How to grow potatoes in Central Texas

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in home gardens. There are a number of methods to grow potatoes. They can be grown in planting beds, raised beds, large containers and fabric grow bags.

When to plant potatoes in Central Texas

January to February is the time to plant potatoes in central Texas. They are a cool weather crop, that needs warm days and cool nights to grow. There is also a short window of time for planting in late summer to fall, but seed potatoes are not often available at that time. So, home gardeners can save small potatoes from the spring harvest for late summer planting. 

What are the best potatoes to grow in Texas

In home gardens, the most common potatoes grown are red or white varieties. These are thin-skinned potatoes like Kennebec, Red LaSoda, Pontiac or Yukon Gold. Find them at feed and farm supply stores or independent garden centers. 

How do you grow potatoes?

Potatoes need full sun – about 8 hours a day – and loose, well-draining soil. 

Prepare to plant – Before planting, amend soil with compost or organic matter and incorporate a complete fertilizer, about 2 teaspoons per foot or square foot of row. For expansive gardens, apply 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed. 

Potatoes are actually tubers, an enlarged stem. Tubers or parts of a potato tuber are called seed potatoes when they are planted. What size to plant? Golf ball or extra-large hen egg sized seed potatoes are a good for planting. 

  • Large seed potatoes may be cut into pieces. Each piece should have at least 2 eyes and can be dusted with elemental sulfur to prevent fungal disease.
  • Watering – Potatoes need evenly moist soil, but not wet which can cause rot or promote fungal disease. Mulching helps retain moisture, reduce weeds and keeps soil temperature cooler. 

How to plant potatoes

How deep to plant seed potatoes? Plant them 3-5 inches deep and 8-12 inches apart. Potato tubers form on small stems that emerge from the main plant stem. The longer the underground stem, the more tubers you grow. That is why when foliage grows to about 6-8 inches tall, you push up onto the stem 3-4 inches of soil. This is known as “hilling up.” Do this once or twice more as the plants grow taller. I plant seed potatoes in a trench, then just push more soil into the trench as the stems grow taller. 

Harvesting potatoes

How long does it take to grow potatoes? Depending on weather and the potato variety, they are ready to harvest in 90 to 120 days. Plants will flower, then foliage yellows and turns brown. A spading fork may be used at harvest to gently life potatoes out of the soil. Allow them to dry out of sunlight for a couple hours, then gently brush off soil. Do not wash potatoes until ready to use.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place. Exposure to light makes them turn green and inedible. For long storage, an option is to cut the foliage off and wait 3-4 days to harvest. The potatoes’ skin will toughen and last longer in storage.

Growing Potatoes in Containers

If space is limited, growing potatoes in containers is an option. This method is great for gardening with children. 

Containers must have adequate drainage and can be 7 gallons or larger. Place 3-4 inches of potting mix or container mix amended with compost or fertilizer into the container. Plant seed potatoes with cut side down. How many potatoes to plant? Allow about 3 gallons of growing space per seed potato to grow good sized potatoes. 

As plants grow add soil to cover stems at least half way up. Repeat as plants grow until the container is filled. The side of fabric containers can be rolled down at planting, then raised as soil is added and plants grow. 

Watering – Keep soil moist, but not soggy. Containers will dry out faster than raised beds and may require watering more often. 

Harvesting – After flowering, when foliage yellows and browns, spread a tarp and dump container contents out. Gently lift out potatoes. This is a particularly fun activity for children to dig and hunt for potatoes. 

Bag growing tip for warm climates – Plant potatoes early. Why? As temperatures rise later in spring, the bags dry out quickly. It can be a challenge to keep soil at the right moisture level so plants continue to grow and mature. 

Potato Growing tips

  • Can you plant grocery store potatoes? Not a good idea, because they are often treated with a growth inhibitor.
  • Purchase seed potatoes locally at a nursery or Feed and Farm supply store. Some mail-order suppliers cannot ship in time for planting in southern states.
  • If you cut the seed potatoes, let them dry for 2-3 days before planting. Plant cut side down.
  • The main pest of potatoes is the potato bug that eats foliage. Pick them off or apply a labeled pesticide according to directions.

You may also like