Potatoes are the number one non-grain crop cultivated throughout the world and it is one of Arkansas’s most important crops too.
They come in all different from white to red, purple, and even blue.
They can be enjoyed as mashed potatoes, roasted, boiled, or baked, or the universally loved french fries!
What is the Best Time to Plant Potatoes in Arkansas?
Like most crops, potatoes are also sensitive to frost.
Weather below 50 Fahrenheit can destroy the potato plant.
When preparing to plant the tubers, it is best to wait until the last frost has passed and the weather has gotten warmer.
A good way to gauge if the time is right is to wait and see if there is no frost for at least two weeks.
If there is no cold gust, it is usually safe to plant potatoes.
In Arkansas, anywhere from late February or mid-March is appropriate for potato planting.
Sometimes the last frost may hit a lot later than expected-usually after a warm spell.
In that case, bring your potatoes indoors if they have been planted in pots.
Otherwise, cover them in burlap (and send a brief prayer) if they have been planted in the ground.
Usually, this is enough to help them survive.
The alternative, planting potatoes too late can have disastrous results.
Your potatoes can end up too small or sometimes, not grow at all.
The best tip for you is to check the weather app religiously.
How late can you plant a potato?
Potatoes are susceptible to freezing and also boiling weather.
So it is best to plant them from mid-March till late April depending on the weather in your region.
Potatoes can be planted earlier in areas with milder temperatures as compared to colder regions where it is best to wait until the weather has warmed up.
How to plant potatoes?
Growing potatoes is easy and highly rewarding.
As long as you follow the directions you should have some potatoes in your garden by summer.
Potatoes are grown by sowing seed tuber instead of seeds.
These are small tubers grown under optimal standards to make them disease resistant and ensure that quality tubers are the result.
You could use leftover tubers from your last crop or one from the grocery store, but their results can be highly unpredictable and often prone to viruses and disease.
If the seed tubers are an inch or two, you can plant them in the soil directly, but if they are bigger, they might require being cut into smaller pieces.
Plant the seed tubers 4-6 inches deep into well-drained and loose soil.
Excess moisture is the leading cause of rot.
When planting multiple potatoes, plant them between 10 and 12 inches apart.
Space your rows 2 to 3 feet apart.
Once the plant has sprouted through the surface and is about 6 inches tall, start packing some loose soil to the sides of the plant and eventually over the plant forming small “hills”.
This practice of forming small ridges over the plants is called “hilling”.
This prevents the tubers from growing out of the surface of the soil.
If they remain covered, they do not dry out and are far less likely to become green.
Do not consume any potatoes with greening as it is a visual indicator of the presence of certain toxins in the potatoes that make it inedible.
How long does it take for potatoes to grow after planting?
You’ll know the potatoes are ready for harvest when the leaves of the potato plant turn yellow and wilted.
Depending on the variety, potatoes are fully grown in about 70 to 130 days after being planted.
If you wish to harvest some new potatoes, which are smaller and ready when the plant blooms, follow these steps.
Lightly dig through the soil, quickly remove the potatoes and cover the remaining potatoes with soil and they will continue to grow.
How to harvest potatoes?
Harvesting garden potatoes is a pretty simple job.
You can remove all the potatoes by hand or use a simple tool such as a spading fork.
Start from the edge of your garden so that you don’t damage the surrounding potatoes.
Gently loosen the soil around the potatoes and remove the potatoes.
Be careful at this stage since their skins are very delicate.
Dry off your potatoes for about thirty minutes before storing them in bins or boxes.
If some of your potatoes are bruised or nicked, cook them first since these potatoes are more likely to rot faster.
How long can garden potatoes be stored?
Store your potatoes in a cool, dark place and try to collect them in a storage bin to minimize the time it is handled since that increases the chances of rot.
If stored in optimum conditions, potatoes can be stored for one to three months.