Potato Planting...Possible in Cali?

mtam0707September 30, 2010

I will admit to being a Newbie when it comes to gardening. I try to do things correctly, but am becoming increasingly frustrated that so many things seem to fly over my head with gardening, but most frustrated at potato planting.

I have tried three times, unsuccessfully to plant potatoes. All times were in the potato bags (bought from GardenerSupply), which could be my problem, but I don't have much space for in-ground planting.

I have tried three seperate potato farms (some as far away as Maine) & all potatoes have rotted, or just not produced much of anything. I read to try to incorporate a fertilizer called SulPoMag since it has no nitrogen & potatoes don't need much nitrogen at all. During my most recent potato attempt, I incorporated SulPoMag to the soil I was using & on my last attempt received Yukon & Red seed potatoes. The yukons failed to produce eyes & actually molded (in one week of storage) while I was trying to have an eye pop out. My reds produced eyes so I cut like the potato farm instructions said, scabbed the potato (let the skin harden one day) & planted eye side up in fertilized soil. I watered enough to keep the soil moist, but to not drown the potatoes. I waited and waited but eight weeks passed & I never saw a plant. One day I decided to see what was going on, pulled some soil back & the potatoes were stinky, rotted & moldy. I ended up tossing out the bag.

Earlier this year, in spring, I had planted Yukons in two seperate bags & actually had great plant growth & was very excited to harvest. When the plant died back some, I followed other poster's instructions here and stopped watering. A week later, I harvested dime-sized potatoes & ended up tossing everything. Complete waste. Of course that time I had not used SulPoMag (didn't use any fertilizer) so that could have been the mistake.

Another poster here told me to try planting more in October, but I'm debating on spending the money for more seed potatoes. Basically I want to know if anyone else in Southern California has had any luck growing potatoes & if so, how'd you do it? Was there a specific potato farm you bought from, a specific time of year you plant, or certain fertlizers used? Are potato bags useless & should they be grown in ground only? If so, I will try to find space just to see if I can do this or not.

Any advice is so greatly appreciated. I feel like I know nothing when it comes to gardening but I am just stubborn enough to not give up till I have tried every which way suggested. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge!

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First, potatoes do need some nitrogen if you want to have good-size tubers. Good fertility is also a drought-hedge, don't forget.

Potatoes produce well in loam or sandy soil that has been amended with a good amount of OM. What they don't produce well in is a bag full of something fluffy. Try some real soil. Fall-planted potatoes are mostly done in the deep south. Florida mostly, even there spring-planted is better except in south florida where there is a fall-planted industry.

So I would suggest wait til spring and plant in the ground (the bags take up space so use that space), meanwhile amend the soil, grow a cover crop, plant your seed tubers before the ground gets overly warm. 55-65 degrees ground temp is good. Your rotting problem is likely a result of the fluffy bag soil was much too warm. I make a trench about six inches deep, set in the tuber and cover with about two inches of soil. as the vines come up cover with soil just leaving the top leaves at six inches high, twelve inches and eighteen inches. That is called 'hilling up'.

You'll have much better results, I bet, even though admittedly I don't have any experience with socal climate.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:47PM
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May I suggest that you post your message on the Vegetable Forum? I saw two threads about potatoes.

I've had little success with growing potatoes in bags. Not sure why. Have pretty good luck growing them in plastic 30 gal. containers ... gophers can't get to them. Mine are grown in filtered shade under an avocado tree. I bought my seed tates from Lowes. I've actually had better harvests with sweet potatoes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vegetable forum

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:55PM
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Thank you for the suggestions. I will wait till Spring & will make room in-ground. Now if only Spring would come. ;)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 2:23PM
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You may want to spend some timne with this treatis on growing potatoes prganically from UCDavis.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing potatoes organically

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 6:26AM
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Good little essay. Note that he mentions potatoes can use lots of nitrogen. If your soil has not been amended you will want to pile on the compost. Rotted leaves work well for potatoes.

I forgot to tell you an important thing which he mentions: don't cut the seed, since you are having the rotting problem.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 7:46AM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

I have been growing potatoes in southern California for a couple of years. Planting now and harvesting in the spring works pretty well for us.

I have them in two boxy raised beds now (one of them is 2 feet by 4 feet, the other one is about 3 feet by 5 feet), but I have put them in the ground before. My soil is very rich and I can't take the nitrogen out, but this did not seem to matter, they did very well. The so called winter we have here does not seem to disturb them at all. I have planted them in the spring but not as successfully, they do not seem to like heat much. What I do is to use the same raised bed for sweet potatoes in the spring, harvest them, then plant the Irish type potatoes and cycle back. We have been using our own seed for both.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 6:41PM
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I found this thread and wondered if the original poster ended up having luck planting in the ground or a raised bed, versus the failed bag method. I'm going to try a fall planting and am not sure which way I will plant yet.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 10:55AM
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kathyp(z9 CA)

I have had very good luck growing potatoes in a "spoiled" straw bale... I have done this for years, and I always have a great harvest. Once the crop is harvested, I use the remnants as mulch for other vegetables. the past two years, I have used straw for the walls of my compost "bin", and have planted the potatoes in those bales. With the moisture from the compost, as well as the nutrients, the potatoes are amazing!


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 1:49AM
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    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 9:52PM
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