On this St. Patrick’s Day, creating an Irish potato patch would be a fitting project to launch the 2012 gardening season. But, first, let’s dispel some myths:
• Potatoes are only grown in Ireland and Idaho.
• The potato is better suited for northern climates.
• It is impossible to raise potatoes in thick, sticky Piedmont clay.
Sure, a lot of spuds are grown in Ireland and Idaho, and these northern locations might suggest potatoes favor colder climates, but this is not true because Southern gardeners have grown ’taters for centuries.
As for the difficulty of growing potatoes in the gooey yuck we call Piedmont clay, well, there is a bit of truth to that. Spuds planted in such inhospitable soil will struggle to produce a crop, but smart gardeners know the solution is to add compost, quality topsoil and other organic amendments to improve the soil and break apart the tough clay. Unfortunately, it can take years to create suitable soil deep enough for proper backyard spud production.
But there is another way to grow potatoes – one that involves minimal digging for maximum production. And such a potato patch can be started this weekend. Prime planting time is now through the first week of April.
The secret? Use straw to grow potatoes above, rather than in, the soil. Here’s how:
L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. Send your garden questions, including the city where you garden, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.