A Guide to the Best Fertilizer for Potatoes

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

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.

best fertilizer for potatoes

Photo by fhampe licensed under CC0.

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.

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