GROWING VEGETABLES, BERRIES & FRUIT TREES IN NORTH FLORIDA

   
 

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IT'S POTATO PLANTING TIME
POSTED
FEBRUARY 23, 2009


If you’re looking for a vegetable that gives you big yields in small spaces, there could be no better choice than potatoes. Under the right conditions, you can get 20 pounds of tubers from one square yard of garden. And who doesn’t like a potato?

 

In north Florida, we plant potatoes about mid January through mid March. I planted my potato crop this afternoon: One row each of Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold. Both are thin-skinned potatoes that can be harvested at any stage, including as new potatoes. Yukon Gold is not on the recommended varieties list for Florida but I’m going to give it a try and see what happens.
 

Red Pontiac Seed Potatoes

 

Recommended varieties for Florida are Red Pontiac, Sebago, Atlantic, Red La Soda and Superior.
 

Potatoes like soil rich in organic material, so I began working compost, old grass clippings and shredded leaves into the soil several weeks ago.

 

I have been preparing my potato bed for several weeks now by digging deeply and mixing in compost, dried grass clippings and shredded leaves. Potatoes prefer full sun and a slightly acidic soil. If the soil is too alkaline, say pH 7 or higher, scab can result (corky patches on the tubers). If you have added lime to your soil, you may want to take a soil sample to your extension office and have the pH checked before planting your potato crop.

 

This afternoon I dug out trenches about 4 inches wide by 4 inches deep and worked in some fertilizer in the bottom, then placed seed potatoes about every 10 inches and covered them with soil.
 

Seed potatoes are planted whole, or cut in pieces that weigh about 1.5 to 2 ounces and contain at least a couple of eyes. I like to set them in a warm place and let them begin to sprout before planting.

 

It's a good idea to cure cut pieces for a day or two before planting them.

 

Don’t use potatoes from the grocery store. They are probably sprayed with a growth inhibitor. And they may carry diseases.

 

Seed potatoes should be spaced 8 to 12 inches in rows at least 36” apart. If the potatoes have been cut in pieces, place the cut side down.

 

As my potato plants grow, I will use a hoe to pull up soil around them (called “hilling”). This is necessarily because potato tubers near the surface may become exposed to light -- a bad thing for potatoes. Light causes the tubers to develop a green color, which is somewhat toxic. Hilling also helps to keep the tubers cool and maintain even moisture. Hilling begins when the plants are about 4 or 5 inches tall.
 

Early potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, mature in as early as 60 days. Mid-season potatoes mature in about 80 days and late-season potatoes need 90 days or more to reach maturity.
 

New (small-sized) potatoes are harvested when the plants are in bloom. For full-sized potatoes, harvest 2-3 weeks after the vines die back (this helps to toughen the skin so they will store better). Clean off the dirt from your potatoes by brushing them with your hand. Don’t use a brush because it will damage the skin. After that, place your potatoes in a shady area for several hours to further harden the skin. If you have split of bruised potatoes, eat them immediately.
 

Next time, answers to your questions.

 

 

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