Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

February 18, 2012

Bill Starr: Planting potatoes

AMERICUS — Planting



Another Valentine’s Day has passed us by and now it is time to move on to “tater “ planting. Generally gardeners can plant potatoes when the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees F but potatoes germinate and emerge when the soil temperature gets about 50 degrees F. This is usually around mid to late February in our area (about the same time that crabgrass starts to germinate).

You need to cut your seed so that each piece of potato has at least 2 eyes and should weigh 1.5 to 2 ounces. During cutting, discard any potatoes that show dark ring or discoloration inside. Seed should be planted immediately after cutting. Remember to use only certified seed and do not use potatoes from the supermarket.

Some potato varieties you could plant include Kennebec and Irish Cobbler. Early varieties include Red Pontiac and Red LA Soda. In our publication, “Potato Production in the Home Garden” we also list some unusual potato varieties that you may want to try out.

Space the seed eight to ten inches apart and 4 to 5 inches deep with the cut side down. Later crops should be planted five to six inches deep. The best row spacing is generally 30 to 36 inches wide.

You can plant your potatoes on flat ground but most people prefer to form hill around the plant. Hilling will provide more room for developing tubers and also help with drainage.

Irish potatoes can handle soil with low pH with ideal conditions being from 4.8 to 5.4. If the pH is higher than that then the potatoes can get a disease called the scab. You need to get a soil test from your local Extension office to find out your pH.

You also need to be careful with your fertilizer, Too much N will cause delays in tuber growth. Broadcast fertilizer when you form your hills before you plant and incorporate it into the top 6 to 8 inches. Use one-fourth pound of 10-20-10 for each 75 foot row. Then about 6 weeks after planting when tubers forming side dress your potatoes with 5 tablespoons of 34-0-0 (ammonium nitrate) per 10 row feet.

     Crop rotation is a must with potatoes. Do not plant potatoes in the same area of the garden each year. Do not plant behind tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant. Try to follow beans, squash or corn.

      If you have any questions about potatoes or any other veggies please contact your local county Extension office. Don’t forget it is getting close to time to put out any pre-emergence herbicide for crabgrass. You may as well do that the same time you plant your potatoes.

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