Winter potatoes are ideal if you want to enjoy the versatile veg and get some use out of your garden during the cooler months. While taters are generally planted a couple of weeks after the last spring frost, you can plant them in winter if you live in a warmer climate.
Wondering when and how to grow winter potatoes? Learn the tools and techniques to make growing scrumptious spuds a breeze, even during the cooler months.
When to Start Winter Potatoes
When you should plant your winter potatoes depends on where you live. If you live somewhere with a mild winter, you can plant and grow spuds anywhere between September and February. Remember that harsh weather conditions, such as snow and hard freezes, can kill your spuds.
In locations where winter is much colder, you can still grow potatoes, but it is best to opt for a container kept indoors or in a greenhouse. These methods allow you to still grow the plants, use similar care techniques, and protect the taters from inclement weather.
If you live in a cooler region, you can plant some taters in April or about six to eight weeks before the last predicted frost date. You’ll need to choose a potato variety, usually called “early maturing,” that can withstand frost!
Pro Tip: Potato vines grow best in temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, though the tubers grow in soil temperatures of 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Potatoes won’t grow in soil temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tools You’ll Need
There are a few tools you’ll need to plant your winter potatoes. Fortunately, the essentials are items that many gardeners likely already own!
- Seed potatoes
- Growing method (such as garden beds, bags, containers)
- Gardening gloves
- Sharp knife
- Well-draining soil
- Ventilated container
- Hand trowel or spade
- Garden hoe
How to Grow Winter Potatoes
With the right tools in hand and a little knowledge about timing, you’re ready to plant your winter potatoes!
Step 1: Choose a Variety
Depending on the variety, potatoes are ready for harvest within 90 to 120 days. That said, you can harvest some spuds before they are fully mature, such as Yukon and Belmondo, at around 60 to 70 days after planting. These taters, also called new potatoes, are great to enjoy consistently throughout the winter.
Step 2: Prepping and Planting
When growing potatoes from potatoes, use Certified Seed Potatoes, which are disease-free and safe for planting. Seed potatoes are tubers specifically sold to grow potato plants; they’re not potato seeds or the potatoes you buy in the grocery store.
Allow half-inch sprouts to grow on the tubers by placing them in a well-lit, warm, dry spot in a ventilated container. Then, cut large tubers into pieces about the size of a golf ball, ensuring they have two or more eyes (buds). If the tubers are small enough, you don’t need to cut them.
If growing indoors or in a container, use well-draining soil mixed with compost. Mix some compost into the soil if you’re growing in your garden. Use a garden rake to ensure the area is loose–compact soil can damage the tubers.
Plant the potatoes in a location with six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Dig a trench that is about 8 inches deep. Place in rows about 3 feet apart with 10 to 12 inches between each seed potato, with the eyes facing up and cut side facing down. Top with about 4 to 6 inches of soil.
Step 3: Caring for the Potatoes
After planting, water the soil to settle the tubers and encourage root development. As a general rule, water the plants when the first inch of soil is dry. How often you water depends on the temperature and amount of sunlight in your area. Place mulch between the rows to conserve moisture levels, maintain temperatures, and block weed growth.
After about two weeks, you should notice sprouts and plant development. Use a garden hoe to fill the rest of the trench, topping the plants with another 4 inches of soil. Continue to “hill” (cover) the potatoes in soil to prevent them from being exposed to sunlight.
Sunlight exposure causes them to turn green, producing a toxic chemical called solanine. Hill in the morning, when the plants are at their tallest. Keep soil at the base of the plant to support the vines. Do this about once a week after planting. Stop hilling after the plants bloom.
Pro Tip: Water your potatoes in the middle of the day. This allows the plants time to dry out before nightfall, meaning the plant is less susceptible to infections and fungal diseases such as late blight.
Step 4: Harvesting
Harvesting time depends on the variety you choose and whether you want small or large potatoes. Waiting longer means a bigger harvest. Dig up a test potato to start, and then harvest the rest if they’re ready. Cure them in temperatures around 45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in a dark location for about two weeks. Then store them in a ventilated, cool, dark place!
Note: During the cool season, potato vines grow small berries. This fruit is toxic and should not be ingested.
Hot Potato, Cold Potato!
Growing potatoes in winter requires similar attention and care as the rest of the year. Pay attention to timing and the weather in your area to provide the plants with the right conditions! Keep the tubers covered in soil to protect them from sunlight, and harvest the spuds once they’re ready.
Do you have any tips for growing winter potatoes? Share in the comments below!