Potatoes are one of my favorite crops because of the great variety that exists. Recently, my cousin John, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is just getting into gardening, called me to ask what is the best time to plant potatoes in NC. That’s why I created this article for all the people who have questions about growing potatoes in NC. Continue reading to find out when to plant potatoes in NC.
When to Plant Potatoes in NC
The best time to plant potatoes in NC is between March and April when frost risks are less or absent. Potatoes are a crop that grows well in cold climates but does not tolerate frost very well. Ideally, for potato cultivation, the soil temperature should be above 50 °F (10 °C). The North Carolina hardiness zones range from zone 5b to 8b.
North Carolina has one of the most diverse climates of the southeastern states, due to its variety of elevations, ranging from sea level on the coast to 6500 ft (2000 meters) in the mountains. The climate of the coastal and central regions of North Carolina is similar to that of Georgia and South Carolina, while that of the western mountains is similar to that of New England. This results in a range of climates throughout the state, from a warm, humid subtropical climate along the coast to a humid continental climate in the mountains.
That is why it is very important to check the frost calendar to verify the right time to plant potatoes in NC. As I mentioned before, being a state with many climatic variations, frost dates will be different from one place to another. Below is a table of average frost dates for the year 2023 in different cities in North Carolina:
|City||Last Spring Frost||First Fall Frost||Growing Season|
As you can see in the table the dates of the last frost vary from city to city. For example, since my cousin lives in Charlotte, I suggested he start planting potatoes in April to avoid frost risks. You can also start early to plant potatoes in NC using grow bags, so you can protect them indoors or under a roof.
Planting Potatoes in NC
Planting potatoes in NC at the right time is essential for an excellent crop, but it is also very important to have the right soil. Adequate soil and irrigation will ensure quality, disease-free potatoes. Below are some tips on soil and irrigation for potatoes in North Carolina.
The vast majority of soils in North Carolina are suitable for growing potatoes. Potatoes grow at a pH between 5 and 6.5, before planting potatoes I recommend measuring the pH of the soil. For more information on how to measure pH, I recommend reading our article on how to measure soil pH.
Potato plants need soils rich in organic matter and with good drainage to avoid the appearance of potato diseases. Add organic matter or compost to improve soil quality before planting potatoes. The soil must have good drainage to avoid diseases such as root rot.
The soil of the potato plant should be kept moist but never waterlogged to avoid the appearance of certain diseases or pests. Add mulch to promote moisture retention and prevent the growth of weeds that deplete the potato plant of nutrients.
Furthermore, to enhance the efficiency of watering potato crops, you may choose to utilize a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. These methods of irrigation are low-cost and ensure proper watering of various kinds of plants.
What Potatoes Grow Best In North Carolina
Several varieties of potatoes grow very well in North Carolina soils. These are the best potato varieties for NC:
Kennebec: One of the advantages of the Kennebec potato variety is the particular disease resistance and great production you can yield. That is one of the reasons why this cultivar is well-liked by farmers in North Carolina.
Yukon Gold: This variety has a consistency buttery and creamy flavor, which makes it perfect for boiling or mashing potatoes. Also, Yukon Gold potatoes thrive in the climate of North Carolina.
Red Pontiac: Due to the red exterior this variety of potato is given the name of Red Pontiac. It is excellent for boiling, baking, or frying. Moreover, it is disease- and drought-resistant.
Fingerling: Fingerling potatoes are small, a little elongated, and have a great delicate flavor. The Fingerling potatoes are another recommended variety that will thrive in the warmer environment of North Carolina and are frequently utilized in fine dining.
Russet potatoes: Due to their high starch content, this species is frequently used for baking and frying. Although it may be cultivated in North Carolina, may require more care and attention than the other potato varieties previously mentioned.
Always use quality seed potatoes to ensure that they are disease free and have a high germination rate.
Tips for Growing Potatoes in NC
Here are some tips for growing potatoes in North Carolina:
Choose the right potato variety: As mentioned earlier, selecting the right variety of potatoes is essential. Choose a variety that is well-suited to North Carolina’s climate and soil conditions.
Plant at the right time: Potatoes should be planted in North Carolina in early spring, around mid-March to early April. This will give them plenty of time to grow and mature before the hot summer weather sets in.
Prepare the soil: Potatoes grow best in loose, well-draining soil. Prepare your soil by tilling it deeply and adding compost or aged manure to improve its texture and nutrient content.
Water regularly: Potatoes require consistent moisture to grow properly. Water them deeply once a week, or more often during hot, dry weather.
Keep an eye out for pests and diseases: Potatoes are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, such as potato beetles and late blight. Monitor your plants regularly and take action if you notice any signs of trouble.
Growing potatoes in NC is not difficult at all, you just have to keep in mind the frost dates to choose the right time to plant potatoes in North Carolina. In addition, using a potato variety suitable for NC will be the best thing you can do to ensure a successful crop.
I hope this article about when to plant potatoes in NC will be useful, and you will have an excellent harvest. For more information on harvesting potatoes, I recommend you to read our article about when are potatoes ready to harvest.