Potatoes are easy to grow; so easy, in fact, that they’ll even thrive in some of the harshest conditions. However, conditions must be ideal in order to guarantee tuber production. In theory, growing a potato plant under trees could work out quite well, as long as you have a nice, long growing season. Could it really hurt production if you grow potatoes under trees or beside buildings, when there is not an open, full sun garden plot available? Let’s look at a few different variables!
How Much Sunlight Is Ideal for Potatoes? How Much Light Can They Survive With?
Generally, it is recommended that potatoes receive 8+ hours of sunlight every day. This allows the potato to photosynthesize plenty of sunlight to produce energy and keep the plant’s natural processes moving along in a healthy manner. I would not recommend planting potatoes in an area where they would receive less than 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day, as the tuber production will probably decrease significantly. If you have no choice but to plant in a shaded area, by all means: try out a test plot!!! It never hurts to try something once; and a small harvest is better than no harvest. Potatoes are always surprising us; they might even do perfectly fine with the right soil!
Why Does Low Lighting Affect the Size & Number of Tubers a Potato Plant Produces?
If the potato has low lighting, it does not have as much light to take up during photosynthesis. This is one way that a plant produces its own food. This is also why many plants die without adequate lighting. When the plant is not getting enough light, it must rely on its stored resources in order to continue growing. With potatoes, these resources are stored within tubers.
In addition to using up stored energy inside of the potato tubers, the plant will not store energy in young tubers that are growing; there is no excess energy to store, therefore no potatoes will grow to a decent size. The plant may even cease producing new potatoes on stolons, further reducing the harvest.
How Can I Improve a Shady Potato Bed’s Production When Planting by a Tree or House?
If you plant potatoes close to a house or tree, try to find the southern direction to plant in. If you plant on the eastern side of the home, the plants will only get morning light. On the western side of a tree or house, they will only receive afternoon and evening light. On the southern side, they will receive both; with a loss of 1 to 3 hours of sunlight during midday. On the northern side, they will miss out on a bit more light than the southern side, but it can still be a good option to catch both morning and afternoon light.
For potatoes planted under trees, another ideal solution is to prune the tree generously. With lots of pruning, the sun’s rays can shine down through the canopy onto the potato bed. If you cannot prune, you could implement reflectors and mirrors to redirect light during the day. This won’t benefit the potatoes significantly, but every little bit helps.
In addition, ensure that the soil is enriched and well suited for potatoes. This has a direct effect on tuber production and foliage growth. If you are using poor soil with your potatoes, you will be putting the plants in a very stressful situation. Make them as comfortable as possible to increase your chances of a successful harvest!