Potatoes, Onions, and Greens

Ag Biz News Column

Chad Gulley

County Extension Agent—Ag/NR

Smith County

Onions, Potatoes, and Greens

                February is a month in which many people begin planting onions, potatoes, and greens in their garden.  Soil preparation is important and it is recommended to turn the soil to a depth of 8-12 inches.  A soil test on your garden area is important as it will tell what nutrients are present or lacking and at what concentrations.  Soil tests should be performed well in advance of planting the home garden.

Onions are a cool-season crop and can withstand temperature well below freezing.  The yellow, white, red and purple onions grow well in Texas home gardens.  Onions are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and are most commonly used to flavor other food dishes.  There are short day (11-12 hour day) length onions, intermediate day (12-13 hour day) length onions, and long day (14-16 hour day) length onions.  Onions are planted from seeds, small bulb sets or transplants.  Transplants are the most common.  With transplants, it is recommended to plant at a depth of ¾ of an inch deep and 3 inches apart.  Do not plant onions more than 1 inch deep.  Onions grow best in full sun and in well-drained soils.

Potatoes are also considered a cool-season crop.  Potatoes are one of America’s most popular vegetables according to Dr. Joe Masabni, Extension Vegetable Specialist.  Americans eat on average about 125 pounds of potatoes or potato products each year.   The edible part of the potato plant is the underground stem called a tuber not a root.  Potatoes contain two percent protein and eighteen percent starch and are an inexpensive source of carbohydrates.  When prepared properly potatoes provide a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

Potatoes grow best in full sun in a well-drained, loose soil.  In most parts of Texas, potatoes are planted in February or March.  If planted too early, frost damage can occur.  Most potatoes are grown in the soil in the home garden.  It is possible to grow potatoes in raised beds under straw as well.

Greens are cool-season crops as well.  Mustard greens are usually grown for the leaves, while turnip greens are a dual purpose crop.  Turnip greens are grown for the leaves and the root.  When cooked properly, greens are high in minerals and vitamins A and C.   Turnips can produce greens in 40 days.  Turnip roots generally take 50-60 days to produce.  Greens also grow best in full sun and in well-drained soils

As with all crops, it is recommended to regularly examine your plants for disease and insect damage.   Do not wait until a heavy infestation of a disease or insect to begin treatment.   Other cool-season crops include asparagus, beets, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, kale, lettuce, radish, and spinach.

The Annual East Texas Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Conference set for Tuesday, February 28, and will kick off with registration at 8:00 a.m. concluding around 4:00 p.m.   The Annual Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Conference will take place at the Tyler Rose Garden Center.  A $30 registration fee will be charged and is payable at the door.   Attendees with Texas Department of Agriculture pesticide licenses will receive 3 hours of continuing education credits (1 hour Integrated Pest Management, and 2 hours General).

The morning general session features presentations on the topics of drip and micro irrigation systems for fruit and vegetable production, water quality and quantity issues, and food safety practices for fruits and vegetables.  During the lunch hour, a demonstration on preparing fruits and vegetables will be presented by the Family and Consumer Science Agents of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Following lunch there will be three concurrent sessions offered to the attendees.  One session focusing on fruits, will feature EarthKind® fruit crops, new, niche or potential fruit crops for the East Texas area, blueberries, peaches, and more.  Another session focusing on vegetables will feature EarthKind® vegetable crops, tomato grafting and soil amendments research, a tomato grower panel and vegetable diseases.  A third session will be devoted to growing grapes (specifically wine grapes), and will feature vineyard tasks and time requirements, vineyard water needs, and a tour of a local vineyard here in East Texas.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit with a number of commercial vendors during the course of the day.  Sponsors for the Annual East Texas Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Conference include Irrigation-Mart, Inc. and Heritage Land Bank.  The Rose Garden Center is located at 420 Rose Park Drive in Tyler.  For more information contact our office at (903) 590-2980 or access the Smith County Agriculture Blog at http://agrilife.org/smithcountyagriculture .

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

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