Substance Over Beauty

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.

Random tips:

-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.

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4 Responses to Substance Over Beauty

  1. Ann Thakkar says:

    I love reading your stuff Suzanne! This isn’t the summer that my gardening dreams will come true, but I am tucking these little gems away for next year!! Thoroughly enjoying seeing whole other sides to you! Keep it comin’!

  2. Lynn says:

    The growing bag for potatoes looks like a great idea. What keeps the bag standing straight? Is it the soil that you add to it and the firm plastic? I did see an article in a Alberta Gardening book where you build a box frame, as it grows you had more boards and soil. I was thinking it might be a good ‘project’ for one of our grandsons as he wants to garden and loves building – but your example looks alot easier. Shall see when the time comes and if his enthusiasm is still there. I appreciate all the added info you have given on the dos and don’ts of planting potatoes. I have read potatoes add alot of nutrients to the soil so reusing the soil next year in another part of the garden was recommended.

  3. What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

  4. Pingback: A Guilty Conscience | Adventures in Organic Urban Farming with Suzanne Denison

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