When it comes to growing potatoes in Tennessee, timing is everything. To ensure a successful harvest, it’s essential to understand the optimal planting windows for this versatile vegetable. In this guide, we’ll explore the best times to plant potatoes in Tennessee and provide useful tips for a bountiful potato crop.
Best Time to Plant Potatoes in Tennessee
Planting before the Last Frost
Potatoes can tolerate temperatures as low as 29 degrees Fahrenheit, making them a hardy choice for early spring planting. Ideally, you should sow your potato tubers two to four weeks before the last frost. This allows the plants to establish themselves before the weather warms up.
To ensure optimum root development, aim for temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In Tennessee, the final frost typically occurs in April, though some regions may experience their last freeze in March or May. Therefore, the best time to plant potatoes is during March 1 to April 15 in the spring.
Fall Planting for Mature Tubers
If you prefer a fall harvest, timing is crucial. Gardeners in Tennessee must consider the first frost date and the maturation period of their potato variety. Since temperatures in the lower twenties can damage potato plants, it’s essential to harvest them before the tubers rot.
Tennessee’s first frost usually falls between October 15 and November 15. To calculate the planting date, subtract your potato variety’s required days to maturity from the first frost date. For example, a variety that takes 100 days to mature should be planted no later than July 7 or August 7 at the latest.
To determine your specific hardiness region in Tennessee, refer to the USDA’s zone map. Athens is in zone 7a, while Somerville falls within zone 7b.
Tips for Successful Potato Planting in Tennessee
To ensure a successful potato harvest in Tennessee, follow these basic steps:
- Choose Disease-Free Seed Potatoes: Purchase seed potatoes from reputable sources rather than using grocery store varieties. Superior, Kennebec, Dark Red Norland, Peter Wilcox, and Yukon Gold are excellent options to consider.
- Chit the Potatoes: Place the tubers in egg cartons, eyes facing up, in a 70°F environment for two weeks. Avoid exposing them to light during this period.
- Transfer to a Windowsill: After two weeks, move the sprouted tubers to a windowsill with indirect light. Maintain a temperature of 50°F.
- Prepare the Seed Potatoes: Once the shoots reach an inch in length, cut the seed potatoes into smaller pieces. Each piece should have at least two eyes. Complete this step one week before planting to allow the cuts to dry and develop a leathery texture.
- Choose the Right Soil: Ensure the soil has a pH of 4.8 to 5.5 for scab resistance, good drainage to prevent rot, and receives at least six hours of full sun each day.
- Planting: Place the seed potatoes 3 to 5 inches deep in rows that are 30 inches apart. Leave 12 inches between each tuber, and provide one to two inches of water per week.
- Hill Up the Plants: Throughout the growing season, it’s recommended to hill up the potatoes by covering all parts of the plant with soil, except for the foliage. This prevents the potato flesh from turning bitter.
- Fertilization: Apply a balanced N-P-K formula at seeding time, and provide additional nitrogen two months later. Conduct a soil test for precise recommendations, as excessive nitrogen can hinder tuber development.
Growing potatoes in Tennessee is a rewarding endeavor for home gardeners. With the right knowledge and timing, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of this versatile vegetable. By understanding the optimal planting windows and following the recommended steps, you’ll be able to cultivate healthy potato plants and relish the taste of freshly grown tubers. For more information, visit the Ames Farm Center – your one-stop resource for all your gardening needs in Tennessee.