The end of January, February, and early March are the perfect times to plant potatoes in San Antonio, Texas. Today this blog guides you through the planting steps and also offers a few tips to get your potatoes off to a great start. So whether you say ‘potato’ and I say ‘potahto’, none of us have to call the whole thing off!
A Quick Review of How Seed Potatoes Grow
The potatoes we grow in the garden are called seed potatoes. If these seed potatoes are larger than 2” in diameter, you can cut into smaller pieces to plant in the garden. As long as each piece that you cut has an “eye” included in it, you have a viable piece of potato to plant. If it is a smaller seed potato, you can plant it whole. The eyes are those little indentations you commonly see on potatoes. You know, those spots where you see sprouting start to happen when you’ve forgotten about your potatoes in the kitchen cabinet for too long? Those eyes are actually buds and they are where your new potato plant will sprout from.
The piece of potato that you plant containing an eye, will remain underground while the rest of the plant begins to grow upward. Above the soil you will see stems, leaves, small fruits and flowers, while below the soil sits the “mother tuber” who will produce new roots and underground stems called “stolons”. At the end of these stolons new potatoes will grow. And that’s a basic review of how potatoes grow. Now let’s move on to some tips for increasing your yield.
4 Tips for Growing Better and More Potatoes
1. Don’t count on using grocery store potatoes to grow in your gardens. These have usually been treated to make them less apt to sprout. Seed potatoes at garden nurseries, like Rainbow Gardens, are actually from pieces of tubers containing one eye or more. Get yourself the real deal.
2. Grow potatoes at the right time of year. In San Antonio, the best time to grow these veggies are late January through February. Don’t attempt growing these in summer. That means, now is a great time to load up on our selections. Look for varieties like White Kennebec, Red Lasoda, Yukon Gold, and Red Pontiac.
3. Offer potatoes plenty of sun, well draining soil, and consistent water.
- Provide 6-8 hours full sun minimum.
- Best soil pH is neutral to slightly acidic. Provide plenty of organic matter and your potatoes should happily grow.
- 1” of water per week minimum. They don’t tolerate drought well. Mulching around plants will help.
4. For increased yield, fertilize with muriate of potash (for synthetic option) or Su-Po-Mag (for organic option).
Planting Methods for Potatoes
Reminder: You can plant a whole seed potato if it is very small, otherwise, cut into pieces making sure each piece contains at least one eye (can have more). It’s a good idea to allow these cut pieces to “scab” or heal their wounds by leaving them set overnight.
“Trenching and Hilling a Row”:
- At preparation, the depth of your soil should be at least 12” deep. Dig a 6”deep trench into your prepared soil and space tuber pieces 10”-12” apart with their eyes pointed upward. Cover with 2”-3” of soil.
- As the plant grows, the tuber under the soil must stay covered by soil or it can turn green. When the leafy part of your plant has grown about 4”-5” pull more soil from the sides of the trench and “hill” it up around the sides of the plant, covering the tuber as it grows.
- About 2 weeks after planting, you can fertilize by using one of the products mentioned above in the “for increased yield” tip. Follow the directions on product bag, and apply the product by scratching it into the soil alongside the plants.
- Continue to hill the soil around your plants as they grow to make sure the underground, growing tuber is never exposed. (Yes, this means you cannot set it and forget it!)
- Depending on potato variety, weather, and growing conditions, harvest time is usually around 2-4 months after planting. Flowers will develop and this is a good sign that the tubers are on their way to maturing. When the tops of your plants turn yellow and begin to die out it’s time for you to dig in!
Containers: Fabric Grow Bags are also a great way to grow containers. The breathable fabric allows air to circulate, and water to drain efficiently and the fabric is sturdy. Soil like FoxFarm’s Happy Frog, full of rich, organic material and micronutrients, is a great choice to fill up your containers.