Potatoes are one of the most popular crops all over the world. These starchy tubers are not only rich in nutrients, but there’s also countless ways to prepare them.
While you can get them easily at the grocery store or at the farmers market, nothing quite compares to the flavor of home-grown spuds. Growing potatoes at home is easy, and you don’t even need a lot of space to have a good harvest.
However, one thing you need to be careful about when growing potatoes at home is you need to plant them at the right time. Today, we’ll be talking about how timing is your best tool when planting potatoes. Let’s get started!
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Potato Planting and Care Basics
Potatoes are an annual tuberous vegetable that is native to the Andes regions of South America. They are hardy in zones 3 to 10, they prefer full sun of up to 6 hours a day, and they grow best in loamy, acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.0.
They need at least 1 inch of water per week, and they are sensitive to drought conditions, so mulching is key to preventing this.
Potatoes Preferred Growing Conditions:
- Planting Zones: 3-10
- Full Sun (at least 6 hours)
- Loamy Soil
- Acidic Soil with ph of 5.0 – 6.0
- 1 inch of water per week
They are typically propagated through seed potatoes. These aren’t true seeds. Instead, they are full-sized sprouting potatoes bred for the purpose of growing potato plants.
You can buy seed potatoes from nursery catalogs and garden centers. If there’s a farmers’ market near you, you can buy varieties you like and let this cool-season crop sprout for planting.
Store-bought potatoes and grocery store potatoes can also be allowed to sprout and be replanted. However, you may get a lower yield, and these are not certified disease-free, so you may want to plant them in containers instead of in the ground with your other plants.
The traditional way of planting potatoes is the trench method. This involves digging shallow trenches of about 6 inches and placing seed potatoes 10 to 12 inches apart with the eye facing up.
These seed potatoes are then covered by a few inches of fertile soil at first and then the soil is continually topped up as they grow. This keeps the soil surface around the small tubers and the base of the plant loose while preventing your new plants from getting exposed to direct sunlight.
You can also use the scatter method when planting potatoes. Simply lay seed potatoes right on the loose soil and cover them with a few inches of mulch and organic matter. For best results over the growing season, you can continue layering mulch as your potatoes grow.
You’ll plant them in a similar manner as you would with the trench method, except for the number of potatoes you can plant in one container depends on its volume capacity. One seed of potatoes can be planted per 3 gallons capacity.
Considerations For Timing Potato Planting
Potatoes are easy to plant and care for. However, one crucial aspect of growing them is timing. These things determine how late you can plant potatoes:
- The last frost date in your area
- The variety of home-grown potatoes available
- Your desired harvest
Potatoes are sensitive to frost, and seed tubers also stop forming if the temperature gets too warm. Typically, it’s a good choice to plant potatoes by the end of May. This gives your potatoes plants enough time to develop potato foliage and to mature so you can harvest the mature potatoes before the light frost comes in.
Check with your local garden center to know when the frost date is for your area to determine timing.
The variety of potato crop determines the time it takes to mature. Early season potatoes like Red Norland mature between 60 and 80 days. Mid-Season potatoes take 80 to 90 days to produce tubers. While Late Season potatoes take over 90 to 110 days to produce tubers.
If you live in very warm climates, you may plant mid and late-season potatoes in the fall to get a second harvest later in the year.
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Finally, the size of potatoes you want to harvest can determine how late you can plant potato seeds. New potatoes can be harvested a couple of weeks or 2 to 3 weeks after the plant stops flowering so that you can plant them later in the season.
Meanwhile, if you prefer mature and larger potatoes, you’ll need to allow more time for the tubers to grow since these are only ready to harvest 2 to 3 weeks after the greens die back.
Different Potato Varieties You Can Try
- Yukon gold
- Red potatoes
- White potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Rose finn apple
- All purpose potatoes
- Baby potatoes
- Maincrop potatoes
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