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Growing Potatoes – Planting in Best and Worse Conditions

I had a few readers ask about planting potatoes in May, June or July. My assumption was — that either”planting potatoes late” was an after-thought for those who asked — or they had some extra seed-potatoes on hand.   So of course, my answer was “Go for it!”.

If that was the case then that’s still my answer because if you don’t plant — it’s a sure thing that you won’t harvest.

But after Sandra’s comment to my last post I realized my assumption may have been incorrect and that some readers — who have not grown potatoes before —-may have needed more information to help them make the best decision about whether or not they wanted to plant potatoes that late in the season.

I’ll give that information now by covering

  • the optimum time to plant to get the best yield and
  • the various things that can happen when you plant late in the season.

Optimum Planting Time for Potatoes

Years ago — I remember hearing that March 15th was ideal time to plant potatoes in Virginia.  I personally have never found that date satisfactory.  It seems to always be cold then and potatoes planted in cold damp soil in my garden just sit there and do nothing.  But the date gives you an idea of what to aim for — at least in Virginia.  In some states — Maine for example  — they don’t plant potatoes until June.

Basically — potatoes are a cool weather crop.  They produce more when they’re started in the spring. Once temperatures go above 90 degrees — they don’t like it.

In areas like Virginia where there’s a good chance of drought and high heat every year, our best bet for a bumper crop is to plant in the spring and plant early to mid-season varieties.

Planting Potatoes Late — What can Happen

You can plant any variety late or you can plant a late season variety, BUT if they run into hot weather while they’re in the stage of bulking (or making potatoes) you’ll get a low yield — sometimes in the form of more small potatoes than large ones.

The early variety, Chieftan, always out-produces the mid-season variety, Kennebec, in my garden.  (The bonus is I get great early crops from Kennebec volunteers  the following year when they get those spring conditions they like.)

(See my last post to help determine whether or not to allow your volunteer potatoes to produce.)

Whenever I’ve planted late season varieties — I get potatoes — but I’d hate to think I had to depend on just that harvest for the year.  In my garden late varieties are no where near as bountiful as the early and midseason varieties.

Currently, when I want late potatoes — rather than a late variety —  I plant what’s left of my mid-season Kennebecs and take my chances on the weather.

This year — I planted the last of my potatoes in June.  Yes, that’s late — but the year has been so unusual that I figured it’d be worth a try.  The plants look fine but have not blossomed.  (When potatoes blossom you have a good idea that new potatoes are forming.)(I’ve read that some potatoes don’t bloom although any I’ve planted have always bloomed.)

After Sandra said she had poked around for potatoes I decided to take a look under my late planting. Sure enough I found just about what Sandra found for her May planting  — marble sized potatoes.

Foliage on my June planted potatoes still looks good. If the foliage starts to decline and dies back — that’s a sign the potatoes have finished growth for the season.

I’ll  just have to wait and see what happens.  It’ll depend a lot on what the weather is like.  If I end up with not much of a crop — I’m sure I’ll get nice potatoes early next year from any left in the ground after harvest.

Final Thoughts

If you can only do one planting of potatoes — plant in the spring in soil high in organic matter to increase your chances of a bountiful harvest.  If you want to extend the harvest — stagger your plantings like I do — every 3 weeks or so.

Just keep in mind that your 2nd and 3rd planting may or may not meet up to the planting grown under optimum conditions.

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More Posts on Potatoes:

Potatoes – Might be Some Ideas Here

How to Plant Potatoes to Extend the Harvest

Potatoes – Harvesting and Storing

Potatoes – Are Yours Disfigured?

Growing Potatoes – It’s Hard to Mess Up

Oven Fried Potatoes with Zip

Growing Potatoes – Is the Natural Way the Best?

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Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.

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All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

6 comments to Growing Potatoes – Planting in Best and Worse Conditions

  • Sandra

    Theresa, What a fantastic reply, thank you so much. It sounds like you are right on all counts. I have no idea of the variety – my husband bought them. It’s a learning experience for me as I’ve never grown potatoes before. Next year, perhaps, I’ll try Chieftan. Thanks for this really helpful post- good diagnosis of what happened,too.

  • Theresa

    I think Chieftans or Kennecbecs would do very well for you Sandra.

  • Renee

    Thanks so much for the detailed explanation! I was so excited to harvest the little purple potatoes I planted in spring, but when I dumped the container over yesterday, they were infested with Millions of little tiny ants.
    This article gave me the nudge I needed to try again. Our summer has been so mild, I figure I might as well take my chances! “if you don’t plant — it’s a sure thing that you won’t harvest”
    This time I’ll try the good old fashioned way of putting them in the ground! No more container potatoes for me! Yeck!

  • Theresa

    I know what you mean about ants in the containers. I love my grow bags in the garden BUT the ants sometimes get in them — and I hate that!!
    I think you’ll do great by planting in the ground, Renee.
    Enjoyed your comment. Thanks!
    Theresa

  • Toni Brock

    Theresa, Do you have any experience with planting true potatoe seed? I have been planting potatoes only for a few years now and the first year I planted them I got a “ball” form after the flower so I harvested those, dried them, and planted the tiny little seeds this year. I have beatiful plants from them. I think I will probably need to harvest the little potatoes and plant some of them next year. How do you store your potatoes to keep them for planting next spring?

    Thank you so much for all of your insights. I really appreciate you 🙂

    Toni

  • Theresa

    Hi Toni,
    Real potato seed from the top fruit (resembling a small tomato) that potatoes can develop (this is sexual propagation by the way) — will develop into a plant with unique characteristics — not necessarily those of the potato from which it came. Each fruit can contain 300 seeds — theoretically you could get 300 plants — all different from each other and different from the the parent plant.

    Real potato seed is used in breeding programs.

    Two great things about growing from the real seed of the fruit produced by the potato is that genetic diversity will be high and the seeds don’t often carry diseases.(It’s my understanding there are very few seed-borne potato diseases.)

    If you have the time and are so inclined — you could eventually come up with potatoes that thrive in your unique conditions. There’s a good chance that the plants will be less susceptible to the pests and diseases than the ones you now plant from tubers (seed potatoes). When you finally come up with the potato you consider a winner — you would then reproduce the potatoes from tubers (as you already know).

    I think if I were younger and just starting to garden — I would be very interested in doing this. But – as I said — it takes a lot of time and — I would think — record keeping. It can get quite complicated and if you’re going to do it — do as much research as you can to find all the little secrets that will save you time and effort and keep you from unnecessary mistakes. (As always with any research — be careful who you believe.)

    Also, I think that the first year only produces mini-sized tubers — not full sized potatoes. So in order to really know what you’re going to get — you have to save the mini-potatoes over until next year and plant — as you have already mentioned. With that second year harvest — you should know what the results are.

    After that, to make sure you get the same kind of potato as the new plant you started with — you must grow potatoes from “seed potatoes” (this is vegetative propagation)— the potatoes already produced by your new parent plant. This is also called cloning. It assures genetic purity and also favors high yields.

    Regarding how to keep them until next year:
    As I outlined in my post Potatoes-Harvesting and Storing

    “If you’re to get the long term storage you want, your method of storage should meet the following 4 conditions:
    • Be cool (about 40 to 50  degrees F)
    • Dark
    • High humidity. (You don’t want a build up of water.  That will cause rot.  Just high humidity. If too dry potatoes will shrivel.)
    • It should allow the potatoes to breath.  (For example, burlap bags keep the light out but allow air to circulate in the bag.)
    If you can meet these requirements you’ll be able to keep your potatoes for another 3 to 6 months.”

    Most modern homes can’t meet these conditions. (I can’t meet them.)

    If I were going to try to keep potatoes over for planting next year — I’d do two things:
    #1 – I’d make an attempt to keep them as close to the 4 conditions outlined above — EVEN IF I THOUGHT I COULDN”T.
    #2. – I’d store some in the ground. If you have severe winters — mulch heavily. The soil should be well-drained nice garden soil — NOT packed clay for example.

    I feel sure you’ll come out of the winter with potatoes you can plant.
    Good luck with this project, Toni. Let us know how you do.
    And thanks for your thanks. It feels nice to be appreciated. 🙂
    Theresa

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