by Mireille Bourgeois
I’m teasing you with the first picture of my potatoes weeks after I planted. Hopefully this teaser inspires you to grow one of the easiest crops. I was reluctant to grow potatoes in my first year of gardening because I’d heard that if the potatoes get some disease along the way it will ruin the soil forever. So I really didn’t want to add them to my regular garden rotation. I have read in many Pinterest posts about container gardening, with some luck and some failures, I decided to try the potatoes.
First step is collect and wash your containers. generally, the posts I’ve read recommend planting about 4 seeds potato sections per containers which should give you about 10 pounds of potatoes each container. I have a lot of seed potatoes and I always do everything in excess… So I clean a few containers we had from planting trees last year. These are great because they already have drainage holes in them. That being said, I’m also using some clean 5 gallon paint buckets, and they seem to be working out too, despite the CRAZY torrential downpour of this season (though we lost two buckets of potatoes to this. I recommend you cover your container during excessive rain.)
Using straw is a great way to decrease the amount of soil you’ll be using, while maintaining a good moisture for the potatoes as they grow. I only use the straw in the very bottom of the container, and on the top. When the leaves begin to poke through, I’ll remove the straw from the top. Some people have had much success from using straw and chicken wire to build their containers (using the straw on the interior of the chicken wire cylinder so that the soil stays put. I went the container route because chicken wire is expensive!).
You can buy seed potatoes from your local garden centre for about 4-5$ per Lbs. Don’t worry, the smaller bag IS A LOT OF SEED POTATOES. I only used up about half of them. What you need to do before planting them is to cut them into smaller sections. When you cut them, you need to make sure there is an eye or two at least on each piece of the potato. That’s where the stem will grow. It’s recommended to leave your cut potatoes out overnight before planting so they get a bit of a crust on the cut part, this is suppose to prevent moulding. Some people have had success skipping this process. In Nova Scotia there is a ridiculous amount of rain and moisture so I try my best to prevent disease. So I did not skip this step. Above are the yukon gold seed potatoes I bought, and below are red potatoes from my grocery store bag of potatoes that were starting to sprout.
Line the bottom of your container with a layer of clean straw, then about 1 inch of soil. The soil quality doesn’t matter so much with potatoes. I used a mix of peat moss and composted soil.
Then you place about 4 seed potatoes on the soil so that the eyes are pointing UP. (Cut side DOWN)
Cover with another couple of inches of soil, and then a layer of straw, and label your planters. Then put them aside and wait! As the foliage begins to grow, I remove the straw and added soil. Potatoes grow from the stems of the foliage and so you want to mound some soil around each stem as they grow. Don’t forget this part or you won’t get any potatoes! You’ll need to water only when dry looking, along with the rest of your garden, don’t overwater though! When the soil reaches the top of the container, you can just let the foliage grow over and enjoy the beautiful decorative leaves. In the fall, the foliage will start to die off and that’s when it’s time to harvest. You’ll want to tip over you soil (don’t reuse the soil in your other garden beds!), and gently dig out your potatoes.
I dedicated my steel fence to the potatoes. Since I planted, two of the container were flooded with water and I had to discard, but the others look fantastic! The last picture will show you what they look like a few weeks after. For a full garden tour, click HERE.