Patricia M. Arledge, Sharpe, Kenneth W. | 2/8/2011 8:04:12 PM
News Article for Jan. 18, 2011:
We have already had a significant amount of cold weather this year and I have talked with a number of gardeners who tell me they are ready for a break.
Fortunately we live far enough south that it is possible to garden year round. The first crop for many vegetable gardeners to plant in the year is Irish potatoes. In south Louisiana recommended planting dates for Irish potatoes are mid-January through February. The potato seed will germinate readily in soil temperatures of 45 degrees to 50 degreesF. People can plant later but early planting is the key to getting high yields.
You will want to cut your potatoes into hen egg sized blocks that have at least one eye. It is from the eye that the plant will originate. Let the seed heel over for a few days after cutting. This will help to prevent bacterial rot, which is the organism that causes the potato to rot and gives off that rotten potato smell.
Make up a good high row and fertilize with 8-10 pounds of 8-8-8 fertilizer or the equivalent per 100 feet of row.
Potatoes are one of the seeds that are planted relatively deep. Plant the seed at a depth of 4-6 inches and space the seed out every 12 inches within the row. You will need about 10-12 pounds of seed to plant a 100 foot row.
I have some producers who will cover the row with black plastic after they finish planting. The plants will germinate in 20 to 30 days and will push up on the plastic which is easily seen. They will go in then and make a slit in the plastic where the plant is pushing up to let the plants emerge and get to sunlight. This practice helps to protect the plants from the cold weather and warms the soil for faster germination and growth.
You do not have to use the plastic as Irish potatoes can survive frost and light freezes. The plants may be burnt back by the cold but new growth will soon follow.
I usually find that our choices for varieties are limited by inventory of local suppliers. There are a number of productive varieties so just try to stick to ones on the list and you should be pleased.
Most people I know like the red skinned varieties but do not limit yourself as there are some good white skinned varieties also.
Red LaSoda is the standard. It is a round, red skinned variety which is usually easy to find. Other red skinned varieties would include La Rouge and Red Norland which comes in earlier than Red LaSoda.
Generally the easiest white skinned variety to find in Kennebec which is an oblong smooth skinned variety. Atlantic and LaChipper are round, smooth skinned varieties that are good for fresh use and as chippers.
Irish potatoes are ready to harvest when the skins are set and will no longer rub off or feather. Red LaSoda is usually ready for harvest in 100-120 days after planting. If you like the small “new potatoes” that do feather, start digging some of those at 100 days. If you want to increase the shelf life, cut the vines 10-14 days before harvesting the potatoes.