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.
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.
More Posts on Potatoes:
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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