Planting Potatoes: How To Plant Potatoes In The Fall

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It’s been a busy week here on the homestead we are making the most of the warm fall weather to start planting next year’s potatoes. There are many benefits to planting potatoes in the fall.

How to plant potatoes in the fall. Tips for fall planting potatoes for a great summer harvest. #gardening #plantingpotatoes

Years ago we were talking to an “old time” farmer and he told us that when he was a boy they always planted potatoes, garlic, and onions in the fall. That really got us thinking about how we organized our planting and growing of potatoes.

Potatoes are a very hardy plant. Every year we have volunteer potato plants coming up in the garden and they grow and produce just fine. So why do we work so hard to try and plant them in the spring when we are busy with other garden jobs?

Benefits Of Planting Potatoes In The Fall

1. Potatoes Get A Head Start

Potatoes planted in the fall get a head start on the growing season. They will stay dormant in the soil over the winter. In the spring when the soil warms up they will start to grow.

Before you see the potato plants sprouting through the soil they are busy growing roots. By planting the potato tubers in the fall they will start to grow roots as soon as the soil is the right temperature. This gives them at least a 2 week head start over spring planted potatoes.

2. Planting Isn’t Held Up By Weather

In our zone 5b growing area the spring weather is unpredictable. Many times our planting has been held up by heavy rain or, yes even snowstorms in April and May.

If you’re not using a deep mulch system in your garden a heavy rain can keep you from being able to plant for a week or more until the soil dries out enough to work.

Even if you do use a deep mulch system like Back to Eden or Ruth Strout’s methods the weather needs to clear up so you can work in the garden.

By planting potatoes in the fall you don’t need to worry about working the soil for planting in the spring. The spring rains will help to get your potatoes off to a good start instead of slowing down planting.

3. Earlier Potato Harvests

Potatoes planted in the fall start to get off to a better start and grow faster than spring planted potatoes. This means you will normally have an earlier harvest also.

After your first crop of potatoes is harvested you can plant another crop of early maturing potatoes and have 2 harvests of potatoes in one season.

4. No Plagues Of Bugs While Planting

Ok, I know you’re laughing, but I’m serious! When it’s time to plant potatoes in the spring here, it’s the same time swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes are coming out.

I for one don’t like being used as a blood bank while I’m trying to work outside. Planting potatoes in the fall is so much nicer, no bugs!

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How To Plant Potatoes In The Fall

When planting potatoes in the fall one of the first jobs you’ll need to do is get your seed potatoes. Now in the early spring, these can be easily found in garden centres but it’s not likely you’re going to find them for sale in the fall in the north. This means you will need to save your own seed from a previous harvest.

Seed Potatoes

When you plant potatoes in the spring you often cut the tubers into smaller pieces to make the seed potatoes go further. However, when fall planting it’s best to plant the whole potato.

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Potatoes that have been cut into smaller sections for planting have a much higher chance of rotting over the winter. Where as whole potatoes will safely stay dormant until the warm weather arrives.

When selecting seed potatoes chose ones that are firm and show no signs of rot, blight, scab or other diseases. The seed potatoes should be the size of a chicken egg or golf ball or larger.

This is where some personal preference comes in. When planting potatoes the larger the seed tuber is the more energy the plant will have to start growing with. However, many people prefer to keep the large and medium sized potatoes for eating instead of planting.

It’s perfectly fine to save the small egg sized potatoes to plant your next crop with. I’ve done this and they have always grown just fine. But I do find that using larger potatoes does get the plants off to a better start and yields a little more.

The next step is to prepare your planting area. We do a deep mulch, no till gardening. So the process is very simple for us. We make our planting rows using our homemade row maker but you can also use a string line.

The planting rows are deep enough that the mulch is pulled to the side and the bare soil is exposed.

Fall Planting Seed Potatoes

Next place the seed potatoes into the planting furrows leaving 6 to 8 inches between the tubers.

Planting potatoes fall, covering seed potatoes with manure.

Once the potatoes are planted we cover them with 1 to 2 inches of rabbit manure mixed with composted wood chips. This will help to provide fertilizer to the plants as it’s washed into the soil over the winter.

Mulching Potatoes

Finally we top the planting furrows up with another 4 inches of wood chip mulch. This provides enough protection from frost and cold over the winter.

Fall Planted Potato Patch

So why not save a little time in the busy spring season and plant your potatoes this fall?  They will be off to a great start next spring and you won’t have to worry about getting the potatoes planted early in the spring.

Planting Potatoes. How to plant potatoes in the fall. Save time and get a better harvest of potatoes next summer. #gardening #growingpotatoes

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  • Sharon Goodrick says:

    Hi. I live on Edmonton Alta. Would the potatoes still be good after -40. Or is our winters too cold to plant in the fall ?

    • Kim says:

      I’d try to plant them a bit deeper and mulch them really well than they should be ok. Maybe try a small test patch first to see if it works well in your area.

  • Stephanie says:

    Thank you for the informative post! I have potatoes from my harvest this summer that have started chitting and greensprouting. Have you tried fall planting with sprouted potatoes? I am curious if the sprouts make them more vulnerable to a freeze. I am in zone 7b in NC.

  • Mea says:

    Great read. How would you suggest planting in a container. How often to water before first frost? Thanks.

    • Kim says:

      I don’t water any potatoes that are planted in the fall other than the rain that comes. That’s because I’m in a northern zone 5 garden area and I don’t want my potatoes to start growing until spring.

      If you are in a southern area and want them to start growing now, then I’d water once a week.

      Potatoes grow really well in containers, my only worry about planting them that way in the fall is that they could freeze over the winter because they aren’t protected by being under the ground. So if you try it make sure to use a large container, a 5 gallon or a half barrel should work ok. You could also place the containers in a garage and then put them outside in the spring.

  • Holly Whiteside says:

    This is a great idea. I want to try it. But when is it best to plant? …like in weeks before frost?

    • Kim says:

      You can plant them right up until the ground freezes. I like to do it late in the season because I don’t want them to start growing if we have a warm fall. I want them to be dormant until spring.

  • sharon bodenschatz says:

    enjoyed the article . think I will try pla nting potatoes this fall.

  • Elaine says:

    Love this post on growing potatoes, will have to try it. We live in Northern New York & this would be perfect for planting our poratoes. Thanks

  • Cathy says:

    Hi Kim……what a great idea! I have several “voluntary” potato plants in my garden this summer. They must be from the ones that I missed when digging last fall. I always thought of potatoes as being more tender as the tops are so susceptible to frost. But, now that you mention it……these little potato plants coming up in among my onions and carrots are living proof! So, it only makes sense that they survived the winter…..Thanks for the great post!

    • Kim says:

      Thanks Cathy! Your right the leaves of the potatoes can be hurt by frost but normally the potatoes won’t sprout until the soil is warm enough and that’s after the last frost date in the spring.

      One year we had a very late frost and our spring planted potatoes were hit. They did regrow from the tubers again though and we still had a good harvest.

  • I want to do this, but I have no potatoes left from a crop this year. It’s my first year of gardening. Maybe I can find someone with potatoes from their garden to start. Great idea, thanks.

    • Kim says:

      Evelyn, if you can’t find seed potatoes available check out some local farmers markets. If you can find someone selling organic potatoes they should work just fine!

  • Michelle says:

    Love this! I had never thought about planting potatoes in the fall, but I’ve been thinking more and more of winter planting (which takes some planning in Manitoba). Planting 40 hills of potatoes gets tiresome all at once, so splitting it up is so smart! Plus, no more store-bought potatoes in the spring/early summer to get us to the next crop!

    • Kim says:

      Yes, it really does save a lot of time in the spring! We always have a lot of volunteer potatoes coming up and they always start growing and are ready to harvest before ones we would plant in the spring.

  • Trina says:

    That’s a great idea. I’ll try it this fall. Thanks for the tip.

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