Time to Plant Potatoes

— Written By

potatoesPotatoes are one of my favorite crops to grow in the spring garden. No matter what your age, nothing is more fun than digging potatoes from the soil – it’s like a tiny treasure hunt! And the taste of home grown potatoes is outstanding.

When and Where to Plant Potatoes

Potatoes planted in February will be ready to harvest in May and June. For best results, plant only certified seed potatoes, which can be purchased from garden centers this time of year. Certified seed potatoes are small potatoes that have been grown under special conditions to ensure they are free of diseases and usually give better results than potatoes purchased from the grocery store.

Potatoes grown in dry sandy soils and soils with pH over 5.5 are more prone to scab disease.

Potatoes grown in dry sandy soils and soils with pH over 5.5 are more prone to scab disease.

Potatoes need to be planted in rich, well drained soil. Wet soils often result in disease problems and crop failure. To yield well, potatoes require consistent moisture and prefer rich soils that have been well amended with organic matter such as rotted horse manure or compost, and have a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.0. Learn how to have your soil pH tested: http://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/2013/08/how-soil-testing-can-help-you/

Potatoes grown in dry sandy soil and soils where the pH level is over 5.5 are more prone to potato scab, a bacterial disease that causes brown, corky scabs to form all over the potato skin.

How to Plant Seed Potatoes

Potato varieties that do well in our area include ‘Yukon Gold’, a personal favorite with creamy, gold color flesh, ‘Kennebec’, and ‘Red Pontiac’, a red skin potato with white flesh and deep eyes. Cut seed potatoes into pieces that are each about the size of an egg and contain at least one sprout, known as an ‘eye’. Cut pieces can be planted immediately or sprouted indoors for a few weeks by placing them in a warm, sunny location.

Make sure each seed piece has at least one eye or sprout.

Make sure each seed piece has at least one eye or sprout.

In the garden, plant seed pieces 6” deep and 10” apart in the row, with 3’ between rows. Keep in mind 12 pounds of seed potatoes can plant around a 100’ row, and yield over 200 pounds of spuds. Once harvested potatoes can be stored in a cool, dry, dark place such as a garage or shed, where they will keep for three to four months or more.

As potatoes grow, keep an eye out for their worst enemy, the Colorado potato beetle. Most years, adult beetles emerge in our area in late April and begin laying clusters of bright orange, football shaped eggs on the back of potato leaves. Learn more about identifying and controlling this devastating pest: http://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/2011/04/check-now-for-colorado-potato-beetles/

Take the Year Round Gardening Challenge!

I have a challenge for you: Grow at least one type of vegetable each season of 2014. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Vegetables can be grown outside in southeastern NC from late winter through late fall. You can officially join the Year Round Gardening Challenge by filling out a quick online survey that will ask you simple question about what you would like to grow, the size of your garden, and your gardening experience level. Everyone who takes the challenge will have the option to subscribe to the Food Gardener email news service to receive regular updates about planting times, recommended varieties, insect and disease problems, sustainable and organic pest management, and upcoming classes and events. Click here to learn more and to take the survey.

Learn More!

Potato fact sheet from Clemson Extension: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/crops/hgic1317.html

Use Extension Search to find research based information from Cooperative Extension systems across the U.S.

Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Go to https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/local-county-center/ to find your county Extension center or post your questions to be answered online via Extension’s ‘Ask an Expert’ widget.

Contact your local Cooperative Extension office to get expert advice from an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer:

Visit the Pender Extension Lawn and Garden webpage to stay up to date with all the latest gardening news, or sign up to receive weekly gardening updates through our email news services:

  • Subscribe to Pender Gardener to receive updates on what to plant and how to care for your lawn and landscape. To subscribe, send an  the email to mj2@lists.ncsu.edu. Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message put: subscribe pendergardener
  • Subscribe to Food Gardener to receive updates on what to plant and how to care for your vegetable and herb garden. To subscribe, send an  the email to mj2@lists.ncsu.edu. Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message put: subscribe foodgardener