Friday, February 26, 2010

Container Potatoes


 "Sooner or later your fingers close on that one moist-cold spud that the spade has accidentally sliced clean through, shining wetly white and giving off the most unearthly of earthly aromas. It's the smell of fresh soil in the spring, but fresh soil somehow distilled or improved upon, as if that wild, primordial scent has been refined and bottled: eau de pomme de terre. You can smell the cold inhuman earth in it, but there's the cozy kitchen too, for the smell of potatoes is, at least by now, to us, the smell of comfort itself, a smell as blankly welcoming as spud flesh, a whiteness that takes up memories and sentiments as easily as flavors. To smell a raw potato is to stand on the very threshold of the domestic and the wild." - Michael Pollan (The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

I'm not sure how I came across it- but last week sometime I found an article outlining the basics of growing potatoes in containers.  It is ridiculously simple, and incredibly inexpensive.  When I started container gardening for the first time last year- I somehow missed the fact that potatoes are an excellent candidate.  It's the perfect solution for people with no yard, or even limited yard space.  I may very well be the last person on earth to figure that one out.

You need four things: sprouted, or seed potatoes (the ones that go all crazy in your pantry before you can eat them are perfect!), lots of dirty dirt (large amounts of compost are a plus), water, and a nice, deep container.  Really- it's the exact same items that you need to grow anything else.  Surprise!

The only real difference is the container that you use.  Rather than a standard terracotta or ceramic pot- you want something deep.  Really deep.  This can be anything from a plastic garbage bag, to a garbage can, to a laundry basket, to an actual potato grow bag.  The key is to make sure that whatever you use is at least 18 inches deep and allows for drainage.  If you use a container that lacks holes you will need to punch some yourself.

The growing method is also incredibly simple.  Start with 6 inches of soil in the bottom of your container.  Add your little sprouty taters, and then top them off with another 3 inches of soil.  Give them a little water and a little time- once your potato plants have sprouted 6 to 8 inches- add another layer of soil- being sure to leave a few inches of the plant showing.  Continue this until your container is full of soil.  After about two months your potatoes will be ready to harvest- which can either be done by digging into the container, or simply pushing it onto its side.  

Do you have any experience growing container potatoes?  What about any other surprising or unexpected vegetables?

Links: The Benefits of Growing Potatoes in Containers, Potato Bin, Buckets, and Potato Grow Bags, How To Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can, and Potatoes, from The Old Farmers Almanac.


Mike G said...

I have potatoes growing in my garden and I think - along with collards and mint - they are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, esp over winter.

uhlayna said...

Oh my gosh, I never knew! I'm going to have to add these to my fire escape garden as well!! Thanks for the info about growing these. I see what my weekend project will be!

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