County agent says that this popular vegetable is easy to grow

By Rene' Schmit
January 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Irish potatoes are a popular vegetable for many home gardeners because they are easy to grow and often return a high yield for the small area they occupy in the garden.

They require full sun to grow and are planted in Louisiana during January and February. Irish potatoes produce best when planted in light, loose, well drained soils, but usually produce a respectable crop, even when soil conditions are less than perfect.

Potatoes are an aggressive root crop and can be grown successfully by planting in garden rows, in mounds, in stacks of straw, mulch, or in a finished compost pile, in patio containers and even in black plastic garbage bags or cans filled with soil.

Since potatoes are susceptible to various diseases, only certified seed should be used for planting rather than store bought potatoes.

There are several varieties of Irish potatoes to choose from, each with its own characteristics, including color.

Three Irish potato varieties, developed by LSU, are highly recommended for growing in Louisiana that include Red LaSoda and LaRouge which are red-skinned, and LaChipper which is a white-skinned variety.

Certified seed potatoes typically are available this time of year at most garden nurseries and local feed and seed stores.

Prior to planting potatoes, slice the whole seed potato in half or into quarters, making sure each section has two to three sprouting eyes. Place the cut seeds in a well ventilated area for 2 days to allow a thick callous to form over the cuts.

In preparing the soil, mix well with a complete fertilizer such as an 8-8-8 or 13-13-13. Plant each seed about one foot apart and three inches deep.

When the plants grow to heights of 6 and 12 inches, draw soil up around the base of each plant and over any exposed potatoes. Also fertilize at these heights with a complete fertilizer or with ammonium nitrate.

Water only as needed, but avoid over watering to reduce incidence of potato rot and formation of black centers in potatoes.

New young potatoes can be harvested 2 to 3 weeks after potato plants have finished flowering.

This is generally about two months after planting. Harvesting of full size potatoes will require waiting until the vines turn yellow or completely die back.

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