As everyone in North Texas knows, our February weather can be a gamble— temps can be spring-like one day and fall below freezing the next. But, the weather extremes should not deter gardeners from planting in February. Potatoes are top of the list for planting this time of year.
Other good go-to cold weather vegetables are root produce such as turnips, beets and carrots as well as hardy leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, kale and chard. Bulb veggies (onions and garlic) as well as asparagus crowns can also be planted at this time.
Preparing and Planting Potatoes
When purchasing seed potatoes, look for certified seed potatoes. These are seeding potatoes which have not been treated with growth retardants to prevent sprouting. Conventional potatoes in grocery markets are typically treated with retardants.
After you have planned and prepared a garden spot with well-drained, loose soil, the seed potatoes can be prepped for planting:
Cut each seed potato into quarters (sulfur dust can be applied to the fresh cut ends) and let the potato quarters set out overnight or longer until cut sides callus over. Seed potato quarters are then ready to plant— for a good rule of thumb, potato quarters should be planted 3” to 4” deep and spaced 12” to 15” apart. To provide plants plenty of growing room, make sure rows are spaced 24” to 36” apart.
Caring for Potato Plants
Potatoes need consistent moisture, so water regularly when tubers start to form. Before the potato plants bloom, hilling should be done when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the root as well as to support the plant. Bury the plant base in loose soil. Hilling will keep the potato plants from getting sunburned, in which case they turn green and will taste bitter. You will need to hill potatoes every couple of weeks to protect your crop.
When the potato plants have bloomed, new potatoes are ready for harvest. For larger potatoes, harvest only after plant tops have fallen over. For more information on planting seed potatoes, visit the Texas A&M website at http://aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu/organic/files/2011/03/E-511_irish_potato.pdf
Other Cool Weather Vegetable Plantings
Lettuce, spinach and cabbage can be planted at this time either by seeds or plant starts. For reference, these vegetables can be planted in February with seed or starter plants: