When most of us think of planting seed potatoes, we think spring. I know I do! But if you live in a warm winter zone, fall seed potato planting is for you. Areas that are prime for fall seed potato planting include parts of California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Seed potatoes will tolerate frost and freezing temperatures, but they will not grow in high heat, thus in areas that really heat up in the summer, it best to plant in fall and harvest before the sun is scorching hot.
Planting fall potatoes is pretty much the same as in the spring, except getting them to ‘chit’ or break dormancy can be a little tricky. Here’s my tips for planting potatoes!
Newly dug fall seed potatoes do not always sprout easily! They are dormant and must be treated to break dormancy. To induce sprouting, put potatoes with apples, bananas, or onions in a paper bag in a warm room (70°F.). Ethylene gas given off by the fruits will initiate sprouting. Make sure you pre-sprout them before planting so you are sure they are out of their dormancy and ready to grow. Don’t worry that you are losing growing time by pre-sprouting – you are actually speeding the whole process up and guaranteeing that you are planting only viable seed.
Another way to break dormancy is to put the tubers in a paper bag and refrigerate for 2-4 weeks, then place them spread out in a warm room with indirect light until they sprout. The paper bag is necessary to prevent the refrigerator from dehydrating the tubers.
A note about potato “seed”
Potato “seed” is whole or cut up potatoes that have been grown especially for growing crops of potatoes and are usually certified virus-free. Home garden potatoes are not commonly grown from seeds like tomatoes or lettuce. Supermarket potatoes do not make good garden seed as they are not certified virus-free, are commonly treated with sprout inhibitors and may produce small yields and inferior quality tubers. Fresh Garden Living offers certified organic, virus-free seed potatoes for both spring and fall shipping. Our spring varieties are much more extensive than the fall due to popularity.
Potatoes smaller than 2” can be planted whole (we call these “one drops”). Larger potatoes are cut into 1-2 oz. pieces, each containing 2+ eyes. Spread the pieces one layer deep out of direct sunlight for a few hours before planting so that the fresh cut develops a callus. Callusing is especially important if you are planting into cold, wet soil.