Fall-planted Potatoes in Zone 5

weedlady(Central OH 6)September 20, 2001

After many years of finding a few hardy, vigorous, and productive volunteer potato plants popping up in the beds from which I tried to dig all of the tubers the year before, I have decided that this year I am going to plant a small experimental bed late in the fall in hopes of some extra-early potatoes to go with my peas come spring. I'll put 'em a few inches into the soil and mulch heavily with chopped leaves.

Has anyone else tried this? I know I may have a problem with field mice or similar critters since I am in a rural area, but at least some of those other tubers have survived, sooo...I could go to the trouble of lining the bed with hardware cloth, but that is a bit too much work to my way of thinking, not to mention that that stuff's too pricey for the quantity necessary. Thoughts, anyone?

BTW, my potatoes last year and this were started from the (relatively) new potato seed, not sets or tubers, and they did very well, indeed. Several cultivars are available from Harris and Nichols, and MUCH cheaper than sets. Of course, they do take more time and effort since they are started indoors early, but I have a nice set-up with lights in the basement so it was worth it for me. CK

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That sounds like a good idea. I suspect that if they are protected from the freeze/thaw cycle they should do well. Let us know next spring if they come up.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2001 at 9:31AM
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In an inadvertent experiment, I once buried the remnants of a potato-stamp-art craft project in the garden, after Thanksgiving, and then forgot about it. Very early the next spring, I was baffled by the appearance of something that really looked awfully like potatoes...

This was in Zone 7, mind you, not Zone 5. But I expect it will work, though you might want to consider planting them a bit deeper than usual. Maybe a foot deep? How far down does your soil freeze solid?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2001 at 9:52AM
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blufloyd(5 cent. il.)

I planted potato seeds a couple years. tuber production started the following years.
potatoes have a weed like growth thing in my zone 5 100mi south of Soldier Field garden.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2001 at 6:15PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

"a weed like growth thing"--huh???

Regarding the question about how deep the soil freezes--I am not sure, seems to vary considerably depending, of course, on the severity of the winter. We have been in this area for 6 years; a few years ago I do not think it froze more than a couple of inches! But in any case, I planned to mulch fairly heavily, although bear in mind, the ground in which the volunteers grew had not been protected in any way, and potatoes do not grow too deeply, as a rule, and my spading fork should have lifted them higher, not buried them deeper. Also, my soil is very heavy clay; I fear planting them a foot deep would delay them a good deal, defeating my intent for early potatoes.

I have left root crops in-ground in the past and harvested them all winter. Heavily mulched with plastic bags of leaves, I could go out any time and pull back the bags to pull carrots, beets, parsnips, etc. (This only works with mulch that does not freeze to the ground. Straw bales, for example, become immovable, as does some loose mulch that has been rain-soaked and freezes solid.
Of course, Jerusalem artichokes inevitably return no matter how deeply or shallowly they have spent the winter!)

Thanks to responders for all of your input. More comments always welcome! CK

    Bookmark   September 24, 2001 at 6:56AM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

I received an inquiry today from someone asking how my fall planting experiment went. Well, I had to confess that in my usual disorganized fashion, I did not get around to planting a whole bed as I had wanted to last fall. I forget just why...Too bad, as it was another very mild winter--we had our coldest weather in very late winter to early spring.
But again this spring I had early volunteers from last year's bed that produced fairly well. The bed I planted this spring (using sets again, I had not remembered to send for the seeds) was devastated by voles/field mice. I just harvested an area 4' by about 25' a couple of days ago and got maybe 4 pounds of potatoes--very few unblemished, and lots of very gnawed little pieces. So I have decided that it would not make sense for me to plant a bed in the fall as I fear I only would be providing a winter food supply for the
meeces and things. Their population has increased a good deal since my cat,who was an expert hunter, died last summer. (My husband dislikes pets in general, and while he tolerated the cat, he will not allow a replacement.)
Hmm...I just had an idea, though. The volunteer potatoes came up in what was this year's onion bed and there was not much rodent evidence there. Maybe the onions put them off. So perhaps I WILL try it this fall. I'll put only a double row of taters down the middle of the bed, and plant my garlic to either side of them. (I know from past experience the critters won't touch garlic!) With any luck, all should be ready for harvest around the same time anyway!

Another solution would be to dig out the soil and line the bed with hardware cloth, but that stuff is too expensive, and just the thought of that much digging makes my poor old back ache. I am not that desperate for food--yet.
Anyway, if others do not have the rodent population I have, I'd suggest giving the fall planting a try. CK

    Bookmark   September 5, 2002 at 10:55AM
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Millie_36(Z6b MO)

An experiment that failed: We used to grow fall potatoes in SW Oklahoma by digging a trench, lining it with straw, and planting the potatoes. Got the bright idea that it would be a great way to fall plant in Missouri for Spring crop. Just made it too easy for rodents. Planted a 50 foot row and got, maybe, a gallon of spuds.

I would not hesitate to plant in the late fall using small whole potatoes, but no more straw around them. Have heard that you can fall or winter plant anywhere they come up volunteer.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2002 at 9:33AM
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Sharwa(z7a/6b TN)

Hi all, I love this idea as I also had a "volunteer" potato pop up in last years bed. It did fabulously and I got a couple pounds of potatoes from it DESPITE also having a wicked Vole problem as well. (I have concluded that this last year has been the "Year of the Rat")My "planted" bed failed miserably.
This year we have 3 cats, so maybe that will help. The garden has been over run with both Voles and Tree rats!! with a few mice thrown in for spice. LOL!! I wondered why I was finding J. Artichokes popping up in the strangest of places. LOL!
Now the project will be to find some untreated potatoes to use for the experiment. Possibly the Farmer's Market for local grown - they don't treat them.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2002 at 10:05AM
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I have always bought a 50 lb. bag of potatoes in the fall or winter from the grocery store. When Spring came, they began to sprout, and I planted them either cut up or whole. They grew potatoes. I have heard that they are treated also, but evidently it isn't true--at least not always. A friend of mine just went to the grocery store and asked them for their old sprouting potatoes and got them for free. He dug a ditch and put them in whole and close together. He had big potatoes and lots of them. I had planned to use the smaller potatoes that I grew this year or whatever was left over to plant next year, but I won't be here. From now on I'm gardening under lights if I can find out how. We always have potatoes left in the garden. My son-in-law has his garden ploughed, but I didn't plan to do that. If his potatoes weren't plowed under they were edible. It was the old potatoes from the year before, so they could be of good size. If the potatoes come up from last year and aren't cut up and buried by the tractor, I don't see why they wouldn't grow an early crop of potatoes.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2002 at 6:21PM
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Nelz(z5b/6 NW PA)

Most, but not all, potatoes on your grocer's shelf are treated to prevent budding. Actually, it doesn't prevent budding, it just delays it.

On our shelves I've seen potatoes there for a week or so that get soft and never produce an eye. I've also seen potatoes that develop eyes within 4 or 5 days of delivery from the warehouse.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2002 at 1:57AM
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I guess I have always been lucky enough to get potatoes that weren't treated. The potatoes that I bought at the store last fall, I ate all winter. This spring I planted them, and today I am digging them. I have heard that if you dip the potatoes in scalding water when you get them and then dry and store them they won't sprout. I have never seen a potato that wouldn't sprout. My son-in-law bought red seed potatoes at the farm store, and he gave me some. Both the seed potatoes and the food potatoes did the same thing. I have a question. Would it be alright to save any sunburned potatoes until spring and plant them, since one is not supposed to eat them.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2002 at 12:59PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

As far as I have experienced, planting the green potatoes is no problem. CK

    Bookmark   September 20, 2002 at 7:02AM
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I have discovered an exception to my potato sprouting experience. I just got out some old potatoes that I bought from the store before mine came in. Some of them we rotting, but not sprouting. One looked like it had tiny sprouts in the eyes. I wonder if potatoes only sprout in the spring. The potatoes that I planted this spring already had 3-6 inch sprouts on them. I am also wondering if one can plant the marble-sized potatoes. I was thinking perhaps I could start them in a pot. I'm thinking that there wouldn't be enough food on one to support the plant until it began to grow roots. I'll bet the rotting potatoes would sprout in the ground if it was spring.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2002 at 7:27PM
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arlenem(z8 WA)

Ladybug - I (zone 8) have planted marble-sized potatoes but the resulting plants have been small and grew more slowly than ones resulting from larger chunks of potato. It is not much of a problem as I have a fairly long growing season but it is a little annoying and I have stopped using them.

Arlene M.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2002 at 12:29PM
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This an interesting idea! I'm a newbie to gardening (this is the first time in almost a decade that I have a yard.) I planted summer squash, peas, beans, tomatos, lettuce, some herbs, a few flowers, all from seed (I'm always broke. Seeds were cheap! LOL) Anyways, I wanted garlic too and so I planted the individual cloves from some I got from the local grocery store in early spring. Later, I found out they should be planted around the same time you plant tulips, etc. (Live and learn.) Anyways, They still grew, just a bit smaller than the stuff from the store but MUCH tastier. Long story short, I ordered some 6 different varieties from a galic grower and I wonder if I could try planting the potatoes around the same time this fall and near each other? Then if it worked, then maybe I could dig up the garlic and potatoes at the same time. Hmmmmm.... Would the garlic affect the flavor of the potatoes though? Way too new at this!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 6:50AM
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pattypan(z6b CT)

garlic mashed potatoes- yum !!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 12:21PM
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Just curious, when in the fall did you plant them and when in the spring do you harvest them? I thought they would use the tubers up in the spring for energy for new growth?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 8:57PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

Boy, the start of this thread is an ancient post, resurrected from ten years ago!
To answer the latest question: Well, yes--the overwintering tubers are not what I harvested but were essentially my seed potatoes providing the energy for the new growth. I harvested the resulting new potatoes as usual in late summer.

I will post a couple of photos later this morning on Flickr to show what last spring's bed of overwintering volunteers looked like, first when they were by themselves and a bit later after I had planted corn in that bed.
Planting corn there was my intention all along--but I had not anticipated the potatoes. I thought I had been really diligent the previous fall in getting every last potato out of there! So much for good intentions...and I had not the heart to pull as weeds those perfectly healthy young potato plants, so there they stayed. To my amazement, I got some very decent corn (at least from the stalks that were not overwhelmed by the potato foliage) and the potatoes did better than my planned bed of spuds I had planted on St. Patrick's Day!

Check back for my links to the Flicker photos. CK

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:24AM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

I have posted my photos on Flickr and left t hem public but I am not a regular user of that site & not very clever at figuring stuff out so I do not know how to link anyone to it who'd like to see the photos. Can anyone tell me simply how I do that? Sorry for being so thick. I have to go make dinner and cannot play with the site any more right now!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 6:32PM
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Local paper (Akron) had an article about a man who just mulched his potato bed heavily with leaves and harvested all winter. Didn't mention anything about volunteers or critters, but a thick mulch will prevent soil freezing as will a heavy snow cover.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 9:33PM
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Last fall I ran out of time dealing with the garden and couldn't dig my potatoes in time. After the top two inches of soil (and potatoes) froze solid I grabbed a 20 by 30 insulating blanket used for concrete and dragged it over the bed. Good snow cover kept it there all winter and our lows this last year were in the minus 20's.
About a month ago I pulled the blanket off and I'll be danged if the spuds under the frozen ones aren't some of the tastiest! Colorado Rose is the variety.
I wouldn't do this every year but it certainly worked for me this time.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 10:33PM
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Weedlady, when the potato volunteers come up in the spring, I often dig them and place them in a row or in a site that will be convenient for early digging. In my locale, I learned fast that the voles LOVE raised beds for regular or sweet potatoes, so these are now raised 'unbedded.'

When I lived in southern MI, I planted early red potatoes intentionally one fall and had a wonderful early crop. The soil was a beautiful sandy loam, and I planted those potatoes 8" deep. No mulch was used,and the winter snow was deep.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 10:36PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

Actually, I did transplant some volunteers this late spring with about 6-8 potatoes, moving them to an area that had been my holding area for fall leaves the last few years, so it was nice and leaf-mouldy. They quickly sent up srtong shoots--but then within a few weeks, critters have dug up & eaten those potatoes.
Those growing in the 4' x 8' raised bed are doing fine.

However, raccoons the last 2 nights have saved me the trouble of harvesting the corn. Also, I am finding some chipmunk tunnels in a couple of the beds, some of which are lined with hardware cloth (the beds, not the tunnels!! LOL), which of course will not deter climbers like 'munks, and one tunnel not lined.

I need cats...

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 5:51PM
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