The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on March 28, 1998 · Page 52
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 52

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Salina, Kansas
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Saturday, March 28, 1998
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Page 52
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8 • HOMES • SPRING 1998 ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT TO THE SAUNA JOURNAL St. Patrick's Day and Irish Potatoes Have Folklore and Scientific Ties Kathleen W. Ward Extension Communications Specialist MANHATTAN—Myth and folklore surround the proper planting time for Irish potatoes, a long-time staple in Americans' diet. In Kansas, for example, St. Patrick's Day is commonly accepted as "potato-planting time." Another long-held theory calls for planting "underground" vegetables (e.g., Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions) during the dark or new phase of the moon. Conversely, "aboveground" vegetables must go in the ground during the light or full phase of the moon. "These two theories may have some basis in fact. But that's no surprise. After all, people were gardening successfully back when Stonehenge was an up-to-date calendar. Hundreds of years after that, gardeners' only guide still was what their family or village had learned through experience, observation of nature and the increasingly regular timing of religious festivals," said Chuck Marr, vegetable crops specialist for K-State Research and Extension. Irish potatoes are a swollen underground stem—called a tuber—that form as the plant stores starch. These tubers form best when soil temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees F, Marr said. So, for potato plants to reach tuber-forming size before summer hits, Kansans must plant early. Generally, the best time is around Mid-March, when St. Patrick's Day occurs each year. Marr has actually tested the phase- of-the-moon theory that directs some Kansans' potato planting. He analyzed the data from 13 years of K-State research field trials with one Irish potato variety. "The plants produced the highest and lowest number of potatoes in years when the researchers' planted in the 'dark' of the moon," he said. "Of course, the researchers had based their planting date on scientific factors, such as soil and air temperature. "Interestingly, though, that date coincided with the dark of the moon in nine of the 13 years. Who can say whether that was just a coincidence?" That's why Marr doesn't discourage gardeners from following old adages or folklore as they select a planting time. He just suggests they make sure the time also meets horticulture's more scientific recommendations. "After all, your neighbor may grow great potatoes because he's an experienced gardener, not because he plants when the moon is new," Marr said. K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has offices and research centers in 105 Kansas counties and its headquarters on the K-State campus, Manhattan. PAYNE OIL CO. "Call Payne for Propane See Our Top Quality • Ducane Gas Grills •Patio Lights •Patio Heaters For All Your Propane Needs • Salina • Minneapolis • Concordia • Clyde • Abilene • Newton 41OW. North Street, Salina • Reliable service • Certified Employees • Quality Equipment • 27 years of service • Record of Safety and Dependability • Route Service and tank rental 823-2287

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