Each year as I prepare to garden I end up doing a lot of research on different things I’d like to grow. How do I grow this? How do you harvest that? Just how hard is it to grow this vegetable at home instead of buying it at the store? Let’s just say that the majority of my winter reading is about the things I will can grow once our ground thaws and I can stick my hands in the dirt.
Gardening is and always will be a bit of a trial as you go, and for me I like trying new things each year. Last year, I decided I wanted to try to grow potatoes at home. Everything I read made growing potatoes sound easy but a bit finicky. You have to make sure you have the soil space for the tubers to grow, the ground has to be the right temperature and if you’re doing it in containers you have to make sure you have space.
A couple years ago a local gardening place had a pile of large produce crates for free and we grabbed one not knowing what we were going to do with it. But last year, we went on an experiment to try to grow our own potatoes. It’s actually pretty easy and very low maintenance.
What you need:
- A large crate or bin you can grow your potatoes in – I prefer the produce crate since the slats on the sides means it has great air flow.
- 2 bags of Garden Soil
- 1 Bag of Compost and Manure
- Seed Potatoes – You can use ones you have growing eyes in your kitchen. Just cut them into about 2 inch cubes with at least 1 eye on each and let them sit and get a bit of a skin on a cut portions.
Line the bottom of your box or bin with straw and pour in one of the bags of the garden soil. Make sure your straw is completely covering the bottom and just dump in the bag of dirt on top. Spread it out evenly.
Add in your Compost Manure on top. This will help provide your soil the nutrients the potatoes will need to get started and keep growing.
Place in your seed potatoes – each seed potato will result in a plant and will provide you new bigger potatoes once they grow. You can find seed potatoes at your local greenhouse or even order them online!
Add the last bag of garden soil on top of your potatoes and top with more straw.
Wait! We planted our seed potatoes in the bin around Easter and a month later saw the plants sprouting out of the top.
It was hard to not dig my hands into the bin to see if I was actually getting potatoes. And overall, I did ok until June. I did pull out a few small potatoes much to my surprise. But I didn’t dig in the bin a lot until mid July and pulled out our first harvest of potatoes of around 20 lbs. I left smaller ones in there to start again for a fall or winter harvest and will raid the bin again as we need them for meals.
One of the biggest questions I had was how much yield I would get from my experiment. The experts on the internet say that for every 2 pounds of seed potatoes you plant you can get 50-100 pounds of potatoes. Remember you have to have the space for that! Start small if you’re not sure how much you can handle at once.
Harvesting Your Potatoes:
Once you see the plant portions start to die it’s time to start digging. You can reach in an grab the fresh potatoes. Some will still have roots attached to them and you may find a couple with weak spots (those instantly went into our compost bin). The bin in self contained, but I still found some worms inside the soil – they traveled quite a bit!
Remove the potatoes you want and place them in a box or a bin in a dark area for a week or two to harden the skin for storage. Do not wash the potatoes unless you’re going to eat them right away!
To Store Potatoes:
Keep your potatoes in a cool and dark place. If you have a root cellar – that’s a perfect place and you can use them for months after your harvest. The key is to keep them cool and dry!
See? Wasn’t that easy?