I love potatoes. They are the Starch Of The Gods in my eyes!
In an effort to continue on my journey towards self-sufficiency, I’m going to try growing my own this year. In addition to the personal independence aspect, I’m very concerned about the pesticides and other crap the commercial growers put on their crops. According to this report, potatoes have more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
That ain’t good.
I’m in the process of growing some potatoes in an unconventional way: In containers
My property just doesn’t have enough square feet of dirt to do justice to the amount of time it takes to get a decent crop of spuds. This technique is great for anyone with a sunny part of the yard, or for folks that live in apartments that have a porch or balcony.
Also, the state where I’m looking to relocate has some pretty lousy soil. It will likely be years before I can have enough amended, fertile soil to consider doing much in-ground growing.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on various methods. You can grow them directly in the ground, in bales of straw, in garbage cans, in pails or even using hydroponic systems. I figured I’d share some of what I’ve learned for a number of options.
I’m going to be doing 3 varieties of potato – All Red, Burbank Russett and Yukon Gold. My intent will be to “go natural” – using only organic and natural fertilizers, and NO nasty pesticides. If necessary, I’ll pick off the bugs, and/or use a soap-based solution to persuade the bugs to go elsewhere.
For those of you unaware of how to grow potatoes, you plant the seed potatoes about 3 inches deep in the soil. Once the plants have sprouted to 6 inches or so, you “mound” dirt up the stalks of the plants – leaving 2 or 3 inches on top (this is called hilling). New tendrils form on the covered area, and those tendrils sprout more potatoes. You keep repeating this each time 6 inches or so of plant stem has grown.
One of the keys to large potatoes is to have a loose, slightly acidic soil. Additionally, regular watering is a must. Potatoes are approximately 80% (by weight) water. Little water, little potatoes!
When adding fertilizer, don’t over-do it with the nitrogen. While it will give you big, bushy plants above the ground, you’ll have tiny tubers. All of the plant’s energy will go into the foliage, and not the ‘taters!
For those of you with sufficient dirt, here’s a great video on getting your land ready, and what you can expect in terms of yield:
I really like his attitude of not over-working the dirt, and encouraging worms by using compost in his soil. If I ever go to the in-the-dirt method, this is the one I’ll likely follow.
Moving a bit closer to my chosen technique, this next fellow uses canvas bags for his potato production. He has a below-average production (in my opinion) with his bag-grown spuds – about 7 1/2 pounds from the sack. My gut says his soil was too tightly compacted. You’ll notice the high percentage of smaller potatoes.
Could have been his fertilizer (or lack thereof) as well, as it looks to be well-watered.
Note: Feel free to stop the video around the 7 minute mark. Our spudster rambles on quite a bit after that…
This is the technique I’m going to follow, with one little twist. I won’t be putting the pots partially in the ground. Mine will be wholly in pots that are sitting on a concrete slab.
Part of my technique will be doing a dual test with each type of potato. The spot where my pots will reside will be in very heavy sunlight – nearly all day long. That, and the fact they’ll be on concrete might over-heat the pots. So, I’ll do one set of potatoes in white pots (to keep them cooler) and one in black pots (to take advantage of all of the sun’s energy).
My guess is, the ones in the black pots will sprout sooner, but may have difficulty in our 100 degree summers.
Also, I’ll be using some sort of a mulch on all of the buckets to help retain moisture. I think all of the buckets will be “big drinkers”!
Our friend in the above video was kind enough to do another video as he harvested his spuds. Holy crap!
Seven buckets produced 75 pounds of potatoes! Remember, each of those buckets only had two, small seed potatoes.
In the future, I’ll do a follow-up post on how my potato experiment turned out. The good, the bad and the ugly!