Determinate vs Indeterminate Potatoes

Most gardeners are familiar with determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. The terms indicate the preset growing patterns of the plant.

Determinate tomatoes grow to a “predetermined” height, while indeterminate tomatoes will keep growing as tall as the season-or the gardener’s pruners-will allow.

But did you know that there are also determinate and indeterminate potatoes?

This distinction is of huge importance when it comes to growing potatoes in towers. Pictures abound of crazy impressive harvests being pulled out of deep containers made out of garbage cans, stacked wooden structures and even tires.

This method entails repeatedly covering the potato plant with soil as it grows, allowing for an abundant harvest from a small space.

If you have ever attempted this growing method with disappointing results, you have probably used determinate potatoes.

Determinate potatoes produce a set amount of tubers in the top 15 – 30 cm (six to 12 inches) of soil. Giving these potatoes a meter or three feet of growing depth won’t result in more potatoes. Determinate varieties set tubers next to, or even above, the depth of the seed potato. Careful “hilling” (covering the area around the plant with soil or mulch) is a must to prevent the growing potatoes beneath being exposed to the sun. Sun exposure results in the potato skins turning green. Green potatoes are toxic and should not be consumed.

On the other hand, indeterminate potatoes will keep sending roots down into the soil, producing tubers as deep as the soil and length of the growing season allow. These are the types of potatoes you see being pulled out of those spud towers with dazzling results.

While by no means complete, here is a list of determinate and indeterminate potatoes varieties

Determinate Potatoes (best for shorter growing seasons or in gardens with a limited depth of soil). 

Adirondack Blue

Adirondack Red

Chieftain

Gold Rush

Norland

Sierra Gold

Sierra Rose

Yukon Gold

Indeterminate Potatoes (best for deep soil, towers and longer growing seasons)

Bintje

Butte

Canela Russet

Desiree

Elba

German Butterball

Green Mountain

Katahdin

Nicola

Red Pontiac

Russet Burbank

Whichever variety you choose, potatoes are a wonderful addition to your vegetable patch.