How do you know when to plant out seed potatoes?
When it comes to planting potatoes you soon discover that different people have different ideas about the 'right way' and 'right time'.
The decision on - when you should plant out the seed potatoes becomes even more confusing when you discover that there are variables involved in choosing the optimum time to do this task.
Some things that need to consider when deciding when to plant potatoes-
- Plant out your potatoes when risk of frost has passed.
- In the UK the people in the North of the country will be planting their seed potatoes later than those in the South because of the temperature differences.
- The weather is difficult to predict particularly regarding when the last frost has happened. The best you can do is take a well educated guess after checking weather reports ( especially in recent years when a warm spell has been followed by colder weather. If you are concerned about the effect of a late frost on your planted seed potatoes you could try covering them with a gardening fleece to protect them.
- The ground conditions may delay your potato planting as some years it can be is too wet to work on.
- Soil temperature is important as the potatoes will only begin to grow once the soil has warmed up enough.
Some years in the UK, we have had a mild winter other years the cold weather is present even into what is regarded as spring time. . Bad weather can make it impossible to get onto the vegetable plot and plant the potatoes until later then you would normally plant them.
Some years, you can feel the soil has not warmed up from its winter temperature drop. You can tell by how cold or warm the soil, you do not need a thermometer, handling the soil will give you a good indication of this.
My allotment has sandy soil, and once it starts to warm up it will do so quickly. There can be problems with sandy soil and growing potatoes because of its lack of ability to retain water. Low rain fall can affect the potato yield, reducing it. However, too much water in one go can also cause problems at certain stages of growing.
One thing you soon learn when growing your own vegetables is that you cannot control everything. Nor predict or alter all of the growing conditions that your vegetables will encounter as they grow and develop. Eventually despite what you have learnt or been told by more experienced growers you you probably decide that some years you have to make an educated guess, others might call this taking a chance.
It was in the spirit of taking a risk some years I plant a short row of seed potatoes in the hope that it pays off with a small early crop. If that works and the weather is favourable the resulting meals of early new potatoes is a luxury. At the worst I lose out but the middle ground is they will sit there until the soil warms up. In which case they will be ready at the same time as when the 'safer' rows of potatoes are planted out.
Even after adding compost and muck to the soil we still have a way to go before it reaches it optimum condition. If and when the sandy soil ceases to behave like sandy soil and retains moisture for longer , allotment life will become easier. We have improved the quality of it enough to make it easier to work, it rakes and crumbs better. To start with I had soil that formed a crust on the top after rain, not ideal for growing vegetables.