How to Plant Potatoes in NC [North Carolina]

How to Plant Potatoes in NC [North Carolina]

North Carolina’s mild climate in USDA zones 7 and 8 makes it suitable for growing sweet, delicious potatoes. With the right variety choices and planting methods, NC gardeners can enjoy an abundant tuber harvest. Follow these tips for successfully planting spuds in North Carolina.

Choose Early Maturing Varieties

Select early maturing, short-season potato varieties adapted to NC growing conditions:

  • Red Gold, Yukon Gem, Norland – early season types, 60-70 day maturity
  • All Blue, Purple Viking, French Fingerling – small, colorful potatoes with quick growth
  • Kennebec, Yukon Gold, Red La Soda – mid-season varieties, 80-90 day maturity

Avoid late-season potatoes like Russets which require a longer season than NC provides. Stick with fast-maturing varieties.

Prepare Soil in Early Spring

Get planting beds ready 4-6 weeks before the average last spring frost. In most NC zones, target late March to early April for soil preparation.

Work 2-3 inches of rich compost into the top 6 inches of soil. This provides organic matter and nutrients.

Break up any hardened clumps of earth with a garden fork. Potato roots need loose, well-drained soil.

Mix in a balanced organic potato fertilizer following package instructions to provide key nutrients for rapid growth.

Time Planting Carefully

Potatoes thrive in cool conditions but are damaged by frost. In NC, target planting approximately:

  • Coastal plains: 2 weeks after average last spring frost
  • Piedmont: 1 week after average last frost
  • Mountains: On the average frost date once soil warms

Check local frost dates and aim for soil temperatures around 55°F when planting.

Plant Seed Potatoes

Plant whole certified disease-free seed potatoes. Cut spuds into chunks with 2-3 eyes per piece. Let cuts dry for 1-2 days before planting.

Dig trenches 6-8 inches deep. Space seed pieces 12 inches apart in rows, eyes facing up. Cover with 4 inches of soil.

Or plant potatoes 8-12 inches apart in hills. Mound soil over the seed pieces to bury them.

Aim for total planting depth around 6 inches.

Provide Cold Protection

Potatoes emerging in early spring are still prone to chills. Cover rows with fabric row covers or black plastic mulch to retain warmth in the soil.

Use cloches, cold frames, or hoop tunnels over individual plants for extra frost protection if needed.

Remove cold protection materials once the threat of frost has passed, around 4 weeks after plant emergence.

Hill and Mulch Plants

As plants grow, hill more soil around stems, keeping the lower 3-4 inches buried. Hilling promotes tuber development.

Apply 4-6 inches of straw or leaf mulch around plants. This conserves moisture, suppresses weeds and keeps soil evenly cool.

Water and Fertilize

Give potato plants 1-2 inches of water weekly from rainfall or irrigation. Avoid both overwatering and drought conditions.

Side dress growing plants with additional organic potato fertilizer 8 weeks after planting to support tuber sizing.

Harvest Tubers

Start harvesting potatoes as their leaves and vines start yellowing and dying back, indicating maturity.

Carefully dig around hills or vines with a garden fork. Remove mature tubers by hand, leaving small ones to continue growing.

Cure freshly dug potatoes in a dark, dry spot for 1-2 weeks to toughen skins for storage. Enjoy fresh potatoes all season long!


Choosing suitable early potato varieties, preparing soil deeply, and providing frost protection gives NC gardens a head start on potato growing. Hilling, mulching, and consistent water keeps plants strong. Monitor foliage and harvest tubers as they mature. With the right practices, North Carolina gardeners can successfully grow a bountiful crop of delicious homegrown potatoes.

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