Why So Many People Plant Potatoes On St. Patrick's Day, According To Our Master Gardener

When the weather cooperates, you might find more gardeners working in the soil on St. Patrick's Day every year. Irish potatoes are a cool season crop, so March 17 happens to be an ideal time for planting in most regions. However, there's more to planting potatoes on St. Paddy's day than just the weather.

The humble root vegetable's connection to St. Patrick's Day is multifaceted. It is a staple of the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal, along with corned beef and cabbage. For gardeners with Irish ancestry, the practice of planting potatoes offers a connection to the past. But, this timing works for folks from every background. Many people plant potatoes on St. Paddy's Day to mark and celebrate the beginning of the spring gardening season. 

While there are several companion plants you can grow alongside your potatoes, this day is also the perfect time to start peas, a crop associated with "planting" good luck. Although we are talking about planting potatoes, this is not the time to plant sweet potatoes, which are not actually related to Irish potatoes and need warmer weather to grow.

Planting Irish potatoes on St. Patrick's Day

Potatoes will tolerate a light frost, but a hard freeze will kill the green tops, so St. Patrick's Day planting will only work in regions where temperatures are unlikely to drop below 27 degrees Fahrenheit and the ground is not frozen. Prep your space by loosening the soil with a tiller or spading fork and remove all weeds. Work in about an inch of compost to give your potatoes plenty of nutrients to thrive. Dig a 4-inch deep trench or hole. Potatoes can be planted in the ground or containers, so row spacing will depend on your planting practice.

Start with prepared seed potatoes, placing them about 16 inches apart with the eyes facing up. Cover them with your amended soil. When they are about 4 inches tall, you can mound the soil around the stems up to the top leaves. This will create a deeper root system, giving you a larger harvest. Oh, and while you're planting on St. Paddy's Day, don't forget to wear something green so you don't get pinched!