By Cindy Naas
Many city gardeners don’t consider growing potatoes, since space is usually limited.
For a long time, I always thought that potatoes would remain one of those vegetables I would buy so as not to take up all the room in my garden with something so mundane as a potato.
After all, potatoes don’t have the glamour of fresh juicy tomatoes or the drama of dark purple climbing beans.
Then, one of my children wanted to grow potatoes. He begged, wanting to see how they grew. Since part of my desire to garden even in the city is to make sure my kids see where their food comes from, I reluctantly agreed. I did some research and found that even potatoes can be container grown.
Since growing them didn’t mean I’d lose actual garden space, I was happy enough to try this. You might enjoy growing potatoes, too. If you do, be adventurous- grow a variety which isn’t generally found in stores, such as the blue or deep red fingerling heirloom varieties.
What you’ll need:
* a large plastic garbage can
* 2 20 lb. bags of triple mix soil
* 1 20 lb. bag of composted manure
* straw or hay
* seed potatoes
First, drill holes in your garbage can. Drill at least ten holes in the bottom of the can. Then, drill more drainage holes on the sides of the can, going about 1 1/2 feet up the side, spacing the holes about 4″ apart.
Add 6 inches of triple mix and manure mixed to the bottom of the can. Prepare your potatoes for planting- most seed potatoes will come with instructions on how to plant them. Plant the seed potatoes no closer than 6″ apart. My garbage can will hold 6 potato plants.
Lay the seed potatoes in the soil in the can. Press down, but do not bury. Then, cover with a couple of handsful of manure, followed by a handful of straw. Don’t bury the potatoes, just lightly cover. Water gently.
The potato vines will grow fairly quickly. When they reach 4″, cover them with more manure or triple mix, and then follow with another handful of hay. Each time the vines add 4″ of new growth, bury them in soil/manure and then hay.
Make sure to water your potatoes carefully. When the can is filled with potato vines and dirt, the vines will begin to flower. After this, they will set fruit on the underground portion of the vines.
When the vines die away in late summer, your potatoes are ready to harvest. If you can, push your garbage can into the yard, and tip it over. Once the soil begins to spill out, you can scoop up all of the new potatoes. An average variety of potato will produce about 40 medium sized potatoes per garbage can.
Note: you can do this with sweet potatoes, too. They are also heavy producers and have the added advantage of producing a really intense violet-blue flower during flowering, and these are quite beautiful.