Gardening · Homesteading

Gardening Experiments: September Planted Potatoes

If you are going to garden, be open to experiments. The worst is it fails, and if you do low cost items, your gamble isn’t big. And the bright side is…chances it will work, or at least you learn from it.

We live in Grow Zone 8b. We tend to have wet winters/early spring, but don’t have deep freezes that often, and snow is rare. We live within a mile of the Salish Sea and sit around 150 feet above sea level.

Potatoes start waking up when the soil hits 40°, but peter out at 75° and stop at above 85° with all growing. So yes, potatoes do well in our climate here in zone 8b.

Typically for spring potatoes you can plant from January to February, so they wake up and grow for a late Spring harvest.

For fall potatoes in 8a and 8b, typically around the first of August plant potatoes from the summer harvest, to grow for late fall harvest. I dig through the harvested and stored potatoes, and pull any that are soft, green or have started sprouting. These I use for seed. I don’t cut them up, just toss in and cover deeply with soil. And walk away. Just keep well watered of course, in the last hot month and into mid September. I will harvest these around November most likely.

(Photo taken on August 16th)

But then I got working on a winter crop – that will be harvested most likely come as spring warms up.

Now that we are solidly a week into September, I planted a 40 foot row of various potatoes I had saved (once you pick out the ugly ones, you can toss them into a sack and let sit…them getting uglier isn’t going to affect their growing at all). I then covered it thickly with straw, to protect it for the long haul. Potatoes take a long time, up to 120 days to grow, when the temperatures are right. So in theory once we pass the Winter Solstice in late December, and the sun starts returning, as we enter February, the plants will start their growth above ground. The potatoes planted to seed, will have developed roots over the long winter and have a jump on growing. In early spring I will remove the straw and cover with fresh compost to hill up the plants a bit, for a heftier haul.

If you decide to try this method, dig a trench deep in your rows, sprinkle on the potatoes you are using (and don’t cut them, use whole to avoid rotting), then cover with soil, then straw. And walk away. Unless your early fall is dry, then water as needed. It’ll also wet down the hay, so it won’t blow off.

And how will it turn out? See you in March….of 2022!

These potatoes were from an experiment. I picked up a packet of Clancy Potatoes from Botanical Interests at a local store last winter. These were actual seed, from the flowers. The seeds grew well, then I transferred them to the ground. The plants were delicate, but flowered well.

In late August I dug up the potatoes, and was pleasantly surprised that they grew well. We shall enjoy them with dinners. I have reserved back seed potatoes I will replant to see if I grow them deeper, if the plants are more robust.