potatoes and onions

Digging Into the World of Spring Planted Vegetables: Potatoes and Onions

Whether you are a beginner looking to start your gardening journey or an enthusiast seeking to expand your knowledge, this informative guide will walk you through different potato varieties, onion options, and essential tips for a fruitful vegetable garden this spring. See the potato and onion varieties we commonly carry at the end of the article!

Introduction to Spring Vegetable Gardening

Understanding the Importance of Early Spring Planting

Early spring presents a unique opportunity for gardeners. It’s a time when the soil begins to warm up, offering ideal conditions to plant certain vegetables, like potatoes and onions. Starting your vegetable garden early can lead to stronger root development, fulfill required growing time, and a more robust harvest. Potatoes and onions, in particular, are hardy crops that can withstand the cooler temperatures of early spring. By understanding the importance of early spring planting, you increase the chances of enjoying a successful and productive garden.

Unearthing the Potential of Potatoes

Exploring Diverse Potato Varieties

Potatoes come in an array of varieties, each with its unique flavor, texture, and culinary use. Understanding the differences is key to choosing the right types for your garden. The most common categories are russets, reds, yellows, and whites. Russets, like Burbank, are known for their thick skin and starchy interior, making them perfect for baking and frying. Red potatoes have a smooth, thin skin and are excellent for soups and salads due to their firm texture. Yellow varieties, like the Yukon Gold, offer a buttery flavor, creamy texture and are versatile in the kitchen, suitable for roasting and mashing. White potatoes are less starchy and hold their shape well, making them ideal for boiling. Additionally, there are fingerling and purple potatoes, like Purple Majesty. which can add a gourmet touch to your dishes. By exploring diverse potato varieties, you can enrich your garden and kitchen with a range of flavors and textures.

Fundamentals of Planting Potatoes

Planting potatoes requires attention to detail to ensure a bountiful harvest. Cut larger seed potatoes into chunks with at least one or two eyes per piece. Before planting, some gardeners prefer to let the cut pieces cure for a day or two, which can help prevent rot. When it’s time to plant, prepare a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained, loose and fertile soil. Plant the potato pieces about three to four inches deep and twelve inches apart, with rows spaced roughly three feet apart. As the potatoes grow, mound soil around the base of the plants to cover the stems and support new tuber development. This process, called hilling, is crucial as it prevents the potatoes from being exposed to sunlight, which can cause them to turn green and become toxic. Regular watering, once the top few inches of soil are dry, particularly during tuber formation, is essential for a healthy potato crop.

Harvesting and Storing Potatoes

Harvesting potatoes at the right time is important for both taste and storage longevity. New potatoes can be harvested early when the plants begin to flower, while maincrop varieties should be left until the foliage starts to yellow and die back. To harvest, gently dig around the plants with a garden fork, being careful not to pierce the tubers. After removing the potatoes from the soil, let them dry for a few hours before cleaning off any dirt. For long-term storage, cure the potatoes for about two weeks in a cool, humid place away from direct sunlight to toughen up their skin. Once cured, store them in a dark, cool, and well-ventilated area. Properly stored, most potato varieties can last several months. Avoid storing potatoes near onions or fruits that produce ethylene gas, as this can cause them to spoil quicker. With these steps, your potatoes will be well-preserved for future use.

Understanding the Intricate World of Onions

Discovering Different Onion Varieties

Onions vary widely in shape, color, and flavor, with each type lending itself to different culinary uses. Yellow onions, like Texas Legend, are the most common and boast a balance of astringency and sweet flavor when cooked, making them highly versatile for both raw and cooked dishes. Red onions, like Red Candy Apple, with their vibrant color and mild flavor, are perfect for fresh salads and salsas. White onions, like Ringmaster, are often used in Mexican cuisine, have a sharper, more pungent flavor and are ideal for grilling and sautéing.

Apart from these, there are specialty onions like shallots and leeks. Shallots are favored for their delicate, slightly sweet flavor, and are a staple in fine dining recipes. Leeks, offer a fresh, mild taste and are commonly used in soups. Exploring these different onion varieties can enhance the flavors of your dishes and add diversity to your vegetable garden.

Vital Steps in Planting Onions

Successful onion cultivation begins with selecting the right variety for your region. Onions are day-length sensitive, so choose between short-day, intermediate-day, or long-day varieties based on your geographic location. Start with onion sets or plants for the best results. Plant the onions in a well-drained garden bed that receives plenty of sunlight. The soil should be rich in organic matter, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH.

Plant the bulbs or plants about an inch deep into the soil, spacing them about 4 to 6 inches apart to give them room to expand. If you’re planting rows, keep them about 12 to 18 inches apart. Water the onions regularly, especially during the drier periods, as consistent moisture is crucial for onion development and a full flavor. Be mindful of weeds, as onions don’t compete well with them. With these steps, your onions will be well on their way to a healthy growing season.

Tips for Harvesting and Storing Onions

When onions start to mature, their tops will begin to fall over. At this point, reduce watering to encourage drying. Once most of the tops are down, you can harvest by gently pulling or digging the onions from the ground on a sunny day. Allow them to dry in the sun for a day or two to cure, turning them to ensure even drying. If the weather isn’t cooperating, cure them under cover in a well-ventilated area.

After the outer skins have dried and the necks are tight, trim the roots and cut back the tops to about an inch above the bulb. Store the onions in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Avoid storing them in plastic bags as moisture can accumulate and promote rot. Mesh bags or crates work well for storage. With proper care, your onions can last for several months, providing you with a long-lasting supply for your culinary needs.

Embrace Vegetable Gardening This Spring

Cultivating a Thriving Vegetable Garden

To cultivate a thriving vegetable garden, start by planning your space wisely. Consider the amount of sunlight, the type of soil, and the water drainage of your plot. Amend the soil with organic matter like compost to provide the nutrients your vegetables will need. When designing your garden, group plants with similar needs together and practice crop rotation to prevent soil depletion and reduce the risk of disease.

Be mindful of the spacing between plants to ensure they have room to grow without competing for resources. Regularly check for pests and diseases and address any issues promptly to protect your garden. Water your plants consistently, particularly during dry spells, and mulch to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. With these simple yet effective steps, your vegetable garden can flourish, providing fresh produce and the satisfaction of growing your own food, with tasty results!

Potato Varieties We Commonly Carry:
Red Lasoda
Red Pontiac
Red Norland

Burbank (Russet)
Gold Rush (Russet)
Norkotah (Russet)
Dakota Pearl
Yukon Gold

Amarosa fingerling
Purple Majesty
All Blue

Onion Varieties We Commonly Carry:
Texas Legend
Walla Walla
Yellow Spanish
Yellow Granex

Red Candy Apple

Super Star
White Bermuda

Alisa Craig (Yellow)
Patterson (Yellow)
Red Zeppelin (Red)

Summer Plant Care & To-Dos

Pest Control:

Be on the lookout for signs of pest damage, such as holes in leaves or wilting plants, and address the issues promptly. Japanese Beetle damage is usually seen starting end of June, which looks like your leaves have turned to lace.

Like to do your own research? Get additional help identifying insects, weeds, and diseases at U of M Extension “Diagnose A Problem“.

Fertilizing Containers:

The frequency of fertilizing your annual plant containers can vary depending on several factors, including the type of plants, the quality of the soil, and the type of fertilizer you are using. However, as a general guideline, it is recommended to fertilize annual plant containers every two to four weeks during the growing season. Choose a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for flowering plants or general-purpose fertilizers with balanced ratios of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and vibrant blooms.

Watering and Maintenance:

Check the soil around your plants, especially newly planted ones, to ensure they are getting enough water in the summer heat. If they are dry a few inches down, water early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce evaporation. Remove any weeds that might have sprouted to prevent further spread of unwanted plants. Use a hand trowel or a garden fork to gently loosen the soil around the weeds and carefully remove them, making sure to get the roots out as well.


If you have a vegetable or fruit garden, now is a great time to harvest ripe produce. Pick ripe fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and berries. Regular harvesting encourages continuous production and ensures your plants stay healthy. If you have birds or other critters eating your raspberries, consider netting your berries while they ripen.

Pruning and Deadheading Annuals:

Regular pruning and deadheading of annual plants promotes healthy growth and flowering of your annual plants. Use sharp and clean pruning shears to remove the excess growth. We recommend to only prune 1/3rd of the plant size. Additionally, deadhead any faded or spent flowers to encourage new blooms. This will not only keep your garden looking tidy but also stimulate the growth of more vibrant flowers.

Think of your fall vegetable garden in July!

In the month of July, it’ll be time to start broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage seedlings for fall planting. Many frost tolerant annuals should be started 6-10 weeks before first predicted frost date. In Zone 4, that is September 21st-October 7th.

Remember, specific tasks might vary depending on your location, climate, and the types of plants you have in your garden. Always adapt your gardening tasks to suit the unique needs of your plants and the current season.

Read Beneficial Bugs
Not all insects are cause for worry. In fact, many insects are beneficial. Attract the beneficial bugs with plants to help mitigate the non-beneficial bugs. This is a must read if you want to cut back on insecticides and create a balanced ecosystem.
Read TOP 5 TIPS for Summer Plantings
The hot weather and drought conditions may give gardeners pause before they add to their gardens and landscape. With these top 5 tips you can make summer garden planting successful

Container Rescue Steps

Mid-summer is a great time to clean up or redo your annual containers. Here are a few steps to follow to refresh and rescue your annual containers.

Container rescue! 3 Steps to refresh your annual container image. 

Haircut or deadhead spent blooms.
Fertilize to feed plants nutrients.
Replace or remove plants to fill in your container.