Walter Reeves: It’s OK to plant pantry potatoes that sprout in darkness

Even potatoes that appear long gone can be planted with attention to a couple of details. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Even potatoes that appear long gone can be planted with attention to a couple of details. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Q: If I allowed my Irish potatoes to sprout in the pantry, can I still plant them? Randall Walters, email

A: Yes, but I make no guarantees how big your harvest will be. Make sure the soil is thoroughly tilled before planting. Position the potato in the soil, so the tip of the sprout emerges approximately 1 inch. Place an upside-down paper drinking cup over the sprout as a temporary light shield against full sunshine. After a few days, it will turn green and you can remove the cup. Apply 10-10-10 at a rate of 1.5 pounds per 100 square feet of garden.

Q: I’m trying to find an independent lawn analysis company — not a lawn care company — to look at my Bermuda grass problem so I can figure out why grass is thin. Mike Hoffman, email

A: I don’t know of an independent lawn consultant, but in my experience, the two most common problems that cause thinning of a Bermuda lawn are too much water or too little sunshine. Excess water leads to root rot and leaf diseases. Bermuda grass needs AT LEAST six hours of direct sunlight to grow. You can’t get around that unless you remove and replace the whole lawn with Celebration or TifGrand, which are more shade tolerant varieties of Bermuda. I have an excellent resource for selecting lawn grasses at

Q: We have several established Autumn Rouge Encore azaleas in our backyard. What is your recommendation as to the proper timing to apply Holly-Tone to these azaleas? Tipton Bradford, Fulton County

A: As you know, Encore azaleas bloom more than once each year. The heaviest bloom is in the spring. The right time to fertilize these as well as other azaleas is after spring bloom. This gives them needed nutrients for summer growth without worrying about early fertilizer causing new leaves to sprout before they should. You can repeat fertilizing in late fall, again avoiding putting new growth on at a time when the shrubs should be slowing down.

Q: I have a very old Lady Banks rose. I watched a squirrel peel the bark off the old branches near the base. Recently, it appears that more has been removed. What should I do? Annette Wade, email

A: The squirrel may have been having a snack on some of the older bark that naturally peels off the lower limbs on a Lady Banks rose. Fortunately, Lady Banks is a vigorous grower. The squirrel could eat the whole thing and I’d be surprised if it didn’t sprout new growth.

Email Walter at Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook page at for his latest tips.