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Potatoes

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Botanical name: Solanum tuberosum

Plant type: Vegetable

USDA Hardiness Zones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Sun exposure: Full Sun

Soil type: Sandy

Soil pH: Acidic


Where to buy potatoes: Burpee Gardening

This half hardy vegetable is a culinary staple, and yet is overlooked by many backyard gardeners. The taste and texture of home-grown potatoes are far superior to store bought, especially the early varieties. They need a cool climate, and also need to be watched to prevent sunburn. Potatoes can be grown as a winter crop in warmer climate zones.

Planting

  • Plant seed potatoes (pieces of whole potato or a small whole potato, with at least 2 eyes per piece) 0-2 weeks after last spring frost.
  • If you are cutting up potato pieces for planting, do so a 1-2 days ahead of time. This will give them the chance to form a protective layer, both for moisture retention and rot resistance.
  • You may start planting earlier, as soon as soil can be worked, but be aware that some crops will be ruined by a frost.
  • Spread and mix in rotted manure or organic compost in the bottom of the trench before planting.
  • Plant seed potatoes one foot apart in a 4-inch deep trench, eye side up.
  • Practice yearly crop rotation.
  • See our video on how to grow potatoes in a trash can, the easiest ever container garden!
  • Before planning your garden, take a look at our plant companions chart to see which veggies are compatible.

Care

  • Potatoes thrive in well-drained, loose soil.
  • Potatoes need consistent moisture, so water regularly when tubers start to form.
  • Hilling should be done before the potato plants bloom, when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the root as well as to support the plant. Bury them in loose soil. The idea is to keep the potato from getting sunburned, in which case they turn green and will taste bitter.
  • You will need to hill potatoes every couple of weeks to protect your crop.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Flea Beetles
  • Leaf Hoppers
  • Early/Late Blight
  • Potato Scab: Most likely cause by soil with high pH. Remember: Potatoes like acidic soil (do not plant in soil with a pH higher than 5.2). Dust seed potatoes with sulfur before planting.

Harvest/Storage

  • Dig potatoes on a dry day. Dig up gently, being careful not to puncture the tubers. The soil should not be compact, so digging should be easy.
  • New potatoes will be ready for harvest after 10 weeks, usually in early July.
  • You should harvest all of your potatoes once the vines die (usually by late August), or the potatoes may rot.
  • Make sure you brush off any soil clinging to the potatoes, then store them in a cool, dry, dark place. The ideal temperature for storage is 35 to 40°F.
  • Do not store potatoes with apples; their ethylene gas will cause potatoes to spoil.
  • Whether you dig your own potatoes or buy them at a store, don’t wash them until right before you use them. Washing potatoes shortens their storage life.

 

Recommended Varieties

  • ‘Irish Cobbler’ is an early variety.
  • ‘Viking’ is a red skinned potato, regular season variety.
  • ‘Chieftan’ is resistant to potato scab.
  • ‘Elba’, ‘Rosa’ and ‘Sebago’ are all somewhat resistant to blight.

Recipes

Wit & Wisdom

Potato promoter Antoine Parmentier convinced Marie Antoinette to wear potato blossoms in her hair.

What I say is that if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.
—A. A. Milne, English writer (1882–1956)
 

Comments

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compost potatoes

By Almanac Staff

Good for you! Without knowing what exactly you put into your compost heap on your potatoes (and we really don't need to know, thanks ;-)), it's hard to know if the pile created heat that made a difference. It may be the the composted ingredients were beneficial to the potatoes by simply adding nutrients; that's what compost does. If what you're doing works, keep it up! Remember to plant your potatoes in a different spot next year; crop rotation is key the success of just about any annual vegetable. Good luck with your spuds!

I'm just now digging our potatoes.

By Anonymous

When would be a good time to dig them up? We live in WV.

digging in

By Almanac Staff

Harvest your potatoes when the tops—the leaves, the vines—decay, no matter where you are. That part of the process is not zone related. Good luck!

Lol I live in N.B. and

By Anonymous

Lol I live in N.B. and planted potatoes in early august .... the flowers have just started falling off.... will be a while befored ready to harvest.... just thought i'd share cause urs aren't onlylate ones

digging potatoes

By Anonymous

Wow—if you haven't turned them up yet, lucky you! Potatoes can be harvested anytime after the foliage—the green leaves and stems—fade and die. This being nearly the end of September, they should be ready or nearly so. You can check but gently digging one of the plants near the end of your row (presuming the plants are in rows) or any one plant that will not disturb the others. Dig by hand, not shovel, to avoid slicing into a potato. (So this is more like moving the soil away from the hill you've created.) Try to find a few spuds. If they look "good"—done, ready—you can probably harvest them all. In any case, take them before the frost, and see the notes above for cleaning (do NOT wash until ready to use) and storage.
We hope this helps!

WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO PLANT

By shawnwalsh

WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO PLANT POTATOES SEEDS HERE IN VIRGINIA

Planting potatoes

By Almanac Staff

You can plant early varieties as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Plant later varieties from mid-May to early mid-June.

Potatoes in the South

By warrinj

Mid-zone 8, Vicksburg, MS; loess silt soil
Potatoes (Irish around here to distinguish from sweet) grow very nicely here and at least down to Natchez. Historically, they were a staple since early 1800s. Can be planted in the ground but spring weather makes wet gooey soil. Best to plant in late Jan or through Feb, which is why the soil is wet and gooey. Better to lay cut tubers on bed surface and cover with a good 6-in. loose wheat straw or other loose mulch. Don't hill or otherwise disturb until ready to harvest new potatoes, which will start in late May/early Jun here. Pull aside straw and gather what is wanted then recover. Plants will continue developing tubers. Tubers develop at or just below soil surface. An inch or so of water on bed per week if rain is lacking. The mulch protects potatoes even after the vines die off, easing the problem of storage in the wet warm South.

potato plants

By kathyet

I planted my potatoes in 2 large round planters.. I harvested them this weekend and got a lot of potatoes some were small some where big...Some already started getting eyes on them...I washed them and dried them and put them in a bin with a paper towel under them in a refrigerator ...I also replanted a part of the plant that looked like it had some life in it, not sure if that will work or not. I guess if the greenery grows it will.....but the 2 big round planters worked great for me.

potatoes in a can

By Cowell

Thanks for that feed back I was considering the can method for fall. I harvested mine from the garden and got 43. I was happy with that but had hoped for more.

Growing Potatoes in a Trash Can

By bcharris5

I tried this and planted 5 eyes in the can just like the video shows. The potatoes grew fast and soon I had the can full of soil and vines. Last week the vines started to turn yellow and dry. My husband harvesed the potatoes we had planted the same day in the garden and I harvested the ones I planted in the can. My husband had many more potatoes than I did. I only had about 5 potatoes in the very bottom of the can. Was not worth my time or energy to plant them this way. Was very dissapointed. Will not do that again.

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