that they are in the ground growing a lot longer than most of the potatoes you will plant in your garden. They will start growing earlier in the season and will also mature a lot earlier. There is a chance that your volunteer potatoes might get nipped back a time or two by late spring frosts, but that seems to just make them stronger.
I have found that some of the most productive potatoes in my garden are often the volunteer ones. But I have only found that to be the case if they happen to be growing with something that has a complimentary water needs. Once I had several volunteer potatoes come up with my garlic. Those never did really well because you stop watering garlic before harvest, so the potatoes suffer.
But this year is a great example of how well volunteer potatoes can do. I planted beets in the same raised bed where I had potatoes last year. Two different volunteer potato plants came up in that bed. The potatoes were not ready to harvest at the same time as the beets, but those two plants ended up producing 11 pounds of potatoes between them. That’s a pretty impressive harvest for just 2 plants!!
When not to let volunteer potatoes grow
There are times when I just can’t justify letting volunteer potatoes grow. Potato plants are actually pretty tall and bushy when fully grown. If that tall plant is going to interfere with or shade the plants around it then it becomes a weed and needs to be removed (carefully).
When you need to pull up a volunteer potato it is best to do it early. It requires some digging, so get it done before the removal will affect the roots of the surrounding plants. Carefully dig down with as small of a hole as possible and find the “seed potato” and remove it.
But if you can let them grow!! You will find volunteer potatoes a very productive, surprise harvest in your garden.
Want to learn more about growing Potatoes?? Check out our Potato growing course!