Potatoes are the third-most important crop in the world, right after rice and wheat. They produce more food on less land than any other major crop, making them great options for gardeners and farmers with limited areas of cropland.
If you’re planning to plant potatoes this season, you’re in luck, potatoes are among the few crops that can be planted year-round. However, like other crops, potatoes have a preferred growing season.
When to Plant Potatoes?
The best time to plant potatoes is in early spring, two to three weeks after the freezing chill of winter has faded. These crops are often planted in two divisions: first in mid-March, second in mid-to late-April.
Maincrop potatoes are planted in the second batch, as they need to stay in the ground much longer than the first to produce a good crop. That said, planting times vary from country to country.
If you live in the northern part of the world, like the Northern United States, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the like, potato planting should be delayed by a couple of weeks to avoid the risk of frost.
In warmer regions, like Spain, Brazil, and several parts of the US, the second batch of maincrop potatoes is best planted in late summer. This way, the harvest will be just in time for Christmas!
What is the Best Month to Plant Potatoes?
In general, the best month to plant potatoes is between mid-March to late-April, or as soon as the soil can be worked. For many, this is around a week or two after the last spring frost. “Early-maturing” potatoes—i.e., varieties that can withstand frost—can be planted six to eight weeks before the average last frost date—usually in mid-April to May.
It’s important to note that potatoes planted in early spring can be ruined by too-wet soil, so try not to plant potatoes immediately after rain or as soon as the snow has thawed. Planting them in soil too wet can cause the seeds to rot, preventing them from growing.
Potatoes grow best in sandy, well-drained soil. The soil’s pH level should be somewhere between 6 and 6.5.
How Late Can I Plant Potatoes?
Though potatoes are best planted in spring, small crops of early or “new” potatoes can be planted as late as mid-summer, from late June to early August.
When planting potatoes, there are three main factors to consider: variety, last frost date, and desired harvest.
Variety plays a big part in determining how late you can plant your potatoes.
Potatoes can be classified into three major categories, depending on maturity date: Early Season, Mid-Season, and Late Season.
- Early Season Potatoes – Potatoes that take as little as 75 to 90 days to reach maturity. Examples include Red Norland, Irish Cobbler, and Yukon Gold.
- Mid-Season Potatoes – Potatoes that take between 95 to 110 days to reach maturity. More than 30 varieties fall in this category. Some include Russet Burbank, Catalina, French Fingerling, Ida Rose, and Yukon Gem.
- Late Season Potatoes – Potatoes that can be planted during the latter part of the growing season, specifically late summer into autumn. These potatoes mature in 120 to 135 days. Examples include Kennebec, Carola, Desiree, All Blue, and Canela Russet. Most fingerling types fall in this category, as well.
You can plant all three potato types (early season, mid-season, and late season) in the spring. Mid-season potatoes can be planted in mid-spring to early summer. Late-season potatoes can be planted in early summer to mid-summer.
If you’re looking to store potatoes over the winter, late-season potatoes are your best option since harvest falls close to winter.
The first and last frost date will also help you determine how late you can plant your potatoes. For the initiated, a frost date is a date when temperatures fall to 32°F (0°C) or lower, which is cold enough to damage or outright kill crops.
Last frost dates depend on where you live. If you live in Zone 1, the last frost date falls between May 22 and June 4. If you live in Zone 2, it’s between May 15 and May 22. And so on.
Potatoes should be planted at least two weeks after the last frost date.
If you’re looking to harvest new potatoes, baby potatoes with thin skins, you can plant them later in the season because you can harvest them two to three weeks after the crop stops flowering.
If you want large, full-sized potatoes with thick skins, you need to plant them early in the season because they’ll be ready for harvest two to three weeks after the flower dies.
Planting them late in the season gives them less time to grow, so plan the planting time based on your desired harvest.
Can you Plant Potatoes Twice a Year?
Yes, you can plant potatoes twice a year. In fact, in some regions, you can plant potatoes up to three times a year: one in early spring, another in mid-spring, and the last in summer.
When planting potatoes in different seasons, make sure they’re not planted less than 9 inches (22 cm) close to another plant.
If you plant them close together, the potatoes won’t have enough room to grow. It’ll inhibit their production and produce a minimal amount of potatoes.
Can you Grow Potatoes All Year Round?
Potatoes can be grown outside year-round in warm climates such as South America. In colder climates, it’s best to plant them in spring and harvest them in autumn.
In areas with early winters, potatoes can be planted in containers indoors or outdoors under a cover. Potatoes like fertile, well-drained soil and lots of sunlight, so make sure to plant them in these conditions for year-round planting.
For indoor planting, ensure the container is at least 2.5 gallons deep (10 liters), so the potatoes have enough space to mature. Standard garbage cans can hold around four potatoes at a time.
Can I Plant Potatoes in February?
In colder climates, it is not advised to plant potatoes in February. February is actually the recommended time to start chitting potatoes.
Chitting is a process of sprouting seed potatoes before they’re planted. Doing so reduces the time you’ll have to wait before the potatoes are fully grown.
Ideally, seed potatoes must be chitted roughly six weeks before they’re planted. For many, this means chitting in February, so they’re ready to plant in spring.
Though you can plant potatoes year-round, the best time to plant potatoes is in early spring, between mid-March to mid-April.
They can also be planted as late as mid-summer, from late June to early August, depending on the potato type, your area’s frost dates, and your desired harvest.
If you want your potatoes to fully mature and develop thick skins, make sure to plant them early in the year. If you want to harvest them while they’re small, you can plant them as late in the planting season as you want.