When Can Potatoes Be Planted? By Tracy S. Morris, eHow Contributor updated: February 16, 2011
The United States ranks behind Europe and Asia in potato production. Despite this, every year each American eats an average of 125 pounds of potatoes. This makes the U.S. second only to Europe in potato consumption. Potatoes, like corn, are native to the Western Hemisphere. The plant is a cool season crop that grows through the winter in the South and in early spring in Northern gardens.
- The U.S. is divided into Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones. These range from Zone 1 in Alaska to Zone 11 in the Florida Keys and parts of Hawaii. Potato planting times vary among climate zones based on the ambient temperature. The higher up the temperate zone scale, the warmer the ambient yearly temperatures and the sooner potatoes can be planted. The determining factors for USDA hardiness zones is typically the lowest average yearly temperatures the zone experiences.
- In the South the zones range from 6 thorough 11. It is often possible to grow two yearly crops of potatoes in these zones. One crop is typically planted in late summer and harvested in early winter. The other crop is planted mid-winter and harvested in late spring. For example, in Zone 9 Texas near the Rio Grande Valley, Potatoes may be planted in late December. In the Winter Garden area which is in Zone 8, planting begins in mid-January. In the Texas Rolling Plains area, which crosses Zones 7 and 8, planting begins in mid-February and continues through mid-March, while in the Southern High Plains area, planting begins in late February. The last areas to plant potatoes in Texas are in Zone 6 in the panhandle. This region plants potatoes in early April.
- In areas like Florida, irrigation also plays a factor in when to grow potatoes. Florida has a dry season in winter and spring and a rainy season in summer and fall. Most potatoes are grown in winter and spring in Florida to prevent root rot from too much moisture in the soil. Florida growers do not grow russet potatoes because Florida's growing season is so short. Instead Florida growers choose white- and red-skinned potatoes, which produce well in Florida's winter and spring growing seasons.
- Potato production in the Northern and Midwestern states such as Iowa and Idaho follows the same planting cycles based on temperate zones. In Iowa this falls within Zones 4 and 5. In this state, potatoes are planted in late March or early April in the southern portion of the state, early to mid April in Central Iowa and mid to late April in the northern portions of the state. Idaho, a state known for its potato crops, plants between mid-April and mid-May.