Planting potatoes in one of the Southern states depends on the hardiness zone. There are four zones -- seven, eight, nine and 10 -- in the Southern region of the United States, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and West Virginia. Each zone is -12.2 degrees C warmer than the one above it. The best time to plant potatoes is in the spring and fall, so timing is of the essence. For example, North Carolina spring planting is in March, whereas Georgia spring planting is February.
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Things you need
- Potato seedlings
- Gardening gloves
- Soil-test kit
- Straw or pine needles (option)
Buy potato seedlings from a reputable seed store. Potatoes bought at the grocery store are treated with chemicals to avoid sprouting. Twelve lbs. of seed will do 100 feet of row. This will yield approximately 90.7kg. of potatoes. Choose potato seeds with obvious eyes.
Prepare potato seeds by cutting them into 1- or 2-inch square pieces. The piece should have at least one eye. Place the pieces in a cool area and allow them to sit for about five days or until the cut ends are healed. Plant potatoes when the danger of frost is over. Wait until temperatures are higher than -2.22 degrees Celsius for two weeks. Mother Earth News provides a freeze date for all zones on its website. The air temperature is lower than the soil temperature. Use the freeze-zone map for your area.
Prepare the soil by raking the seed bed. The best soil is deep, sandy soil that will drain well. If the soil clumps together, it is too wet to plant. Set the garden in rows or hills spaced about 20 inches apart. The garden spot should be in an area that receives plenty of sun. Planting usually takes place in February or March for a spring harvest and in September for a fall harvest. Test the soil before planting and adjust the pH if necessary. Phosphorus is necessary, so have it ready and work it into the soil according to the soil-test results.
Plant potato seed tubers 3 to 5 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches apart. The Clemson University Cooperative Extension suggests drawing a ridge of soil over each row after planting.
Planting in a ridge garden is an alternative to the row method. Place potato seeds above ground in a bed of mulch and cover them with 18 inches of pine needles or straw. The ridge method is easier to harvest. Potatoes are harvested by pushing the pine or straw away from the vine. The vine is recovered for more yield at a later time. Areas in North and South Carolina contain clay soil that is hard to drain. Consider planting in a bed of mulch.
Tips and warnings
- Plant in the spring and the fall for a full year of potatoes.
- Test soil to determine the type of fertiliser needed.
- If soil is very lumpy, it is too moist; wait a few days before planting.
- Maintain soil pH at 5.8 to 6.5 before planting.
- Planting in direct sun all day can overheat the plants. Temperatures above 32.2 degrees Cor too long can kill a crop.
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