The potato-planting tradition on Good Friday could be premature for 2023.
What has been a particularly cold spring might not bode well for getting potatoes in the ground this Friday, April 7, with temperatures dipping around the freezing mark just the week before.
While some parts of Iowa are experiencing soil temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the standard for potato planting, others are still hovering in the upper 30s.
View the current soil temps for Iowa.
Growing up with Czech traditions, Good Friday potato planting was among the folklore, but according to one Czech saying, the opposite was followed.
“Na Velký Pátek zemi nehýbej” translates to “On Good Friday, do not move the soil,” Petr Chudoba notes on My Czech Republic.
Elsewhere, the Good Friday practice may actually have its origins in the phases of the moon. According to this tradition, flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground should be planted during the light, or waxing, of the moon, from the day the moon is new to the day it is full.
Flowering bulbs and vegetables that bear crops below ground are planted during the dark, or waning, of the moon, from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again.
The date of Easter changes every year, but is set as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal, or spring equinox.
Generally, that would set Good Friday during the waning of the moon, the time to plant below-ground crops.
In Iowa, appropriate planting time varies from early April in southern portions of the state to mid- to late April for northern areas.
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach advises planting seed pieces cut side down and small whole potatoes 3 to 4 inches deep and 1 foot apart within the row. Rows should be spaced 2½ to 3 feet apart.