Potatoes and Onions

Potatoes and Onions by Karla Basallaje, Master Gardener.

As you peruse seed catalogs and start to plan your gardens for the upcoming year, remember there are some vegetables you can start planting now. Potatoes and onions are planted at about the same time in our zone with seed potatoes and onion bulbs available for planting now in January and February. Although they are not suited for companion planting they are awesome companions in the kitchen! Whether roasted, baked, sautéed or fried, potatoes and onions make spectacular partners in so many recipes.

The onion variety, short day, which includes the Yellow TX Supersweet 1015, and Red Burgundy, have an average “days to harvest” of 110 days. The conventional wisdom is that the earlier you plant them, the larger they get. The Texas 1015 was developed by Texas A&M University and derives its name for the ideal time to plant the onion seed, which is October 15th, and also for its exceptional sweet taste and its non-tearing properties due to its low pyruvate content (which is what makes you cry when you cut up an onion). However, you can still plant the bulb (small bulbs are called sets) now, January 15th through February 15th. Also in the short day variety are the Early Grano (80 days to harvest) and Crystal Wax (60 days). When planting sets or transplants, they are planted 3/4 inch deep but not more than an inch deep and 3 inches apart.

A seed potato is a potato that is planted to produce a crop. It is the manner in which farmers and growers typically plant potatoes, although it is possible to produce true potato seeds, it is not commonly done. A potato is a tuber, which is the structure the plant uses to store energy to regrow the next season. Potato tubers start to sprout new growth from points called eyes. It is not recommended to use potatoes from the supermarket as seed potatoes because they might not be the right variety for your area and they are not guaranteed virus and disease free. The potato variety best suited to our hardiness zone are the Irish potatoes which include the Yukon Gold (90 days to harvest), Red LaSoda (100 days), Norland red (80 days) and the Caribo (95 days), just to name a few. Potatoes are typically planted by either placing a smaller whole potato directly into the ground or by cutting it up into smaller chunks, making sure that there are at least two healthy “eyes” in each chunk. Soil preparation is important when planting potatoes, working the soil into trenches 10-12 inches high and 36 inches apart. Because tubers grow above the seed piece, it is necessary to add mulch as the potato plant grows to keep it protected from sunlight and to keep the tubers from turning green.

Both vegetables grow best in full sunlight and well-drained soil and benefit from fertilizers early in their growing stage. For more details and information on growing potatoes and onions visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.

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