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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 is going to 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; they can be grown in raised beds and even 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.

Common potato varieties (clockwise from top left) Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold, and Kennebec. Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Common potato varieties (clockwise from top left) Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold, and Kennebec.
Paul Thompson, ©2021, 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. White-skinned potatoes such as Kennebec, also commonly called Irish potatoes, and the red-skinned varieties are the two main types for home garden production here in South Carolina. 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.

Potatoes harvested from two containers. Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Potatoes harvested from two containers.
Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Kennebec potato flowers. Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Kennebec potato flowers.
Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Red Pontiac potato flowers. Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Red Pontiac potato flowers.
Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Space potatoes 8 to 10 inches apart. Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Space potatoes 8 to 10 inches apart.
Paul Thompson, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Potatoes need to grow in a full sun location: at the very minimum, about six hours of direct sunlight. They also need 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 will need to be watered if we do not get enough rainfall, especially in May, when they begin to bloom and the tubers start to form. For more information on how to plant and care for potatoes, see HGIC 1317, Potato.

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

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