Growing Potatoes in South Carolina

Hi, I’m Paul Thompson with Clemson Extension Service. I’m a county agent in York, Chester and Lancaster Counties. I’m back here in the Chester Community Garden today and I want to talk a little bit about growing potatoes.  If you have raised beds or you have well-draining soils, potatoes are such an easy crop to grow. You plant them in late-February, early-March by purchasing some seed potatoes and plant them deep in the ground, 8-10 inches deep, and they’ll take about 3-4 weeks before you start seeing the top growth come up above the ground. But they’re really trouble-free. There’s an occasional pest, such as Colorado Potato Beetles, I’ve only seen those a few times in my career. They’re growing at the time of the year before insects and diseases become a real problem because it’s cooler out. They’re going to be taking up space for about 3-4 months before they’re ready to harvest. Potatoes will flower – and these have finished flowering – and the flowering gives you the signal that the tuber-production is beginning. And then the flowers fade away, and you really don’t harvest your potatoes until the tops of the potato plants look terrible. They’ll start yellowing, they’ll start browning, and it’s because of the onset of the heat that comes with summer. So normally you’re harvesting the potatoes sometime during the month of June. However, all of us are somewhat impatient and you want to be able to – maybe you’ve got a special Sunday dinner and you want to be able to have a few what we call “new potatoes,” smaller potatoes, and you can just feel around the plant and harvest a few for that meal. So if you go and just kind of use your fingers to feel around and kind of just gently go around and seeing what you can find. And let’s see. Oh! There’s one! Just give it a little twist. Separate it from the stem. And so you end up with some really nice potatoes. Now, these are, what my grandma used to call Irish potatoes. This particular variety is Kennebec, but it is a white-fleshed, very thin-skinned potato. In fact, if you look at my – I can sit here and rub the skin right off with my fingers. So it’s a very thin skin, you don’t have to peel it because it’s not like a Russet potato that’s a common baking potato. These are thin-skinned potatoes. I really like this variety Kennebec because no matter how you cook it, it’s always good. It tolerates boiling, frying, baking, and it’s just a good all-around potato that really performs well in this area. So harvest your new potatoes, but wait until your plants really start looking bad and collapsing before you do the entire harvest of your potato crop.

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