President’s Day Potatoes

Last weekend I met Chris Corby (Owner of Texas Gardener Magazine) and Patty Leander (co-blogger and staff writer for Texas Gardener Magazine) in Waco for a little writer’s workshop.  As often happens with Texas Gardeners that are eating Thai food together (instead of gardening) on a beautiful January Saturday, we began to discuss whether or not to trust the weather and do some early planting.  Now we certainly know better.  I don’t care that the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, we have all lived here long enough to know that nothing guarantees a late season freeze better than planting an early spring garden.  Regardless, this warm winter weather has given all three of us a bad case of the itch that often occurs once one has been bitten by the gardening bug.  While we agreed we would wait for the middle of March to do the majority of our planting, we began to talk about the one thing that needs to be planted in the February garden – potatoes!


It is time to plant potatoes! I grow mostly Red La Soda and Kennebec. However, there is a huge number of varieties that do great for us in Texas

There is an old Southern saying that says you should plant potatoes on President’s Day (in Zones 8A through 9B).  President’s Day falls on Feb. 15 this year so if you are going to rely on the potato to give you a reason to get outside and do some early gardening you need to hurry.  You have less than two weeks left to buy your seed potatoes, get them cut up, scabbed over and planted.

February is not the only time you can plant potatoes in Texas. Save some of your harvest this year and try them in the fall.

February is not the only time you can plant potatoes in Texas. Save some of your harvest this year and try them in the fall.

There is no doubt that President’s Day is a great time to plant potatoes in most of Texas and the Gulf South.  However, after years of growing potatoes I would like to point out that the President’s Day saying is not, in my opinion, completely accurate.  It has been my experience that the saying would be a little more accurate if it said something like “President’s Day is the LAST day to plant your potatoes”.  Potatoes are very hardy plants and they will grow and produce in all but the hottest of months.  If you plant on President’s Day you can be relatively certain that your plants will have time to grow, bloom and produce spuds before our hot weather kicks in.   However, that is not the only time you can, or should plant potatoes in Texas.


I planted these Red La Soda and Kennebecs in September of of 2013. I harvested them in February of 2014. As you see I had enough to eat and enough to plant again for my May harvest

The only thing that potatoes will not tolerate is high heat.  Because of that, they will do absolutely nothing in the Texas garden from late June to mid-September. However, once temperatures begin to fall in late September, you can begin planting potatoes. Thanks to their cold hardiness, potatoes can survive most of the freezes we get in the Gulf South.  If you are willing and able to give your potatoes a little TLC, you can plant your potatoes as early as September (for a winter harvest) and as late as President’s Day (for a spring harvest).  Plant potatoes in mid to late September and you can expect a decent harvest in December (as long as you are willing to cover them during cold snaps below 28 degrees).  If you plant potatoes in December, in an area that is protected from the north wind (and you can cover them in a hard freeze), they will be ready for harvest before President’s Day (read about my friends at Boggy Creek in Austin harvesting potatoes right now).  Growing potatoes this way will allow you to produce up to three potato harvests per year.


Each year Patty Leander loves to experiment with new varieties of potatoes. She is also a big proponent of growing them in containers.

If you have never grown potatoes I highly recommend trying them.  You can grow them successfully in long wide beds (click here to see how I grow mine) or you can grow them just as well in containers on your back porch (click here to read Patty’s awesome article on container grown potatoes).  Through the years I have learned to really appreciate the humble potato.  They truly are one of the most adaptable, and easy to grow vegetables available.  While planting on President’s Day is a good rule of thumb, don’t let it stop you from trying to grow potatoes at different times of the year.  This year, why not save some of your February planted potatoes for replanting in late fall and early winter?  With a little management and just a little extra care you can produce up to three potato harvests per year.


Growing potatoes in containers is fun and easy. Plus harvesting them is a snap!


I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Gumbo Onions

There are two things that really get my gardening juices flowing–pass along plants and discovering a new, exceptionally good variety of something.  This year I received a true gift – a pass along onion that has turned out to be the best green onion I have ever grown.  The “Gumbo Onion” is everything you look for in a green onion.  The white bulbs are firm and spicy and the green leaves taste great and are firm enough to be easily chopped. 


These “gumbo onions” have been grown in the same family for over 100 years

I got my “Gumbo Onions” from fellow Texas Gardener writer Patty Leander.  Patty got her starts from Chris Corby who is the editor of Texas Gardener.  Chris got these amazing onions in the mail from L. E. Andrews of Houston. L. E. sent Chris several of these amazing onion bulbs.  L.E. told Chris that the onions came from a family of Cajuns from south Louisiana who migrated to Texas.  They have been growing these onions in the same family for well over 100 years.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions.  Only they have no day length limitations.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions. Only they have no day length limitations.

Mr. Andrews’ “gumbo onions” are technically shallots.  Shallots (A. cepa var. aggregatum) are a variety of the onion family (Allium cepa) that reproduces primarily by division.  Plant a single shallot bulb and that bulb will create several “off sets” from the main bulb.  Because of this growth habit some people call them “garlic onions”

Each shallot bulb will reproduce by creating several "offsets" around the main bulb.

Each shallot bulb will reproduce by creating several “offsets” around the main bulb.

Shallots are not grown in large numbers in the U.S. I am beginning to see them in a few feed stores and nurseries in my area.  However, most of the varieties that I am aware of are still passed from gardener to gardener. Shallots are grown just like regular onions (except you don’t have to worry about any day length issues).  Plant them in the fall for an early spring harvest or in the early spring for a summer harvest.  Do not plant them in soil that has been recently manured.  Shallots should be planted with the root scar down and the pointy end up.  Stick them in the ground deep enough to just cover the top of the offset.  Now all you have to do is water and weed.    

L.E. Andrews' "gumbo onions" are the best green onions I have ever grown.

L.E. Andrews’ “gumbo onions” are the best green onions I have ever grown.

I am thankful for people like L.E. Andrews.  He, and others like him, are preserving our horticultural past by growing these old timey varieties that have slowly fallen out of favor with the nursery trade.  I am so glad that he decided to share his heirloom onions and their story with those of us that will appreciate them and hopefully keep them growing for another 100 years. 

BTW, if you live north of I10, it is time to get your onions and shallots in the ground!

Rattlesnakes and Roses

The "Belinda's Dream" roses that Chris was dead heading when he found the snake

People aren’t the only animals that like to be in the garden during spring.  The following post/tip comes from my friend and master of horticulture Chris Corby (owner of Texas Gardener magazine).  His advice is a gentle reminder to keep your eyes peeled when you are in the garden this time of year.

Snakes in the Graden-While deadheading one of our Belinda’s Dream roses (which, by the way, are just gorgeous this year), my good dog Katie found a large rattlesnake.  Mind you, I believe that all snakes are useful and have a purpose in nature—just not in my rose bed three feet from my boots!  Anyway, I dispatched this four-footer with one shot to the head.  My Dad taught me not to waste anything you shoot so I skinned the snake and cooked the meat for the grandkids.  I then sent the skin to my brother in Corpus Christi to go on his new cowboy hat.  The moral of this story is “Be on the look-out for snakes this spring and don’t kill one unless it is threatening you”.  And, if you do shot one, don’t let it go to waste. —Chris Corby

The rattlesnake in the roses-RIP!

This is a great tip.  Last year, I was “attacked” by a very large and very unhappy chicken (or rat) snake while picking tomatoes.  I also personally know two people in Brenham that were bitten by copperheads in their yards last year.  Our unseasonably warm weather has the snakes out a little earlier than usual.  They also appear to be a little more active than is normal for this time of year.  So wear your boots and take a stick with you each time you go into the garden.


After publishing Texas Gardener for 31 years, Chris is full of great gardening tips.  If you don’t already subscribe to his magazine, you should.  As an added benefit, subscribers receive his weekly newsletter called “Seeds” that gives you a new tip every week and covers timely topics of interest to those of us that love to grow things.