Although you probably got tired of hearing about my Pandemic garden last year, I’m going to tell you about something new I tried this year.
For a new challenge this year I tried to grow potatoes in an old laundry basket and two old milk crates – each lined with a garbage bag with holes punched in it. Yeah, I was being a Cheap Ass, but that was part of the challenge – to see if I could grow potatoes in containers I already had. Remember that my soil is clay and rock, so I do need to grow above ground using soil that I have to buy. So I tried to do the rest as cheaply as possible.
In a survival situation you’re going to grow potatoes from what you have. But in the current world you are better off buying seed potatoes. Store bought potatoes are treated to suppress sprouting, so you are not likely to get a crop by just throwing a couple taters from Aldi in the ground. But if they do sprout for some reason, you can try planting them.
I bought two varieties – Purple Viking from Gurney and plain old red from a bin at my local Rural King. Rural King was way cheaper, so since all grew well, I’ll not spend the money for the speciality ones next year.
All told I had three containers growing. I put the pieces with eyes in the ground on April 3rd. Then as per internet instructions, I let them grow, and added more soil over the top as the plants got taller until the soil was at the top of my containers, and then I stopped.
Then, it was just waiting and watering until the potato plants flowered and started to die back. Whereupon one is supposed to harvest.
The did indeed flower, though anemically, and the leaves have now curled and are turning brown/yellow. The vines haven’t completely died back yet, but my impatience to know the results of my experiment overcame my willingness to wait for perfect homegrown potatoes. So I overturned and dug up one of the containers two weeks ago – the one that looked the done-est. And then this week I dug up the second bin. That leaves one more left to harvest.
I was pleasantly surprised. While there weren’t scads and scads in the first bin, there were indeed potatoes in that soil – some of a quite decent size. There were more small ones than big ones though, so I decided to let the other two containers go for a few more weeks to see if that helped the size.
The second bin this week gave me much bigger taters, though they were the red ones rather than the purple ones, so I’m not sure if it was variety or time that made the difference.
The soil at the bottom of the containers where the taters were was rather dry. So my regular watering was at least not making them rot in moisture. I was worried about how much to water, so that answered my question – I was doing it about right.
After admiring my crop for a whole twenty minutes, I opted to eat the smallest ‘taters right away with my supper. I just nuked ‘em with butter and salt, skins on, and they were delicious! Talk about fresh produce – it’s hard to beat twenty minutes from the ground to mah belly.
I used up the first batch of potatoes pretty promptly because they weren’t that big. But since the second batch were larger specimens I’ll try to store a few in a cool dry place. I may also can some in cubes for future potato salad or dehydrate slices for future scalloped potatoes – it depends on my mood. And I’ve still got the third batch yet to harvest.
I’m just so tickled that this experiment turned out positively. I was prepared for there to be zero return or only a couple rotted stubs. Low expectations means no disappointment. But I am just elated that this worked.
Although I will be purposely preserving some of these, potatoes can be stored “as-is” for months at basement-type temperatures as our ancestors did in their root cellars. This makes them a near perfect pandemic grid down first emergency crop to be planted. It’s good to know that a garbage bag and some potting soil are all you need to produce a calorie and nutrient-rich crop when the chips are down and resources are scarce. And you might not even need the potting soil if your ground is decent. Even the guy in “The Martian” managed to grow potatoes.
If you have a yard, you have soil even if it isn’t the greatest. If you are an apartment dweller you can use this container method with minimal resources. So try growing your own potatoes – I haven’t regretted it.