The Perfect Time for Planting Potatoes in Louisiana

News Release Distributed 01/12/15+

BATON ROUGE, La. – As the seasons change in Louisiana, it’s time to get your hands dirty and plant some delicious Irish potatoes. According to vegetable expert Kiki Fontenot from the LSU AgCenter, the ideal time to start planting potatoes in Louisiana is from mid-January through February. Let’s dive into the secrets of successfully growing these spuds and uncover some valuable tips from Fontenot.

Planting Technique – Digging into Success

When it comes to planting potatoes, Fontenot shared the best method: start by digging a shallow trench, approximately 4 inches deep. Then, place sections of seed potatoes about 12 inches apart along the trench. Finally, cover the trench with soil. Fontenot advises against cutting seed potatoes too small, as they may rot if the soil retains excessive moisture. For the best results, she recommends cutting baking-size potatoes into quarters and small potatoes into halves, roughly the size of a silver dollar.

Each piece should have at least one eye, which is the sprout that grows into a plant. Forget the old wives’ tale that potatoes should be planted with eyes up, as it doesn’t make a significant difference in their growth.

Providing Room and Essential Nutrients

Potato plants require plenty of space to thrive. These bushes grow to be 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall and appear perfectly manicured like mushrooms, according to Fontenot. To ensure a good potato crop, it is crucial to water and fertilize properly. Fontenot suggests applying preplant fertilizer, such as a 13-13-13 blend, followed by a light application of fertilizer when the plants begin to bloom. This simple routine will suffice for the entire growing season.

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Rainfall, Frost, and Tips for Bigger Potatoes

Louisiana typically experiences abundant rainfall during the early and late spring seasons, which facilitates potato growth. However, if rainfall is sparse, especially during the tuber formation stage, an extra watering or two will help guarantee larger potatoes. Don’t worry about light frost, as it won’t harm the plants. Even with a freeze, only the tops of the plants will be affected, which may slightly delay the harvest.

As the tubers begin to grow, some may peek out of the soil. Beware of the sun turning their skin green and producing alkaloids, which can cause stomach distress if consumed. Fontenot reveals a simple technique to prevent this phenomenon. Draw soil from the sides of the rows and mound it around the bottoms of the plants. If you’re growing potatoes in raised beds or containers, add a bag of soil to the planter as an alternative solution.

Knowing When It’s Time to Harvest

How do you know when it’s time to dig up your potatoes? Fontenot recommends waiting until the plants develop brown tops, with at least 50 percent of them turning brown. This usually occurs 90 to 110 days after planting. However, if long-term rain is in the forecast, it’s best to dig the potatoes when they are small, rather than allowing them to remain in saturated soil where they may rot. This is especially crucial for heavy soils that lack proper drainage.

Harvesting Technique – Gentle and Efficient

To harvest your potatoes efficiently without causing damage, follow Fontenot’s advice. Begin by digging wide, starting at the drip line, using a spade or fork. Then, gently pull and shake the plants to remove excess soil. Some potatoes may drop, but many will remain attached. Be sure to handle them with care throughout the process.

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Recommended Varieties for Louisiana

Fontenot recommends several potato varieties that perform well in Louisiana. Red LaSoda, a red-skinned potato, and Kennebec, a brown-skinned tuber, are popular choices. Additionally, Golden Yukon, with its yellow flesh, and Purple Majesty, known for its purple skin and flesh, are also suitable for Louisiana’s climate. Keep in mind that while purple potatoes may lose their color when boiled or steamed, they retain their vibrant hue when fried or baked into chips.

Conclusion – The Simplicity of Growing Potatoes

To sum it up, growing potatoes in Louisiana is a straightforward process. With proper planning and care, you’ll be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest. Fontenot assures that potato growing has never posed a problem for her. The only insect concern is the Colorado potato beetle, which primarily feeds on the foliage. So, gather your gardening tools, choose the right potato variety, and get ready to embark on a rewarding potato-growing adventure.

Ames Farm Center