After storing them in a single layer for about 2 weeks and checking them frequently for signs of mold or rot, cut the larger tubers into golf ball or slightly larger size that have at least one or two healthy eyes and dust them with powdered sulfur to prevent disease growth. After two days of drying, these are ready to be planted. In Central Texas we can plant potatoes in late January to mid-February. Depending on the size of the potato, they should be ready to harvest in mid-May to late June. Smaller new potatoes can be harvested before the tubers reach full size.
As the plants grow, pull soil from the sides of the trench to cover the stems, leaving just the top leaves exposed. This process called “hilling” creates potatoes all along the stems. Eventually the trench will be completely filled in with soil. Cover the potato bed with a lightweight mulch to prevent sun damage on the tubers. I like to use leaf mold, pine needles or pollen anthers from my oak trees. Deer don’t eat potato foliage so we can grow them in the resort garden beds but we do cover the plants with row cover if temperatures below freezing are predicted.
After potatoes are harvested, we plant heat loving crops like colorful zinnias or melons, okra or black eyed peas. It is already much too late to plant tomatoes, peppers or beans by this time. Gardeners with limited space may need to plant potatoes in containers. The yield is not as good but home grown potatoes are so delicious you will be glad you tried it.
Head Start for Tomatoes
To give our tomatoes a head start, we purchase healthy four inch tomato plants and move them up into one gallon pots with a bamboo stake for support and plant in the best quality potting soil. We keep these plants in our greenhouse where we can monitor them and regulate the temperature. Once our night time temperatures are above 45 degrees, we begin planting them in the garden, but cover them if we have an occasional cold night. The plants are usually ready to start blooming when they are set out. If you don’t have a greenhouse, keep them in a sunny spot on your porch or patio in the daytime and bring them inside or in the garage at night. A wagon or wheelbarrow can make the moving easier.
Tycoon has become my new favorite tomato. It has a lot of disease resistance, great yields and good flavor. Celebrity, Juliet and Lemon Boy are all good producers for us too.
Strawberry Spring Cocktail
Mint is pushing out flavorful new leaves and succulent strawberries are beginning to show up in farm stands so spring is the perfect time to make this ruby red drink.
Slice 1 cup of strawberries and add them to a glass jar. Cover with 12 ounces of vodka, rum or tequila. (Use mild flavored white alcohols for best results.)
Add a lid and shake well and refrigerate. Shake daily and strain out the strawberries on the third day. (Freeze and use for a frozen cocktail.)
To each glass add:
1 to 1 1/2 ounces of strawberry liquor
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
1 ounce elder flower liqueur
Several sprigs of fresh mint
Muddle well to extract the fresh mint flavor. Add ice and top off the glass with 2 to 3 ounces of sparkling lime water.