Gardening Plant diseases Vegetables

Should You Really Start Potatoes From Sprouts?

By starting potatoes from sprouts, you may facilitate the spread of late blight disease. Photo: ZooFari, Wikimedia Commons

I have a long history of starting new potato plants from potato tubers that start to sprout in my kitchen cupboard. After all, it certainly is easy enough to do: you just cut the tuber into sections, each one with at least one eye (sprout) and drop it into the ground when the soil starts to warm up in the spring. Dig, drop, done!

But I just read a warning that certainly made me stop and think.

Here’s what I saw on the web site of the Toronto Master Gardeners:

The Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture (OMFRA) has some cautions about growing potatoes in urban home gardens.

Their web site explains: “Late blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans is a devastating potato disease. Spores in the late blight fungus are spread by the wind and can travel long distances. Urban gardeners cannot access commercial crop protection materials that provide good control of this disease. Potatoes grown in urban areas are sources of late blight inoculum that can infect potato fields located as far as 200 km away.”

For this reason, they strongly recommend NOT using saved potatoes or purchased eating potatoes. Instead, OMAFRA recommends only planting certified disease-free potato seed from a reputable garden centre.

Well, that was a surprise! I had no idea of the consequences of a simple act of “plant recycling”! My nonchalant attitude towards potato starts may have been seriously harming potato farmers in my area … and there is a major potato-growing area well within the 200 km (125 miles) of my garden.

Bags of certified seed potatoes in a potato field with a garden fork.
Certified seed potato is widely available and quite inexpensive. Photo:

So … this year, I’ll be buying certified disease-free potato seed, which indeed, I can readily find in my local garden centre. And maybe you should do so as well!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

6 comments on “Should You Really Start Potatoes From Sprouts?

  1. Pingback: Bone Meal for Potatoes : Is It Good for Growing Potatoes | Vegetable GardenerX

  2. I’ll always buy new certified however the chances of blight being either on your own stored or supermarket bought potatoes is fairly slim, its more likely to overwinter on volunteer potatoes or poorly.composted foliage of tomatoes or potatoes and it is so rife here that it makes no difference. However I buy in as you get far more interesting varieties and you know that they are free from virus which are quite uncommon here and don’t want them to take hold. Still dealing with with white rot brought on to the plot by duff onion sets over 10 years ago.

  3. It works fine. The tubers are a bit variable, but growing from seed saves money, so…

  4. Suzy Forbes

    I’m trying potatoes from seeds this year. The clancy pelleted from West Coast seeds. They have a 110 day from transplant maturity. Here’s hoping!!

  5. Well, it won’t stop me from growing potatoes from old potatoes. Potatoes are not commercially grown near here that I am aware of. For a while, I have been bringing surplus produce to work for others to take what they want from. Leftover potatoes often remain unclaimed. It is easy to dig a trench, dump them in, and let them grow for the following year, even if I do not know what they are are how to grow them most efficiently.

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