Iowa has over 1,000 acres that grow potatoes, proving just how much these tubers suit the state’s climate.
However, learning when to plant potatoes in Iowa is still necessary if you want to cultivate them, given that the winter frost here can cause wilting foliage and even plant death.
In practice, the best time of year for growing potatoes is in the spring, from late March to late May. Read on for more tips on planting taters.
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Best Time to Plant Potatoes in Iowa
Your potatoes planting season should begin after the final frost in spring. Ensure the soil is diggable and not soggy, and that the ground measures at least 45℉ to facilitate germination.
Because the weather can be unpredictable, pay attention to outdoor temperatures and protect your potatoes with row covers if a freeze below 30℉ arrives after the estimated last frost.
We’ve listed the first and final frosts for some locations in Iowa below. Though potatoes can grow here from late March to August, it’s best to sow them within April and May and harvest the tubers in September and October if you live in central Iowa.
For northern and southern parts of the state, the planting time will be a week later or sooner, respectively.
This guideline will provide sufficient time for the potatoes to mature and be collected early enough to avoid the harsh winter freeze. You can look up your region’s frost estimates for more accurate scheduling.
|Location||Average last frost||Average first frost||Growing season|
|Camanche||April 29||October 11||164 days|
|Cedar Falls||May 2||October 4||154 days|
|Davenport||April 24||October 17||175 days|
|Fairfield||May 3||October 6||155 days|
|Knoxville||April 26||October 13||169 days|
|Red Oak||April 30||October 6||158 days|
Planting Time Based on USDA Hardiness Zones
Since Iowa has hardiness regions 4 to 6, we have the approximate gardening dates below based on each zone’s average last frost:
- Zone 4 – April 25 to May 13
- Zone 5 – April 8 to May 1
- Zone 6 – April 2 to 22
Tips for Growing Potatoes Successfully in Iowa
1. Use seed potatoes that suit Iowa’s climate
Buy certified seed potatoes from garden centers or nurseries. Select tubers without black mold or a mushy texture to prevent disease. The seed potatoes should also be as large as a fist or a silver dollar if you want to save money.
Just as importantly, pick varieties that suit Iowa’s climate:
- When planting red potatoes, the best choices are Red Norland, Red Pontiac, and Mountain Rose,
- For russet potatoes, Russet Norkotah and Goldrush will make for excellent tubers.
- Yukon Gold, Katahdin, and Kennebec varieties are terrific for long-term storage and baking.
- Aside from these, other cultivars you can try are Superior, Russian Banana, and Purple Majesty.
2. Prepare the soil before planting
Potatoes prefer loose soil with a pH of 4.8 to 5.5, somewhere without much organic matter to prevent scab problems. Before planting, ensure your garden plot receives eight hours of direct sun per day and apply fertilizer as your soil test recommends.
In the absence of a soil test, one to two pounds of a 10-10-10 formula per 100 square feet will suffice. You should also dig rows that are six inches deep and three feet apart to make space for the potatoes to sit in.
3. Cut and cure your potatoes before sowing them
A week before planting, set the potatoes somewhere with light and a temperature of 60 to 70℉. Five days later, cut each seed potato into small pieces if the potato is larger than a golf ball.
Ensure each piece has at least one eye to facilitate sprouting, and let the cuts dry and harden before sowing them.
On your planting date, fill the rows you created with four inches of soil, then put the potatoes in them, all while keeping the tubers twelve inches apart with their eyes pointing up.
Give the ground an inch of water per week, and hill up your potatoes so that they don’t turn bitter due to sun exposure. In other words, cover all parts of your plants with soil except for the foliage.
When to Plant Sweet Potatoes in Iowa?
You should grow them from mid-May to early June. Sweet potatoes are from the morning glory family, while potatoes are from the nightshade family, making these two vegetables different plants despite their similar names.
To determine when to plant potatoes in Iowa, simply look up your last frost date and sow seeds after it.
With the best potatoes to grow from the varieties we listed above, it should be simple to collect high tuber yields from your garden in the fall. Have fun gardening, and give this article a like if you find it helpful!
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