Hey everyone, I’ve received another email from one of our readers about potatoes – I’m contemplating adding a forum to this website now so other readers can answer readers’ questions. It’s getting very time-consuming as the only ‘potatoes expert’ answering questions! I just need to work out how to add a forum to WordPress. If anyone can help, you can have a years supply of potatoes 🙂
Paul from Shrewsbury asked ‘why are my potato plants falling over?’ Paul sent a picture of his problem but I wasn’t sure if I could upload the image for copyright reasons.
Potato plants are generally sturdy and can withstand various growing conditions. However, like any other plant, they can sometimes succumb to issues that cause them to fall over.
Let’s explore some of the common reasons why your potato plant might be falling over, along with some helpful tips to resolve the issue.
Weak stem growth
One of the primary reasons for a potato plant falling over is weak stem growth. This could be due to inadequate sunlight, poor soil nutrition, or excessive watering.
Solution: To promote healthy stem growth, ensure your potatoes receive at least six hours of sunlight daily, provide them with well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter, and avoid over-watering.
Planting potatoes too close together can lead to overcrowding, which can cause them to compete for resources like nutrients, water, and sunlight. This competition can weaken the plants, making them more prone to falling over. This was my first error when I started my tats off in 1993.
Solution: Space your potato plants approximately 12 inches apart, allowing enough room for them to grow without competing for resources.
Pests and diseases
Pests such as aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and cutworms can weaken your potato plants, causing them to fall over. Diseases like late blight, early blight, and verticillium wilt can also lead to weakened stems and foliage.
Solution: Monitor your potato plants closely for signs of pests and diseases. If you identify any issues, use organic or chemical controls as needed to keep the infestations in check. Additionally, practice good garden hygiene, such as rotating crops and disposing of infected plant material, to prevent the spread of diseases.
Heavy tuber development
As potato tubers grow, they can become quite heavy, causing the plant to topple over. This is especially true if the plant has been weakened by one of the issues mentioned earlier.
Solution: To prevent this, you can gently hill up soil around the base of the plants as the tubers develop. This will provide additional support and prevent the tubers from becoming exposed to sunlight, which can cause them to turn green and become toxic.
Potato plants can be sensitive to high winds, and strong gusts can cause the plants to fall over. As we all live in the North East, this is a particular problem on our allotment.
Solution: Consider installing a windbreak, such as a row of tall, sturdy plants or a physical barrier, to protect your potato plants from strong winds. Additionally, you can use stakes or tomato cages to provide extra plant support.
If your potato plants have reached the end of their growing season and are beginning to die back, falling over could be a natural part of the process.
Solution: Once the plant’s foliage has yellowed and withered, it’s time to harvest your potatoes. Carefully dig them up with a garden fork, being mindful not to damage the tubers.
In conclusion, there are various reasons why your potato plants may be falling over. Identifying the root cause and addressing it with the appropriate solution will help you grow strong, healthy potato plants that produce a bountiful harvest. Remember, patience and consistent care are key to gardening success. Happy gardening!
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!