Potatoes are a fun crop to grow at home because they are relatively simple to care for and children have a blast pulling up the plants to look at the potatoes during harvest time.
Whether you live in the north or the south, fall can be a great time to plant potatoes. Southern growers will be able to get a crop of potatoes in the fall before the first frost hits, and Northern growers may have healthier summer potato crops if the potatoes are planted in the fall.
Ideal Soil Condition for Potatoes
Potatoes grow best in acidic, loose soil that is well drained. The soil should be tilled to 12 inches before planting. Since potatoes are a member of the nightshade family, don’t grow them in the same bed that has housed other potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants in the last 2 years.
Fall Potato Planting in the South
Plan to have your potatoes in the ground about 110 days before the first frost. In Texas, the first frost generally does not hit before November, and sometimes it is even later than that. If you plant your fall crop between late July and early September, you should be able to get a solid crop before a firm frost hits and kills the potato plants. If you live in an area with just one or two frosts a year, or none at all, you should be able to successfully grow potatoes almost through the entire winter. Potatoes grow best when daily temperatures are around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which in Texas, is a normal daily fall/early winter temperature.
Plant chunks of potato eyes about 3 inches deep with the eyes facing up. Sprouts should emerge in 2 weeks. As the plant grows, pile up dirt and acidic mulch around the base of the plant to the bottom of the leaves. Water potato plants 1 inch of water per week. Harvest the potatoes when the leaves start to turn brown and die back. You can harvest a little earlier, if the weather starts to get nippy, but don’t eat green potatoes.
Tips: On Storing Root Crops For Winter
Fall Potato Planting in the North
In the north, potatoes obviously don’t grow during the winter because it is too cold, but some gardeners recommend planting potatoes well-insulated in the ground so that when spring arrives, the potatoes are able to start growing a few weeks before the final frost. This gives them a better chance of survival if a late frost hits.
For fall planting in the north, use whole seed potatoes (organic potatoes should also work- they tend to sprout in my pantry) to discourage rotting. Make sure the soil is loose for about 12 inches and dig a 10-inch trench for your potatoes. Fill the bottom of the trench with leaves or pine needles. Place the whole potatoes over the leaves. Fill in the holes with more leaves, compost, or grass clippings. Pile dirt in mounds over the top mulch.
The insulation mulch barrier will decay during the winter, creating heat that helps the young plant grow when early spring temperatures are still unsteady.
Want to plant even more vegetables in your yard? We recommend reading
Planting Potatoes in the Fall
You don’t have to plant potatoes in the ground. If you have a deep enough container, like a barrel or even a bucket, potatoes can grow successfully if the container is kept drained. Potatoes will rot in the presence of too much water and compacted soil.
Have you tried growing potatoes in the fall? What were your results?