When To Plant Potatoes In Alaska (2)

When To Plant Potatoes In Alaska

Alaska’s long summer days and cool climate make it a great place to grow potatoes. Determining the optimal planting time is key to getting a successful potato harvest in Alaska. Here is a guide on when and how to plant potatoes in Alaska.

Choose the Right Potato Variety

Picking the right potato variety is an important first step for Alaska gardeners. Choosing early season, short season, and midseason potato varieties is recommended for Alaska’s short growing season. Some good choices include:

  • Early season – Irish Cobbler, Warba, Red Norland
  • Midseason – Yukon Gold, Russet Burbank, Alpine Russet
  • Short season – Purple Viking, French Fingerling, Caribe

Avoid late-season potato varieties as Alaska’s season is too short for them to mature properly. Stick with faster maturing varieties.

Prepare the Soil

Potatoes need loose, fertile soil to develop strong roots and tubers. Prepare your planting beds in early spring once the soil has thawed. Dig in 2-4 inches of compost or well-rotted manure. This will enrich the soil with nutrients potatoes need like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Loosen the soil at least 8 inches deep using a spading fork. Break up any dirt clumps. Potato roots need room to expand. Adding a balanced organic fertilizer when prepping the soil gives potatoes an extra nutrient boost.

Know the Last Spring Frost Date

Potatoes are highly sensitive to frost. In most regions of Alaska, the last spring frost occurs between late May and early June. However, parts of Alaska have varying microclimates. Determine your local area’s average last spring frost date.

Search for your closest city on the Alaskan Frost Dates guide available through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. This gives frost dates based on long-term weather data.

Use the last spring frost as a guideline for planting timing. Potatoes can be damaged by temps below 30°F.

Time Potatoes Carefully

Here are some guidelines for when to plant potatoes in Alaska based on the last spring frost date:

  • 2 weeks before: Start pre-sprouting seed potatoes indoors. Store them in a warm, sunny spot to trigger sprouting.
  • On the date: Plant sprouted seed potatoes outdoors if signs of sprouting are visible.
  • 2 weeks after: Directly plant unsprouted seed potatoes outdoors.

Planting sprouted potatoes allows you to get a head start on the season. If planting unsprouted tubers, wait 1-2 weeks until the soil has warmed sufficiently.

Planting Tips

Follow these tips when planting potatoes in Alaska:

  • Plant seed potatoes 4-6 inches deep with sprouts facing up. Space 8-12 inches apart in rows.
  • Cover plants with 4 inches of mulch or straw to retain warmth in the soil.
  • Consider using row covers or low tunnels to protect plants from late cold snaps.
  • Irrigate evenly during growing season if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

With Alaska’s short season, harvesting typically begins in early August and continues into September. Following these guidelines will help ensure your potatoes mature successfully.

Monitor Soil Temperature

The optimum soil temperature for planting potatoes is 50-65°F. Potatoes do not grow well in cold soil. Use a soil thermometer to check your garden beds prior to planting.

If the soil is still too cold, hold off planting for another week or two until the ground has warmed sufficiently. Planting when soils are 50°F and rising will get your potato crop off to the right start.


Knowing when to plant potatoes is critical for Alaskan gardeners. While it takes some planning, following the tips above will set your spuds up for success. Pay attention to last spring frost dates, sprout seed potatoes indoors, and monitor soil temperature before planting. With the right approach, you can enjoy an abundant harvest of homegrown potatoes in Alaska.

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