My son had collected a couple of big white barrels to use for rainwater catching from the roof. He cut one in half crosswise and built stands for both halves to create raised garden beds for growing potatoes.
I’ve grown potatoes a few times, and fresh dug potatoes are delicious. Now, I have no yard space to grow them, so they will go into the containers.
The potatoes I used were simply old red (and one white) potatoes from the kitchen that had developed growth from their eyes.
I know that most information about planting potatoes says to buy special seed potatoes, but I never have. The reason for buying seed potatoes is to prevent disease, which is a good reason. I already had the sprouted potatoes so I used them. Also, orders are for pounds of potatoes – which I don’t have room for.
Read this page at Microveggie for ideas on where to buy seed potatoes.
The potatoes from the grocery store usually sprout on their own if left long enough, but I’d love to begin with the good, disease free ones, and keep planting from there. Don’t ever use the green parts of potatoes for anything – planting or eating!
March Potato Planting
I’m in Florida, and March is the time to get serious about planting a garden. This year I grew seeds in eggshells and purchased new grow boxes for the vegetables.
Beginning of March: After adding bags of organic garden dirt to the barrel beds, I mixed in some leaves to loosen the soil, bone meal (good for developing good roots) and blood meal. I add the “meals” this because I use these amendments in all my gardens each spring. Otherwise, no fertilizer needs to be added to potatoes while they are growing.
Compost would be nice to add, but presently I am in the middle of making my own compost using the Hot Frog Composter. It might be ready for Fall planting.
Potatoes should be cut with only a couple of eyes in each piece. Plant each cut piece with eyes facing upward and cover with a couple of inches of dirt.
I put five cut pieces into each bed. This is probably too many. Also, the barrel beds are really too shallow, but I have no other place to grow potatoes. I will see what happens.
We had a lot of rain for a few days after they were planted. My son had drilled holes in the bottom of the barrels for drainage. After a week or so the green leaves began to show. (Leaves are poisonous, so keep pets and kids away.)
As the green stems grow and get tall enough, I am adding more dirt. The potatoes will grow off tubers under the soil. The more dirt for them to spread out, the better. Unfortunately I don’t have much land for growing potatoes in the ground.
Potatoes grow well with green beans planted nearby. This is what my gardening book advises. If your garden is in the ground, and you have space, maybe do this.
When Are Potatoes Ready to Dig?
Once the tops – those green parts – die back, the potatoes need to be dug up. How long does it take? In general, three months, give or take.
It is possible to gently dig around the plants before this to pull up small potatoes for eating. After the plants have been growing for a couple of months, it is possible to carefully dig around and find a couple of small potatoes to eat. In a small household, like where I live, this is a good idea so I won’t end up with all the potatoes being ready at once.
In the ground, I would use a pitchfork and carefully lift the soil around each top. They can really branch out, so dig around.
Because they are in the barrel, I’ll choose a time when the soil is dry (hopefully) and dig with a hand shovel and gloves.
When all the potatoes are pulled out of the dirt. Let them sit in the sun to dry a bit. DO NOT RINSE THEM… just brush the dirt off. Often gardeners will say to cure them, which toughens the skin for storing. If your harvest is large, see what to do here at “How to Harvest and Store Potatoes”.
Potato tops can go into the compost pile. Leaves of potato plants are poisonous if eaten, but can go into the compost to be broken down. Only do this if the plant shows no sign of disease. Read more about composting questionable poisonous plants.
I will follow up with more information about my potato garden as the season progresses.
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