Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are members of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. These annual root vegetable or biennial plants are one of the easiest to grow in Pennsylvania. They grow best in moist, well-drained soils and need to be planted as early as possible to give them an excellent chance to produce healthy crops of tubers before the sun overwhelms the plants. Let’s look at when to plant potatoes in Pennsylvania. We’ll also give you details about how to plant and care for your crop.
When to plant potatoes in Pennsylvania: Planting Time
Potatoes thrive in the summer heat and it is thus best to plant them in the soil early enough to give them a good start on the season. The key to producing good quality tubers is planting approximately two weeks before the last frost in spring. Although the dates will vary depending on your state, the average last frost date is usually April 14 in Philadelphia.
Soil and Site Considerations
Potatoes are heavy feeders and require rich, loose soil that can hold the water and nutrients they need. The soil should be well-drained to produce healthy, disease-free crops. Sandy soil is the best because it offers sufficient moisture without causing root rot that results from poor soil drainage.
Potato tubers are sensitive to excessive heat and cold temperatures and should be well protected. A site with a fair amount of sun is the most preferred as it will help the potato plants grow strong and produce good tubers. The ideal locations for potatoes should receive about six and eight hours of sunshine per day.
The deeper the trenches, the more likely the potatoes will grow strong roots and yield larger and more tubers. Your plant may yield less tubers if there’s not enough space available and especially if you grow them in a container.
The potato thrives when planted at a depth of 4 to 6 inches, and the trenches should be about a foot apart. The soil should be prepared with compost prior to planting.
Planting Potato seeds
Potato plants can be grown from “seed” tubers you have saved from previous years or purchased from a seed store. The seed tubers are planted in the soil and begin to sprout in about two to three weeks.
Sow the seeds about 4 to 6 inches apart in a trench about a foot deep. Cover the seeds with 4 inches of soil and keep them moist until they germinate.
Watering and Fertilizing
Potatoes are heavy feeders and will require adequate water and fertilizer during their growth. Water the plants daily in the first few weeks of planting, then every other day after that. Fertilize with compost manure to encourage healthy growth.
Pests and Diseases
Potato plants can become infected with a number of diseases, and pests can damage the tubers before they have a chance to grow into healthy potatoes.
Common Pests and diseases include:
– Potato Mosaic Virus (PMV) is a virus that causes small yellow spots on potato tubers. This virus can be transmitted from one potato to another by aphids, mites, or nematodes.
– Potato Spindle Virus (PSV) is a virus that is spread by aphids and can cause stunted growth and yellowing of the tubers.
– Potato Leaf Roll Virus (PLRV) is a virus that causes brown patches on the leaves.
– Scab or Blackleg is caused by a fungus and if it infects a potato plant, the leaves will turn black and die back.
– Fusarium Wilt is caused by a fungus called “Fusarium solani” and results in spots on the leaves and stems.
– Blight is caused by a fungus and results in irregularly shaped spots on the leaves.
– Black Rot, which causes black spots on the underside of leaves, stems, and tubers. This disease can also be spread from plant to plant by nematodes.
Depending on the climate, temperature, and soil moisture, potato tubers take 3 to 4 months to mature.
Potatoes are ready to harvest when the potato plants have turned brown and are dry, and the vegetable’s skin is hard and dry. Do not harvest potatoes before this point because they will become soft and rot faster.
To harvest, cut the potato plants down, dig up all potatoes, and place them in a bucket or sacks.
When to plant potatoes in Pennsylvania: Conclusion
Planting at the right time will increase your chance of having a bountiful harvest. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent them from sprouting again.
Related Article: When to Harvest Potatoes?: A Complete Guide