When and How to Plant Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the easiest crops you can grow, and early spring is the time to get them in the ground.


| April 1, 2007


Potatoes are easy to grow, but they prefer cool weather so you should try to get them into the ground at the right time. You can order seed potatoes through mail-order garden companies or buy them at local garden centers or hardware stores.  (You could use supermarket potatoes, but be aware they have probably been treated with chemicals to inhibit sprouting, so they may not grow well.) Store your seed potatoes in the refrigerator.

Your next step is to determine the recommended planting time for your climate. Since it takes potatoes two to three weeks to emerge from the ground, the earliest you should plant seed potatoes is two weeks before your last anticipated freeze date of 28 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. (If you don't know your local last freeze date, you can find it here.) About a week before your planting-out date, bring the seed out of the fridge and place it in a bright warm window for about a week. This will help break the spuds' dormancy and assure they will grow quickly when you put them into the still-cool spring soil.

If you garden in areas that have hot summers be sure to plant your potatoes early, and to play it safe, choose varieties that mature in early- or mid-season. This is because potatoes do not do well when the temperatures climb into the 90s. They may actually keel over and die when the temperature gets to 95 degrees. If a late planting or a late season variety runs into that hot weather while the tubers are in the early bulking stage you may get a very low yield.

To save work, or as a way to start a new garden bed, some people like to just toss their potato seed pieces onto bare ground or even a patch of sod, and then cover the pieces with a heavy mulch of straw or leaves. I've always wondered if you get as many potatoes with this short-cut method as you would if you buried the seed in a prepared garden bed, so I asked Jim and Megan Gerritsen, who grow and sell certified organic potatoes at Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine, what they think of this technique. The Gerritsens have been advising gardeners all across the continent since 1976.

Q: Does planting potatoes in a deep mulch on uncultivated ground still give reasonably good yields?

A: This deep mulch potato planting technique is called the Stout method, named after the old-time popular organic gardener Ruth Stout. Over the years Ruth had created beautiful soil and that fertile soil was a big factor in her success. Perform the Stout method on great soil and expect great yields of delicious potatoes. But try the technique on old worn out and unimproved ground and get ready to learn some patience and gain some humility. Potatoes are heavy feeders and they will respond dramatically to good fertility and tilth. Your yield will suffer to the extent that the soil you plant in lacks proper fertility and water.

TNboy
12/30/2017 9:04:34 AM

I was taught this method from my parents/grandparents....I use seed potatoes from the local store and( leftovers in the pantry). If I buy Store bought seed potatoes, i get them 2 or 3 weeks before were going to plant. Put them in plastic grocery bags add a little moisture, and place in a dark area in the house. This causes the potato to sprout. When we are within a day or two of planting we cut off the sprout with a little meat of the potato attached. I let them set for 24 to 48 hrs in a open bucket let them dry(develop a skin on them ). then plant. We get a good to great harvest every year! Another tip, if you know where your potatoes come from(no chemicals)i was told to Cut off the sprouts peel cook eat the rest.Older generations didnt waste nothing!


okpkpkp
11/10/2017 6:35:18 PM

Now that answers my questions about poor yield here in Sacramento, northern California. July, August, and September we can get days of over 100 degrees F. Many over 110. That's what killed my tomatoes last summer. A micro-climate in my backyard that lets the temps soar. My cherry tomato did well but they have afternoon shade for a few hours and then back to the blazing sun. Will have to continue to experiment.


jwvautard
11/10/2017 3:40:18 PM

Harvey, I am no expert on such things, but I would be afraid to plant potatoes in soil with a higher-than-acceptable lead content. Since they draw nutrients from the soil and reside in it as they grow, I would think they would be much more likely than most plants to absorb the lead. I would think the same would be true for all root crops.






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