In every season, you need your potato fix. There are a thousand wonderful ways to eat the starchy little gems and giants. As the cold weather starts to close in and the nights get longer, you may want to eat even more potatoes in winter. As a gardener, you also will want to spend as little time on your hands and knees working in the cold earth.
So, can you grow potatoes in the winter? Potatoes can be grown in the winter, however they will either have to be grown indoors, or be planted far in advance to make sure that the frost and cold do not harm them.
Potatoes outside in the winter
Potatoes are an ideal low maintenance crop but their leaves are very vulnerable to frost burn. After a hard frost potato leaves can look scorched and drop off.
Since you need the leaves to photosynthesize for the plants to make your lovely spuds, that is a major problem.
In a particularly harsh freeze, all of the parts of your plant that can be seen above the ground may die off.
Considering this, it might seem like a cold-weather crop of potatoes is out of the question but there are some workarounds to get you potatoes in winter.
Can you grow them indoors?
The most obvious option is to grow potatoes indoors in a container. Potatoes are a gloriously unfussy crop and they will grow almost anywhere.
Countless gardeners have found accidental potatoes in their compost bins or a potato plant popping up in last year’s potato bed. Potato sacks are a popular option for growing potatoes and you cannot fault them for cost or convenience.
How to grow potatoes indoors
Put your potato sack in a spot with at least partial sun. It doesn’t necessarily have to be inside your house although a well-lit utility room or a conservatory would suit potatoes nicely.
If you have a garage with enough windows or a summerhouse, that will also work. You could even put it on the floor of your greenhouse.
Fill your potato sack about 60% of the way and then add in your chitted seed potatoes, cover the tubers and wait for them to sprout before adding in more soil.
You can add more soil to cover the lower leaves of the plant every two to three weeks.
- Do Potato Plants have to bloom to produce potatoes?
- When should I plant Garlic?
- Should You Choose Annual or Perennial Plants?
How to plant before winter, for Christmas
The alternative requires a little bit more planning, but it won’t take up any indoor space. It also doesn’t require nearly as much compost, manure or mounding up materials.
You need to choose a potato variety, like a Maris Peer or a Charlotte, that grows well in the cold. Get them ordered in the summer and chit them because you are going to plant them in late August before the weather turns. These are often called Christmas potatoes because they are ready around the 25th of December.
Growing your outdoor potatoes in winter will take a little bit longer than the standard 12 weeks and it will need a couple of extra precautions.
If you have heavy clay soil, add sand into the bed to improve drainage. To avoid potato blight you should give serious consideration to a growing tunnel in either plastic or light fleece.
This will give some protection from frosts too. Last but not least, choose a general plant food and give your potatoes a good feed three or four times throughout their growth.
Potatoes are naturally forgiving so variations are likely to work. Just make sure you keep to the overall themes of avoiding excess moisture and protecting the foliage of your potatoes in winter.