Sharpe's Point

Kenny Sharpe

I had someone ask me if they could float in their Irish potatoes since it was too wet to plant.

Unfortunately, Irish potatoes don’t like wet soils, but to get the best yields, we are going to need to plant soon.

In south Louisiana, recommended planting dates for Irish potatoes are mid-January through February. Potato seeds will germinate readily in soil temperatures of 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can plant later, but early planting is the key to getting high yields.

One of the problems that people have when planting potatoes is poor stands caused by seed rotting. To counteract that problem, I suggest that you cut your seed potatoes several days to a week before planting to allow the cut surfaces time to heal over. It is usually the freshly-cut surface that the bacterial rot will attach itself to (You can tell by the rotten potato smell if you have a bacterial rot). Cut the seed potatoes into pieces that are about the size of a hen egg and make sure that each piece has at least one eye, as this is where the potato plant originates.

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 planted relatively deep. Plant potato seeds at a depth of 4-6 inches and space seeds out every 12 inches within the row. You will need about 10-12 pounds of seed to plant a 100-foot row.

I have seen producers cover the row with black plastic after they finish planting. The plants will germinate in 20-30 days and will push up on the plastic, which can be easily seen. Producers will go in then and make a slit in the plastic where the plant is pushed up to let the plants emerge and get to sunlight. This practice helps to protect the plants from cold weather and warms the soil for faster germination and growth.

You don’t have to use the plastic as Irish potatoes can survive frost and light freezes. Plants may be nipped back by cold temperatures, but new growth will soon follow.

When it comes to varieties, you will be limited in choices for varieties by the inventory of local suppliers.

Red-skinned varieties are the most popular kind of potatoes, and Red LaSoda is the standard and most popular. It is a round, red-skinned variety that is usually easy to find. Other red-skinned varieties would include Red Norland (oblong), which comes in earlier than Red LaSoda and Red Pontiac (round to oblong).

White-skinned varieties would include Kennebec, which is an oblong smooth-skinned variety. Norchip is a round to oval variety with white flesh that is an excellent chipper and has good cooking qualities as well. Yukon Gold is a round, yellow flesh potato that is great for baking, mashing, boiling or frying, and the yellow flesh makes beautiful colored chips.

Irish potatoes are ready to harvest when the skins are set and 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 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 potatoes.

For more information on these or related topics, contact Kenny at (225) 686-302 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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