The Vegetable Garden

    Potato, Irish - When To Plant

      When To Plant

      Potatoes are among the earliest vegetables planted in the garden. Early, midseason and late varieties all may be planted in March or early April. Planting too early in damp, cold soils makes it more likely that seed pieces rot before they can grow. Potatoes planted in March also may be frozen back to the ground by late frosts. Plants usually recover fully, but the blackened shoots are always demoralizing to the gardener. Medium-early plantings, when soils have dried and warmed, may do as well as extremely early, winter-defying plantings. Midseason and late varieties may be planted as late as the first of July. Late potatoes are best for winter storage.

      Spacing & Depth


      Potatoes are started from "seed pieces" rather than from true seed. These seed pieces may be small whole potatoes or potatoes that are cut into 1-1/2 to 2 ounce pieces. Plant the pieces soon after cutting. Be sure that there is at least one good "eye" in each seed piece. Some garden centers and seed suppliers sell "potato eyes" that weigh less than an ounce. These may be too small for optimal production. Small, whole, certified seed potatoes are often the best choice for home gardeners.

      Plant seed pieces 10 to 12 inches apart and cover in a furrow between 1 and 3 inches deep. Space rows 24 to 36 inches apart. The 24 inch spacing is often beneficial because the plants shade the soil and prevent high soil temperatures that inhibit tuber development.

      "Straw Potatoes"

      Potatoes grown by a special cultural method in that they are not hilled or cultivated after planting are called "straw potatoes." The seed pieces and rows should be spaced the same as for conventional cultivation, but the seed pieces are planted at the soil surface. Place loose straw 4 to 6 inches deep over the seed pieces and between the rows. Potato sprouts should emerge through the straw cover. Cultivation should not be necessary. Pull any weeds that manage to emerge through the straw cover and add more straw through the season if decomposition starts to thin the layer. Harvest by carefully removing the straw and picking up the tubers that lie on the soil surface. In addition to weed control, strawing has several other advantages. The straw keeps the soil temperature more uniform and about 10°F cooler, reduces water loss and results in better-shaped tubers. It is usually more rewarding to straw late varieties than early ones because there is a longer period for tuber development. Many gardeners who grow potatoes for competition in exhibits and fairs use the strawing method because the potatoes are of excellent size, color, shape and smoothness.