Potatoes are a scrumptious underground stem that we love to eat: baked, fried, mashed, and a multitude of other ways. The best varieties for Texas are La Soda and Pontiac (red skinned) and Kennebec (white-skinned). Planting certified seed potatoes, rather than grocery store potatoes, ensures that they are true to name and are disease and insect-free. Potatoes grow best when high temperatures are between 60-75 degrees Farenheit and low temperatures are between 45-55 degrees. The usual planting time in Central Texas is “between the presidents’ birthdays” – roughly between February 12 and 22.
Potatoes prefer slightly acidic, fertile, and well-drained soil. Very alkaline soil can cause scab in potatoes. To prepare the soil for potatoes, mix in plenty of good quality compost, up to 40% by volume. We recommend our Lady Bug Revitalizer compost. At the same time, mix in an organic fertilizer, such as Flower Power or Garden Pep Cottonseed Meal. To assist in lowering the pH of our predominantly alkaline soils, you may want to add soil sulfur, pine bark, and/or coffee grounds. Be sure the resulting soil blend is loosened to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
Cut the seed potatoes into pieces 5 to 7 days before planting. Be sure each piece has 2-3 eyes. After cutting, coat the cut surface with dusting sulfur to help prevent rotting. Allow the pieces to cure in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. The potato pieces are ready when the cut surface has scabbed over and the piece is slightly shriveled. Alternately, only plant small seed potatoes and do not cut them.
To plant in the prepared bed, dig a furrow 6 – 8 inches deep. Press the seed potatoes in the bottom of the furrow, 8 – 12 inches apart. Cover the potatoes firmly with only a couple of inches of soil. In 3 – 4 weeks, plants will emerge and begin to grow rapidly. When they are 5 – 6 inches tall, add soil up around the plants, leaving one inch of leaves exposed. This should be done again in 3-4 weeks, so that the furrow is now completely filled with soil.
Potatoes need a good amount of moisture to produce. In addition, they appreciate at least a three-inch layer of mulch over the bed to hold in that moisture and to keep the soil cooler.
Potatoes are fully mature in 90-120 days. Spring-planted potatoes show that they are ready to harvest by the yellowing and dying of leaves.
Enjoy your harvest!