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Growing Potatoes

Potatoes need a frost-free growing season of 90 to 120 days. They're a cool-weather crop, and they grow best in areas with cool summers. Hot weather cuts down on the production of tubers. Grow potatoes in summer in the North, and in fall, winter, and spring in the South. Plant early varieties just before the average date of last frost.

Potato plants are recognized by their star-shaped white or purple flowers.
Potato plants are recognized by their
star-shaped white or purple flowers.

Potatoes are grown from whole potatoes or pieces of potatoes, which are called seed pieces. Each piece must have at least one eye. Always plant certified disease-free seed pieces. Don't use supermarket potatoes, which have been chemically treated to prevent sprouting.

Potatoes need well-drained, fertile soil that is high in organic matter. The pH level should be between 5.0 and 5.5. Plant potato pieces in full sun, 4 inches deep, and 12 to 18 inches apart. Keep the soil evenly moist and free of weeds.

Harvesting Potatoes Dig up new potatoes after the plant blooms or when the leaves begin to turn yellow. For mature tubers, use a spading fork to dig up the potatoes two weeks after the vine dies.

Types of Potatoes

  • Red Pontiac, 100 days, are red with thin skin and white flesh.
  • Explorer, 100 days, produces small, white flesh and can be grown from seed.
  • White Cobbler, 90 days, is a baking variety with a short growing season.
  • Kennebec, 105 days, is large and white; it stores well.
  • Yukon Gold, 70-90 days, has creamy, pale yellow flesh.
  • All Blue or Russian Blue, 90-110 days, has purple skin and purple mottled flesh.
  • Caribe, 70-90 days, has purple skin and white flesh.

In the next section, we'll show you how to select potatoes.

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