Hot Weather Potato Varieties: Tips For Growing Potatoes In Zone 9
By: Amy Grant
Americans eat around 125 lbs. (57 kilos) of potatoes per person each year! So it’s really no wonder that home gardeners, wherever they may live, would like to try their hands at growing their own spuds. The thing is, potatoes are a cool season crop, so what about potatoes for say, zone 9? Are there hot weather potato varieties that might be more suitable for growing potatoes in zone 9?
About Zone 9 Potatoes
Although considered a cool season crop, potatoes actually grow in USDA zones 3-10b. Zone 9 potato growers are actually quite lucky. You can plant some late maturing varieties in early summer for a fall harvest and/or plant early potato varieties and midseason types a few weeks prior to the last spring frost date for your area.
For instance, say your last spring frost date is around the end of December. Then you can plant potatoes at the very end of November to the beginning of December. The potato varieties suited for this region are not necessarily hot weather potato varieties. It all comes down to when you plant the potatoes.
This area also has optimal conditions for growing “new” potatoes in zone 9, small immature spuds with thinner skins than full grown potatoes, in the winter and spring months.
Types of Potatoes for Zone 9
Early potato choices for zone 9 that mature in less than 90 days include:
- Irish Cobbler
- Red Norland
- King Harry
Midseason potatoes, those that mature in around 100 days, include Yukon Gold and Red LaSoda, an excellent choice for warmer regions.
Late potatoes such as Butte, Katahdin, and Kennebec, mature in 110 days or more. Late maturing potatoes include a number of fingerling varieties that can also be grown in zone 9.
Growing Potatoes in Zone 9
Potatoes do best in well-draining, loose soil. They need consistent irrigation for tuber formation. Start to hill up around the plants before they bloom when they are about 6 inches (15 cm.) tall. Hilling potatoes keeps them from getting sunburned, a real threat in warmer climates, which also causes them to turn green. When potatoes turn green, they produce a chemical called solanine. Solanine makes the tubers taste bitter and is also toxic.
To hill up around the potato plants, hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant to cover the roots as well as to support it. Continue to hill up around the plant every couple of weeks to protect the crop until it is time to harvest.
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Read more about Zone 9, 10 & 11
No-dig and container growing - ideal for home gardens
If you don't have a ton of space then no-dig and container growing both work well for home garden growing. Using container growing you can produce potatoes in any handy space, even on balconies.
Make a no-dig bed of potatoes by layering newspapers (or flattened cardboard boxes) at least six layers thick on an area to be planted. Spread your seed potatoes on top of the newspapers about 30cm apart, trying to get the shoots pointing upwards.
Cover the potatoes with layers of compost, weed-free straw, rotted animal manure, and other mulch materials, until the potatoes are covered by about 20 - 30cm. Don't flatten the cover down.
Water well. As the potatoes start to grow through, add more layers of mulch material and keep watered. After about four weeks of growing through and covering up, let the potatoes grow on without covering. As the mulch breaks down keep adding more mulch to keep the tubers covered.
Get a container at least 40 - 50 cm deep with holes in the bottom for drainage. Shrub-sized flower pots work well. An old wheelbarrow will work if holes are drilled in the bottom. You can also make a 'container' using loose bricks or chicken wire.
Put about 10 - 20cm of mixed compost and potting mix in the bottom of the container and put your seed potatoes on top, about 30cm apart. Cover with about 10 - 20cm of compost mixed with mulch (straw, grass clippings. Water well.
As the potato shoots start to grow through, cover up with more compost and mulch mix and keep watered. Keep on covering up for about four weeks (but stop if you reach the top of the container!)
For both no-dig and container growing, keep the mulch well watered - wet enough to stick to your fingers but not sopping. If the potatoes dry out they will probably go scabby.
- The longer potatoes grow, the bigger the tubers will be.
- Don't grow potatoes in the same place as other solanum crops as they share many diseases - for example, don't grow potatoes to follow a tomato crop, or vice-versa.
- You can start harvesting a few tubers as soon as they are big enough to eat - dig around under the plants and retrieve a few, and cover up the rest to keep growing.
- Potatoes exposed to light will go green, so keep them covered up with straw and soil as they grow. Green potatoes are poisonous!
- Potatoes accumulate cadmium and other heavy metals, so avoid fertilizers which contain these elements. Similarly, avoid using tyres as containers for growing potatoes as they can leach heavy metals.
Culinary hints - cooking and eating Potato
Peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried and roasted. - The only way they are not used is raw.
Keep in a pot of cold water after peeling, otherwise they will discolour.