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Potatoes in Florida  RSS feed

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Arg, the other half went and bought a box of seed potatoes again!!!  We have tried to grow potatoes the last two winters and it has not gone all that well.  And this winter we don't have the huge loads of bagged leaves that we had been getting the past two years to mulch and mound up around the plants.

Anyway, need tips for good companions for planting with/around potatoes.  Our problem is ants tend to do many of the plants in.  Potatoes are usually planted in winter down here and Florida does grow some new potatoes and Yukon golds but I think they often provide floating row cover type frost protection in commercial crops.  We have usually only managed a few hand fulls of small new potatoes from what we have planted.  Definitely not a return on the investment when we planted like 5 lbs last year.

I had thought we decided not to bother trying to grow potatoes again here but he came home with a box full of seed potatoes today and wants me to give him a garden section he can plant them in.  Hum.  He does like his potatoes, sigh.

Any tips?
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Whatever you did before, don't do it that way again.

Potatoes are a crop that can grow in poor soil, but you should expect poor results.  I'm a couple hours north of you in Lake City.  The soil here is sand.  Compost goes in by the yard only to be consumed within months due to the heat and humidity.  All those nutrients wash through the sand leaving me to recondition the soil with every crop.

This spring and summer I was in NY, put in 600 plants, 12 cultivars, lost all of them over about 10 days to Late Blight.  The plants were laid waste-black on the ground.  What tubers I managed to harvest after 6 weeks, about 200# from 4 cultivars planted early turned into mushy goo in a couple of weeks.  Talk about disappointment!

Down here I've put potatoes in, gotten some good results sometimes, gotten nothing sometimes.  The best results have always come form more attention.  Work the soil as deep as you can, adding copious amounts of compost.  Keep hilling and mulching the plants.  Soil, leaves, compost, grass clippings, whatever is available.  I've had the hills 2 feet high with the spud started 6" below grade.  Keep the moisture up.  Drip lines work well if you can keep moving the drip tips as you build the hill.  NEVER lime your potato.  They'll do better in acidic soil.  If you have limed an area in the last couple of years, plant your potato elsewhere.

Try different techniques until you find one that works for you.  Plant them above ground in tires.  Try some planted in nothing but compost.  Try different cultivars, there is plenty of variety to choose from.  Ask the old timey locals what they do.  Fence off the area for a couple of months before planting, put some chickens in there, might help with the ant problem.  Spread some grits or instant mashed potato around to knock out the ants.  Try growing the things in containers.  Plant your spuds over several weeks rather than all at once.  Try sweet potato.  If floating row covers help your neighbors, use them.  If you use fertilizer, change the way you use it.

If you use the same methods as the last couple of years, you should expect the same results.
 
                              
Posts: 24
Location: Central Florida
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I am in Central Florida too and thought of container planting them. Thought of used tires but I guess they would have chemicals in them. But then I could take them down ring by ring. Also on youtube there is a family with the name pocketsforthefuture that have done some container planting of potatoes but had a little luck. They rolled the containers to harvest the potatoes. Just got a bunch of green beans today and rommaine lettuce. Found a tomato on a plant I thought was done! It is small and might not work though! Good luck! Where did he get the starters at?
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I'm not sure where he got the seed potatoes but I think it was the produce stand in Yalaha where we got the blueberry plants.

I don't think I would bother with container planting them (especially since containers need extra care in watering and such) since that would be a lot of big containers to fill in our case.  Perhaps if you had lots of compost and a bunch of blue barrels though?

One thing we are gonna do different this year is using floating row covers to protect the plants from frosts/freezes.  We have a couple beds prepped and some worm castings to put in with each seed potato as we plant them.  They are already sprouting nicely and New years day is a good day for planting root crops so here we go.
 
                              
Posts: 24
Location: Central Florida
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I am actually in Orlando just outside city limits. I might try that too. If I can get the energy up to prepare in time! Still gotta undecorate and such from holidays. Let mme know how it goes.

Robin
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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will do, seems one of the tricks is to harvest new potatoes early and not try to wait for bigger spuds.
 
Ken Peavey
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For all you Florida potato growers, what cultivars are giving you good results?
 
                              
Posts: 24
Location: Central Florida
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Haven't tried potatoes yet....will look into it though. Any suggestions?
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I have not had good results with potatoes here in Florida, kinda why I started the thread.  The other half loves his potatoes and despite the past thee dismal attempts he still wants to try again.

We tried a leaf in a fence bin method once but it was too hot that season and I think we kept it all too wet.  Only a few harvested spuds, most were rotting or damaged by bugs.  Ants are really hard on potato plants here in my experience.

We tried fingerling potatoes in rows of compost and mounding up leaves around them and onions/garlic planted all around.  Unfortunately freezes are hard on potato plants when they come up but if we plant them after danger of freeze is past, there isn't really enough time to get a crop before the weather is too hot and the bugs/humidity/heat etc all conspire to be bad for the plants.

Last winter I made more effort to bury the plants under mounds of leaves on frost/freeze nights but many of the plants still suffered damage.

This year we will use some frost blankets which I should be able to leave in place without hurting the plants and therefore make it reasonable to cover them.  (I just didn't have the time every frost/freeze warning to go out and bury the plants in the evening and the go out in the morning and find each plant again to uncover it.

I personally like sweet potatoes better and they generally grow great here during the warm season but we have been totally infested with sweet potato weevils so I won't be growing them for a few years.  (No morning glories or moon flowers either as the weevils can survive on them too.)

Anyway, from my reading about growing potatoes in FL, Yukon Gold was one recommend variety for Florida but as I said, I didn't manage to do all that well with them either.
 
Ken Peavey
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I'm a couple hours drive north of you.  I dont put potatoes in until March 1st.  Frost will wipe them out.  Keep planting through April but no later as summer heat is rough on them.  You can start planting again in August for a fall crop.  Plants started by late September may be hit by a frost, but by then you'll have spuds in the ground.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Are you nearer the coast?  I'm right in the middle of the state and we are really into hot weather by April usually though some cool weather crops planted early might still be doing ok through March and April.  I think our first attempt at potatoes were planted in March and it was too hot for them that year.
 
Ken Peavey
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Lake City.

Have you tried planting just a few plants each week over several weeks?
I give mine a boost by setting them in the sun and getting them wet a few times.  Gives them a boost, brings them out of dormancy, the eyes elongate and by March 1, I can get them in.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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We already have sprouted seed potatoes.

When we have planted in the past, we usually did plant on at least two separate occasions probably a week apart (thought that doesn't count the first year.)
 
Ken Peavey
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From start to finish, describe how you grow potato.  Bed prep through harvest.  Maybe between us we can figure out an answer.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Well we have tried it a few different ways.

One time,
We did the lasagna bed sort of set up where cardboard went down and we piled on the leaves and other mulch materials and then got a load of mushroom compost and made rows.  We planted the fingerling potatoes and mounded up with extra leaves and compost.  This bed had drip irrigation along the rows.

Another time it was in some beds that had been built further in the past so we dug out what grasses had invaded and adding lots more leaves and  more mushroom compost and planted in there with extra leaves for mounding around the plants as they grew.  I believe this beds still had micro-sprinklers at the time.

Both those time we had garlic and onions planted around the rows of potatoes but I'm starting to think that is not really needed here.

The other half thinks that if he harvests new potatoes often and early that we will get more from the whole experience.  He thinks the problem before is that he just waited too long to harvest and too many of the plants were attacked by pests.

We will see, I'm not the driving force behind growing potatoes here.
 
Leah Sattler
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perhaps you could pick 3 methods and try them all this year. i wonder what kind of ants are getting them?  i have only had trouble with potato beetles.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I'm gonna let the other half kinda do what he wants with them this year.  I just provided him with the space and the irrigation and some good dirt.  As I mentioned we have some frost blanket coming that will hopefully keep the tops of the plants alive through the cold snaps.

Hard to know what ants are actually doing the most damage.  There are so many types of ants around here.
 
Ken Peavey
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Are the ants consuming the potato plants or the potato tubers?  What are the ants doing that is destructive?  Ants are usually scavengers and farmers.  When I see ants, I look for aphids.  Ants will herd the aphids in order to harvest the honeydew that comes out the back end of the aphids.  Its the aphids that may be damaging your potato plants rather than the ants.

As far as the frost covers, if you are using them on potato plants you are planting your potatoes too early.

Garlic and onion, they won't bother your potatoes at all and will help to deter some critters.

I see leaves as being common in your methods.  If you tried some plants without the leaves you may get better results.  I'm thinking the leaves may be housing aphids which take out your plants and draw the ants.

If you are growing all your potatoes together, try splitting up the crop as best you can.  If a pest is getting into them, splitting them up may offer some protection.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Perhaps potatoes are not really meant to be grown in inland central FL then because if I wait till all danger of frost is past, I only get one month before it gets too hot and we start seeing rot problems, I'll try the frost blankets this time since planting in late Feb didn't work the one year we planted after all chance of frost.

We also see to have a lack of leaves this year, I guess more people have been mulch mowing them instead of bagging them out to the curb.  So, At least right now, they get soil and other mulch materials.

I have actually seen ants going in and out of stems below ground on some of the potato plants.  I can't be certain that the ants cause the damage but I'm certain what ever they were doing in the stems probably didn't help.  I'm experienced with ants farming aphids but that is not the only damage ants can cause, there are hundreds of different kinds of ants.
 
                    
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You might consider growing cannas and sweet potatoes as alternatives. Cannas produce a fair amount of starchy roots and are a perennial well adapted to most of the Southern US. Even the ornamental varieties can be used for food, although Canna edulis and other types that have been selected for eating tend to put more energy into the roots and less into the flowers. Canna edulis is not so showy (gaudy?) but the smaller flowers can be beautiful. The shoots are also eaten by some people.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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first off i would say consider sweet potatoes for your climate.

second have you considered growing potatoes in big pots/barrels? we have too many gophers here that love potatoes in the ground. we dont loose a single one in pots. with ants you can just put something sticky around the base so they cant climb into the pot and on the plants. start at the bottom and just back fill with more soil as the plants grow until you get to the top.
 
Susan Scherr
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It's been quite awhile since this thread has been active. I live on Sanibel in SW Florida 10a. Just wondering if anyone has any new growing experiences with either sweet or regular potatoes. I am slowly installing a food forest on my property and am currently doing a banana ring- papaya in the center, sweet potato as a ground cover and banana plants around the papaya. Was wondering about doing potatoes in a burlap bag. Would love a suggestion on a variety to try. Thanks and peace
 
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