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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Plant Irish Potatoes Now

Q. Do Red Pontiac potatoes grow in Las Vegas? When should I plant them?

A. Red Pontiac potato is an excellent variety for Southern Nevada and Irish potatoes should be planted now. It is best to purchase certified potato seed (potato seed are potatoes cut up into pieces that have “scabbed” over or healed slightly) for planting. 

Many gardeners buy potatoes out of the grocery store, cut them into their own pieces and plant them. It can be done but the problems faced are virus diseases in the tubers because they are not certified and buying potatoes treated with chemical sprout inhibitors. Sprout inhibitors cause them to be really slow in sprouting after planting.

Potatoes growing with drip irrigation

Cutting a potato into seed pieces is quite easy. On smaller potato tubers, cut them into equal sized quarter pieces, let the cuts heal at room temperature for 24 hours and then plant them. Large potato tubers are cut into six pieces. Each piece should contain an at least one "eye" and plenty of flesh around it. 
Potatoes growing in North Las Vegas Nevada
Plant them directly into the prepared garden soil or put "seeds" into a shallow flat that drains easily and cover them with soil. Watering them in a flat at warm temperatures causes them to "sprout" in a few days. Once they have sprouted, carefully plant them in the garden about three or 4 inches deep and 12 inches apart in rows. Be careful not to knock off the sprouts from the pieces when you're planting. 

In large gardens rows are about 3 feet apart. In raised beds you can squeeze potatoes in rows closer than this but alternate them in the rows so they have more room to grow. Once the potatoes are about 12 inches above the soil cover the potato plants with loose soil so that only a couple of inches see light. 
Potato tuber growing on short rhizomes from mother potato plant
Potato tubers form on short rhizomes growing from the stems that are buried in soil. As the potatoes plants grow more, cover the stems with more soil about every three weeks. Feed them with nitrogen fertilizer lightly about every four weeks. Do not let them stress from a lack of water until you are ready to harvest. 

If you plant now, they should be ready to harvest in about July. Cut back on the water at this time so that the skins of the potato begin to heal. There are plenty of other varieties to try including Yukon Gold, Russets, blue potatoes and fingerlings.

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