The cool weather of our panhandle winters can make you think that you’re limited to only growing leafy greens and veggies. While there is a plethora of greens to grow, it’s also an incredible time to plant potatoes to get some healthy starch in your new year diet! Mid-January all the way through February is the best time for potato planting.
Potatoes are not only easy to grow, but they also have a ton of health benefits! They contain potassium, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure, as well as vitamin C, which is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Additionally, they are a good source of dietary fiber, which can help to promote healthy digestion. Potatoes are relatively low in calories and fat, making them a relatively healthy food choice when prepared in a healthy way.
First, make sure you’re planting your potatoes in full sun.
Cut the potato into pieces, ensuring each piece has at least a couple of “eyes” (eyes are the little sprouts on the potato). Make cuts with a clean, sharp knife and wait for the cuts to heal (2-3 days) before planting.
Potatoes are heavy feeders, so prep your soil with nutrient-rich compost and/or fertilizer.
Using the 'Hilling' Method to Grow Potatoes
Hilling potatoes is a good method to ensure that you get plentiful tubers, and that they are not exposed to sunlight (which can cause green potatoes). To hill potatoes, dig trenches 24-36 inches apart, and about 6 inches deep. Space the seed potato pieces about 8-12 inches apart, and cover with about 4 inches of soil.
As the potato plants grow, you will add more soil to cover the plants about every 1-2 weeks. Each time you hill, leave just the tops of the plants exposed.
Fertilize again after about 3-4 weeks of growth.
To ensure good storage life, harvest potatoes about 2-3 weeks after the top of the plant dies. Typically 80-115 days after planting seed potatoes. If the top of the plant does not die on its own, cut the stems at the base and wait 2-3 weeks before digging up the potatoes. Always discard any green potatoes and the seed potato piece, if it is still attached to the roots.
Store potatoes in a cool, dry place and monitor and discard any that begin to rot.
Varieties in stock as of 1/24/23
A versatile potato with tasty golden flesh and thin skin. Grow them for roasting, sauteing, or buttery mashed potatoes!
Red La Soda
The current standard red potato grown on North Florida farms. A disease-resistant, early-season variety. These tasty tubers will be ready to enjoy before it gets too hot.
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This article was written by Kaelin Riché.
(Tallahassee Nurseries Garden Showplace Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional)