Fall Potato Planting

by National Gardening Association Editors

In the spring, there's usually plenty of certified seed available, but in the South good seed potatoes may not be available for fall planting. Your best bet in this case is to provide your own, even though there's some risk of planting diseased potatoes.

Saving the Crop

The idea is to save a few potatoes from the harvest of your earliest crop and use them as seed potatoes for your fall planting. But it's not quite as easy as it sounds. You must do it carefully!

Immediately after harvest, potatoes go dormant. They won't sprout or produce plants when they're resting. If you plant seed potatoes from your own spring crop and they're still in this rest period, you won't have much of a fall crop.

The Resting Phase

There are two ways to avoid this resting phase:

* Plant part of your spring crop as early as you can -- as much as one to six weeks before the last frost -- to give the crop plenty of time to mature. Mature potatoes have shorter dormant periods than immature ones.

* Store the seed potatoes at a high temperature (around 75&deg F) for three or four weeks before planting. For many varieties, this brings them out of dormancy.

Fall planting in the South is usually done in hot weather. To reduce the losses from seed pieces rotting in the ground, plant the smallest of the mature seed potatoes you've saved. It's not advisable to cut your large seed potatoes in this situation; cut seed stock loses more of its energy in hot weather.



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