Irish potatoes are fun to plant in the garden and fresh from the garden potatoes taste way better than what you buy in the store. Irish potatoes are planted from seed potatoes that are cut into small sections, each section containing a sprout or so-called “eye.” What you are doing is actually cloning the original seed potato. Many gardeners here in the southern United States plant one crop of Irish potatoes in the spring, save some of the potatoes for seed, and plant another crop in the fall. This will work for a year, and if you are lucky you may be able to plant several generations from the original seed, but eventually you will have problems. You see, “Irish” potatoes aren’t Irish at all. They were developed by Native-America tribes in the high mountains of
South America, and
this is their natural environment. When
you try to raise generation after generation of Irish potatoes in the warm,
humid climate of the southern United
States they will eventually develop diseases
that they do not have a historic immunity to.
Witness the fact that most seed potatoes in the U.S. come from the high and dry states of Montana and Idaho.
Sweet potatoes are the traditional potato crop of the South. Sweet potatoes are also a Native-American plant; but, unlike the Irish potato, sweet potatoes were developed in the warm, humid climate of tropical
America. The long, hot
growing season, the acid soil, and the abundant rainfall of the South are ideal
for growing sweet potatoes; and they can be cloned for generation after
generation without problems. This makes
sweet potatoes an ideal long-term survival crop for the southeastern United States.
Because they require a very long growing season, raising sweet potatoes is more problematic in northern latitudes; but it can be done. Starting young vines in cloches or starting them in a greenhouse and transplanting them when the weather warms make it possible to raise sweet potatoes in cooler climates. The one thing that you definitely must have in order to produce good tubers is loose soil. Sweet potatoes do not do well in heavy, clay soils. They need loose sandy soil to give the tubers room to expand and fill out.