To plant potatoes in July choose an early variety

July 14, 2021

Think of high tech and we often think of young people who make it big. When Google went public, it made a billionaire of 30-year-old Sergey Brin.

Three men in their 20s became billionaires when their company came out with Snapchat.

But the average age of successful tech founders is a not-so-young 47. Colonel Sanders was retirement age of 65 years old when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The garden has late bloomers too. And July is time enough to plant some late potatoes, beans and summer squash.

For potatoes, one big advantage of planting late in the season is that your crops will probably miss attacks by the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), which is usually most active in the spring.

Colorado potato beetle adults and their larvae chew leaves and can completely defoliate your plants, killing them before they can produce a crop. Because of years of pesticide use, most pesticides are no longer effective as the bugs developed pesticide resistance. For a small garden, you can hand pick the beetles off the leaves and drop them into soapy water. Never plant potatoes or their relatives, eggplants and tomatoes, in the same area of the garden each year.

To plant potatoes in July, choose an early variety such as Dark Red Norland. The deep-red skin contrasts with its white flesh. This is one of the best potatoes for making potato salad.

This is a high-yielding but easily grown potato that is resistant to cracking. Another quick-maturing red potato is Chieftain. This white-fleshed, oblong potato has shallow eyes that make for easier peeling. Chieftain matures slightly later than Dark Red Norland.

The famous yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold has buff-yellow skin with buttery yellow flesh. Unlike many quick-to-bear potatoes, Yukon Gold is a good keeper.

A yellow potato that is more disease-resistant than Yukon Gold is Yukon Gem. It also has higher yields than Yukon Gold.

And while the devil wears Prada, the sunny yellow Prada potato is heavenly with its pastel-yellow skin and light-yellow flesh. Prada has long tubers with flesh that is firm enough to hold up well when boiled. It is ideal for potato salad, and has enough dry matter that you can use it for home fries.

It is high-yielding and even does well during droughts.

If you cannot find seed potatoes in July, try growing organic potatoes from the market. You can plant the small ones whole and cut the bigger ones so that they have a few eyes. Let the cut potatoes dry overnight before planting them.

To get a head start with your late-sown potatoes, sprout them before planting. Called chitting, you can get the seed potatoes to sprout by setting them cut side up where they will stay cool but still get direct sunlight. The sunlight will encourage sturdy stems to grow out of the potatoes. Plant the potatoes when the sprouts are just a half-inch high.

So don't be afraid of planting potatoes in the July garden. Make up some fresh potato salad and think of a feisty manicurist who became an overnight sensation when she made her debut in a Wendy's commercial. Clara Peller's throaty “Where's the beef?” even became the theme of Walter Mondale's presidential campaign. She was 81 years young.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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