Above: Photo by R Kahlil from Pexels

When it comes to vegetable gardening in Georgia, most people think they need to wait until April. However, there’s a crop you can start in March, and it’s a staple in most households. That popular crop is potatoes.

Irish potatoes are harvested in the summer but are started in March. They’re fairly easy to grow and produce a good amount when harvested.

Potatoes grow from “eye potatoes.” These are not grocery store potatoes. At any seed and feed store or garden center, you should be able to find eye potatoes. They look like small potatoes with eyes on them.

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To grow potatoes, you’ll need to start with well-draining soil. Potatoes will not grow in clay. They need soil that includes compost and is nice and loamy. For your planting bed, add soil to make rows that are about one and a half feet apart and one foot deep.

Cut the eye potatoes so there are two eyes on each piece and plant them about four to five inches down in the mounded soil with the eyes facing up. Pat down the soil so each piece is in place and then cover them with straw.

Once the potatoes start producing sprouts, layer on more soil and straw. Potatoes like to grow underground without any sunlight. Continue to keep them well covered until they start to flower.

When the potatoes begin to flower, you may decide to dig out some of the small “new potatoes” that are just underneath the top of the soil. These have tender skins and a delicate flavor. If you want the big Irish potatoes, however, you’ll have to let them mature.

You’ll know it’s time to harvest your potatoes when all the sprouts and leaves above the soil start to turn yellow and die. Carefully dig up your potatoes, taking care not to puncture them.

Store your fresh potatoes in a cool, dry place, and don’t wash them until you’re ready to cook them.