Winter potatoes are the perfect option for someone who wants to make the most out of their garden during cooler seasons. While you may normally plant potatoes in spring, you can actually grow them all throughout the winter with the right tools and methods.
When it comes down to it, the method you choose to grow your winter potatoes depends upon your preferences and the climate in your area. Growing potatoes in the ground or in raised garden beds is ideal for a warmer area. But if the ground where you live tends to freeze, it is best to grow the vegetables in something more protective, like a container or in a greenhouse.
Learn all about the different methods for growing winter potatoes so you can choose which one is right for you.
When To Get Started
When you should begin growing your taters depends on your climate. If winter is mild, plant spuds outdoors anywhere between September and February. If it’s too cold, keep them indoors or in a greenhouse. Otherwise, wait until spring to begin planting! Just ensure the soil temperature doesn’t exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit or you’ll see damages crops.
In the Ground
The simplest and most affordable way to grow potatoes is in hilled rows in the ground. You’ll need a space with well-draining soil and six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Plant your tubers in a trench that is 8 inches deep in rows that are 3 feet apart with 10 to 12 inches between each seed potato.
Then, top with 4 inches of soil, and continue to cover the potatoes in soil (called “hilling”) after seedlings develop. Keep the plants well-watered, watering when the top inch of soil is dry.
Raised Garden Beds
If your garden is full of overwintering perennials or hardy shrubs, you can grow your winter crops in raised garden beds. They are also a good option if the soil in your garden is heavy or poorly draining, since taters prefer well-draining, airy soil.
Install the garden bed in a location that gets lots of sun (about six to eight hours a day) and fill it about halfway full with soil. Then, loosen the soil with a garden rake and plant your seed potatoes 12 inches apart and 3 inches deep. Continue to add more soil as the potatoes grow, training the vines to grow upwards so the sun never touches the spuds.
You can also grow potatoes indoors or in a greenhouse in bags or in containers (more on those methods below). The plants prefer temperatures around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, though the tubers grow in soil temperatures of 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoors, they will likely do best in a garage or basement since the rest of your house may be too warm.
Remember that the taters won’t grow in soil temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s important to keep an eye on your thermostat. You may also need to supplement light, so consider investing in grow lights or LED lights to ensure the spuds get enough light each day.
Note: By the time spring rolls around, you’ll need to keep your potatoes out of the greenhouse since it will likely get too warm. Instead, bring in veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, beans, and cucumbers.
Grow bags made from heavy, dense polypropylene, are perfect for keeping your spuds warm and protected. You should use these bags indoors or in a greenhouse, though, as freezing temperatures can damage the potatoes. Remember to place them somewhere it gets enough light or install grow lights nearby.
Roll the edges of the bag down so it is about 8 inches in height and poke a few holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out. Add about 4 inches of soil to the bottom and plant five or six seed potatoes, placing them equidistant from one another. Top with 3 inches of soil and allow the plants to grow.
Once the vines are about 7 inches in height, unroll the top of the bag so it is about 5 inches deeper. Fill the bag with soil and continue to water, keeping the top inch of soil moist. Once the leaves on the plant begin to yellow, cease watering. Empty the bag a week later to harvest your spuds.
Growing potatoes in a container is an option for both indoor and outdoor use. You’ll need a large bucket or container with drainage holes, placed either in a sunny location, near a window, or with grow lights. Then, fill the container about 3/4 of the way full with loamy soil. Add your seed potatoes and cover them in soil, continuing to hill and water as you would if they were in the ground.
While the methods for growing winter potatoes differ slightly, taters always require similar general care.
No matter which method you choose, you watering and hilling routine shouldn’t change too much. Remember to use fertile, well-draining soil, mixing in compost if you choose to. Then, harvest, cure, and store the potatoes as you usually would!
Do you know of any other methods for growing winter potatoes? Share in the comments below!