If you live in North-Central Florida, then late January through mid February is the time to plant your potatoes. Here are some tips to help you be successful whether you are planting in the ground, in containers, or trying a hydroponic approach such as perlite.
Prepping the Potatoes
If you purchase seed potatoes then you want to find the “eyes” on the potatoes. This is where there is a sprout or small bud. You can slice the potato into several pieces leaving a few eyes on each piece. Let those pieces sit for 1-2 days to harden over before planting. You can also use potatoes from the grocery store, although they may have been treated to prevent the eyes from forming. If you have kept them long enough in the pantry then they may start to grow and should work just fine for your garden.
Kinds of Potatoes
There are lots of different kinds of potatoes that can be grown in North Florida. I prefer the smaller potatoes such as ‘Peter Wilcox’, ‘Yukon Gold’, ‘Adirondack Blue’, ‘Red LaSoda’, and ‘Red Norland’. You can choose potatoes with white or golden flesh, blue or purple flesh, red, purple, or yellow skins. There is a wide variety and it is really up to you and the flavor you want from your potato.
Planting & Care
Potatoes tend to do well in containers. You can use soil or a soil-less mix like perlite. Fill the container that has drainage holes and leave 4-6″ at the top. Take your potatoes and with eye side up spread them evenly on top of the mix. Make sure there are several inches between each piece to give enough room to grow usually 6-8″. Now cover with 4″ of soil or perlite. It will take some time before your potatoes start to send shoots through the top, but don’t forget to provide consistent water until then.
Potatoes can be heavy feeders and need nutrients to grow. If you are growing in perlite then you need to make sure you are using a diluted mix of liquid nutrients with each watering. If you are using soil then you can either mix the liquid fertilizer or use a balanced granular fertilizer twice during the growing season. Once at planting and then again around early April.
If you want to plant in the ground, try digging a trench that is about 4″ deep and 6″ wide. Then you can place your potatoes in the trench in rows and place soil on top. As potatoes grow, you may have to mound more soil on top of the plants. If you see potatoes peeking through the soil surface, cover them with soil.
The biggest problem for growing potatoes in North Florida is the rain. If potatoes get too much water then they will rot and you are left with mushy taters.
Potato plants will begin to die around May. Let the plant die back and then cut the tops off. Let the potatoes sit in the ground for about two weeks. Then you can dig the potatoes. Dispose of the original seed potato and any green potatoes, as these can be toxic. You can then store your potatoes for several weeks