The Definitive Resource for Garden-Grown Potatoes*

April 15, 2021 in Crops

The Definitive Resource for Garden-Grown Potatoes*

*According to Medius Ag

“What potato should I grow in my garden?” is a common question we hear at Medius Ag, particularly during the ongoing pandemic that has seen home gardening activities skyrocket. It is a good question for the right audience. After all, collectively we represent generations of potato knowledge that has accumulated over the years as a family-owned potato brokerage and agriculture software development company. However, that seemingly straightforward question belies its true complexity. Although not trained in agronomy, or plant breeding, or soil science, or many of the academic and research disciplines commonly associated with agriculture, our experience has taught us that potato varieties are as unique as the many growing regions and microclimates that surround us. It is why the U.S. potato industry has spent many years and countless resources to identify a new processing potato to replace the Russet Burbank, which can require extensive cultural practices despite its familiarity among growers and popularity among consumers. 

And that is just for russets. Over time, literally hundreds of thousands of potatoes have been developed across the globe for many different end-uses, but only a tiny fraction of those developed have been commercialized. Perhaps you are a home gardener who prefers round potatoes with white flesh–the type preferred by potato chip processors. Or perhaps you like fingerlings? Purple flesh? Red-skinned with white flesh? A good, old-fashioned traditional russet like the Burbank? Whatever your preference, there is a potato for you. The Idaho Potato Commission conveniently provides a list of their most popular varieties, complete with pictures and descriptions. But that merely scratches the surface of varieties in existence. There are 6,466 different potato cultivars that are on the market, have been developed and abandoned, or in various stages of development housed in Medius.Re alone. And those are only public varieties for processing into French fries or potato chips since 1998. Countless more varieties for purchase at your local grocery store have been developed over the years. If you conduct a simple search on your favorite search engine, even popular gardening and cooking resources are unable to agree on the number of different types let alone the number of varieties. (Fortunately, U.S. grower-funded Potatoes USA has pegged the number of potato types at a manageable seven.) 

Even if a variety has been commercialized (basically, embraced by consumers) then what about soil type, air temperatures, altitude, precipitation needs, disease pressures, available sunlight, etc.? All of these factors play into, “What potato should I grow in my garden?” Of course, it is virtually impossible to know the answer to that question for many of the reasons we have referenced above. There are just too many variables. 

Fortunately, the extensive network of agricultural research and extension professionals stationed at land-grant universities throughout the United States have conducted a ton of research in this area so that none of us need to reinvent the wheel. While we’re talking about a wheel, think of us as a hub with the spokes of information moving away from and returning to the middle. If only there was a Latin word for middle, like Medius! In any case, we are here to connect you with the answers that you need to make the best potato variety selection decisions possible based upon the unique qualities of your local area. 

We have explored the resources available to gardeners in all 50 states so that you don’t have to. In most cases, we point you to specific, potato-related fact sheets and guidance from your respective state’s Extension Service. However and somewhat surprisingly, not all states provide guidance to their residents when it comes to America’s most popular vegetable. In those cases (we’re not naming names), we’ll link to general information on growing vegetables in your backyard garden. In the cases where neither of those resources is available, we may provide a link to ask your local Extension agent for his or her advice. Or we may provide a link from a local newspaper that usually features guidance from a master gardener local to your area. In one case, we linked to a state’s potato grower association which is actually a great resource if you live in one of the states that has one. Whatever the case may be, you will be well equipped to tackle potato variety selection and cultivating with enthusiasm and confidence. 

However, we must also offer a pre-emptive apology to many of you who have already planted your gardens. With planting windows as widely varied as we have in the United States, it is simply not practical to get this information to all of you at the ideal time. So those of you in the southern, warmer areas of the U.S., we’re sorry. But please bookmark this page for next year! And one final caveat before you click on your state below: While we provide a single link per state, you have many different growing areas within your state. Consequently, we encourage you to conduct your own research on your local Extension’s website. Not getting the help you need? You can always check out this handy tool from The Farmer’s Almanac

So without further ado, Medius Ag presents to you The Definitive Resource for Garden-Grown Potatoes where you will find the answer to the age-old question: “What potato should I grow in my garden?”

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