Growing Irish potatoes requires right conditions _lowres

Photo provided by Ahmad Robertson -- St. Helena native and small farmer Johnny McClendon and his grandson, Jace Jones, harvest fresh Irish potatoes at his small farm in Greensburg. McClendon's spring garden consists of a variety of Louisiana-recommended varieties, including watermelons, peppers, peas, okra, snap beans, cucumbers and squash. The farmer said he enjoys teaching his grandchildren about horticulture and farming.

Irish potatoes are a cool-season vegetable grown in late winter and spring in Louisiana. When grown under favorable conditions, they return a high yield for space occupied.

One of the best pleasures of gardening is to enjoy the taste of boiled new potatoes; it’s a great crop to help introduce gardening to children.

Certified seed potatoes are used to plant the spring crop. Seed pieces with the eyes turned down will sprout and also develop into plants.

Johnny McClendon, a St. Helena native small farmer, has Irish potatoes available from his winter garden plot. His spring garden consists of a variety of Louisiana-recommended varieties, watermelons, peppers, peas, okra, snap beans, cucumbers and squash.

The LSU Ag Extension Services is trial testing bacterial wilt viruses and tomato spot wilt virus tomato varieties. McClendon will diversify his sustainable farming operation this fall with specialty Cole crops varieties.

The sustainable farm will be added to the St. Helena Ag Day farm tours in mid-June.

Here’s what you need to know about potatoes:

Planting : Spring, Jan. 15 through Feb. 28; fall, July 1 through Sept. 15.

Harvest 110 days after planting; rows heights should be 6 inches to 8 inches high.

Generally, you should space the rows 36 inches apart.

Recommended varieties are red and white skin, the selection of potato varieties in Louisiana. They include Red Lasoda, La Rouge, Red Norland, Atlantic, La Chipper and Kennebec.

Common problems : Delay planting during wet weather, as poor harvests are caused by seed decay. Major problems of potatoes are early blight, late blight, scab, Colorado potato beetle, aphids, wire worms and grubs. Prevention is important. Spray fungicide every 10 to 14 days starting when the potato plant flowers and is setting tubers. This will ensure healthy foliage until harvest. Clean seed sand with a soil pH of 5.0 to 6.0 will help reduce scab.

Recommended herbicides : When choosing a spring application, growers should expect a residual herbicide to deliver several weeks of weed control, cover a broad spectrum of weeds, aid in resistance management and allow for crop rotation flexibility. The length of residual varies by weed, soil texture, soil pH, organic matter present, and rainfall and herbicide rate.

For information, contact the St. Helena or Tangipahoa Extension Service at 305 E. Oak St., Amite, (985) 748-5462, (225) 222-413 or or

The LSU AgCenter is a statewide campus of the LSU System and provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

The Southern University Cooperative Extension Program is the outreach arm of Southern University Ag Center.