One of my family’s favourite dishes is roasted new potatoes (when I remember to take them out of the oven on time), but I’ve never attempted to grow my own potatoes before; the hilled rows take up a lot of space and are really disruptive to surrounding plants when you have to dig them up to harvest them. So I was thrilled to discover some of the other options out there. And there are tons: you can grow potatoes in wooden boxes, mesh wire cylinders, even old tires apparently. After weighing my options and balancing the concerns of air circulation, water evaporation and my one man work force, I chose a grow bag for this maiden voyage.
Potatoes can be planted anytime from mid-march until the end of May, so there’s still lots of time if you’re interested. I ended up grabbing just a display model with absolutely no instructions for $10, but grow bags are available all over the place and at my own personal mecca for under $30. I picked up a bag of the small Norland potatoes that were sprouting and placed three potatoes on top of four to six inches of soil, with the sprouts pointing up. I completely covered them with a couple more of inches of soil, watered them, rolled down the top of the bag and left them in a sunny spot. A couple of days ago I saw that the sprouts have grown.
Not the classiest of containers, but it works.
Now unfortunately there’s some diversity in the opinions on what to do next. Some sources say to continue adding soil as your plant grows, allowing just the tips to show, some say let them show a couple of inches, a number say they should be up to eight inches. Either way, you continue to “hill” the potatoes as they grow, unrolling the bag as needed, covering the leaves and stems with soil (the potatoes grow from the leaf nodes so it’s necessary to bury the leaves). As the summer progresses and the bag has become full, the plants will flower, at which time you can use the side pockets to grab some young potatoes out of the bottom (these young or new potatoes will have the least amount of starch). When the flowers wilt and turn yellow, it’s time to harvest the remaining. Stop all watering and dig up all the potatoes within 3-14 days, preferably before frost.
-avoid soil with a lot of lime, fresh manure or young compost
-liquid fertilizer is recommended to increase harvest; I like Gaia as it’s completely organic.
-if you do have the space to plant potatoes in your main garden, just don’t plant them near tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers or eggplant as this will increase the chance of blight and wilt.
-after harvesting, keep the potatoes in a cool, dark place and make sure they are completely dry and healthy. Any moisture, imperfection or nick on any one potato will ruin them all.
I hope to harvest these before the squirrels, raccoons and skunks do; Sam helps stand guard.