Time for Taters

Between now and the end of March is a great time to plant potatoes. If you ask, “why should I plant potatoes” then obviously, you have never eaten a potato that was dug from the ground the day you ate it. I’ve always heard people rant about homegrown tomatoes; the truth is that anything you grow and harvest in your home garden will taste better because it is fresher. A potato you buy from the market could have been stored for up to six months before you bring it home, and although it is good and nutritious, the flavor does not compare.

Potatoes are actually very easy and fun to grow. Growing potatoes with kids can be a rewarding experience as well, and there are not too many kids I know who refuse to eat potatoes. Potatoes can be grown in a conventional garden in hilled rows, raised beds, and even in containers. Potatoes can be highly productive. You can harvest from two to five pounds of potatoes per plant, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Cut the seed potato into egg-sized pieces making sure there is at least one eye on each.

Locate eyes on the seed potato and cut into egg-sized pieces making sure each piece has at least one eye. Set aside in a warm location with cut sides up to allow cuts to “heal”.
Paul Thompson, ©2023, Clemson Extension

Turn over seed pieces to allow the cut sides to dry.

Cuts should be dry and leathery and ready to plant after 3 days.
Paul Thompson, ©2023, Clemson Extension

Space 8 to10 inches.

Space seed pieces 8 to 12 inches apart and 3 to 4 inches deep with eyes pointing up and cover with soil.
Paul Thompson, ©2023, Clemson Extension

There are many different types and varieties of potatoes that are grown. The Russet potatoes (think Idaho baking potato) are not typically grown here because they require a longer season to develop before hot weather. The white-skinned potatoes, such as Kennebec, are also commonly called Irish potatoes, and the red-skinned varieties, such as Pontiac, are the two main types for home garden production here in South Carolina, but there are also yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold and small specialty potatoes in many colors of the rainbow that can be ordered from seed catalogs that do well here.

Red Pontiac potato flowering in May

Potatoes typically begin flowering in May when tuber production and growth are starting.
Paul Thompson, ©2023, Clemson Extension

Potatoes need to grow in a full sun location: at the very minimum, about six hours of direct sunlight. They also need a well-drained soil that is nice and loose. If you have heavy clay soils, it might take several years of amending with compost to create a perfect soil for growing potatoes. Potatoes also will need to be watered if we do not get enough rainfall, especially in May, when they begin to bloom, and the tubers are starting to form. For more information on how to plant and care for potatoes, see HGIC 1317, Potato. Also, enjoy this video of my past potato harvest, Growing Potatoes In South Carolina.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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