President's Day Potatoes

By Jay White, Publisher

I recently met with some of our writers 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 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.

President's Day Potatoes

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.19 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.

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. Red La Soda and Kennebecs are two of the best varieties for Texas and the Gulf South.

Red La Soda and Kennebecs are Texas and Gulf South are favorites among gardeners | Vego Garden

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. Growing potatoes this way will allow you to produce up to three potato harvests per year.

A garderener shows her freshly harvested potatoes | Vego Gardener

If you have never grown potatoes I highly recommend trying them. You can grow them successfully in long, wide beds, raised beds, or you can grow them just as well in containers on your back porch. 

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.


Leave a comment