Potato Comfort

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I don’t know of a vegetable more comforting than the potato. Yes, I said vegetable. I know nutritionally it is classified as a carbohydrate, and it gets lumped in with bread and pasta and relegated to a recommendation of moderate consumption. Nutritionists have tried to convince us of the versatility of cauliflower and how we can substitute it even for mashed potatoes. But ask yourself, whenever you want comfort food what comes to mind first? Cauliflower or potatoes?

Potatoes the workhorse vegetable of the kitchen. I mean what other vegetable stars in everything from main dishes to breads to even desserts? Yes, there are recipes for potato – not sweet potato – pie! I know sweet potatoes try hard to replace the potato, but really, which would you rather with a cheeseburger?

In South Louisiana, the best time to plant potatoes is now. The earlier you can get them planted, the better potential you have for higher yields. Occasionally they get burned by a late freeze in March, but potatoes tend to recover well if it is just a light freeze.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Choose the right variety of potatoes

There are many varieties of potatoes available, but not all of them are suitable for growing in South Louisiana. The three most common varieties of Irish potatoes that grow well in this region are Yukon Gold, Red Lasoda, and Kennbec. These varieties are known for their high yields and resistance to diseases.

2. Buy certified clean “seed”

It’s important to buy seed potatoes from local nurseries or hardware centers that have been certified clean. This will help prevent the spread of diseases and pests that can damage your crop. If you’ve never planted potatoes, don’t be shocked when you find actual potatoes and not seeds. We plant potatoes and not the seed of the plant.

3. Plant at the right time

Typically, in South Louisiana, potatoes should be planted from mid-January through mid-February. It’s important they have enough time to grow before temperatures get too hot in the spring.

4. Prepare the soil before planting

Potatoes grow best in a loose, well-drained, slightly acidic soil that is high in organic matter. Don’t worry if you don’t have the ideal site for an in-ground potato patch. Potatoes grow well in a raised bed or even a large grow bag. The main consideration for growing in a container or raised bed it to provide enough depth for potatoes to grow. Space planting rows 3 feet apart. Rows should be fertilized by banding under the seed bed with 7.5 pounds of 13-13-13 per 100 feet prior to planting.

5. Plant the seeds correctly

Prepare potatoes for planting by cutting into egg sized pieces with at least one eye per piece. Let cuts heal for a few days before planting in raised beds or hipped rows. To plant the seeds, dig a shallow trench about 4 inches deep and place sections of seed potatoes about 12 inches apart. Cover the trench with soil and water the area thoroughly. Don’t worry about the orientation of the seed potatoes.

6. Provide adequate irrigation

Make sure to water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

7. Apply extra nitrogen and soil

Sidedress with 2.5 pounds of calcium nitrate or 13-13-13 per 100 feet when plants are 6-8 inches tall. Pull soil from row middles or edges of raised beds to cover shallow potatoes as they develop to prevent exposure to sunlight.

8. Harvest the potatoes

Potatoes are ready to harvest approximately 100-120 days after planting, typically around mid-May.

Potato ground should be planted with something unrelated to the Solanaceae family following harvest. This will help prevent the buildup of diseases and pests in the soil. By following these tips, you can grow a healthy and bountiful crop of potatoes in your garden. Happy planting!

2/1/2024 6:10:20 PM
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