Saturday, March 20, 2010

Container Taters

Since I was a kiddo, I've grown potatoes. I'd find a gnarly, leggy, wrinkly one in the cupboard and I'd sneak it out back and plant it in my mom's flower bed, which she did not exactly love. She also did not love it when, once, in a digging frenzy, I accidentally cut the phone line to our house. Sorry 'bout that, Mom...

My sneaky potato past not withstanding, I feel like I've grown and learned a thing or two over the years about growing the mighty spud. Just today I put my latest, greatest idea for growing container potatoes into action, using a spankin' new compost bin, of all things.

It might seem a little weird to grow potatoes in a compost bin, but if you have a compost bin and have ever thrown a potato into it, I'll bet that you've noticed that the discarded 'tater sprouted like mad. They love the dark, wet recesses of the compost heap, and they produce the best when new soil or straw are regularly added to cover their growing vines, which is pretty much exactly how the ol' compost pile works. And so, I embraced my potatoes' love of the damp and dark of the compost bin and bought a new one expressly for the purpose of growing potatoes in it.

Here she is, the wonder bin-

This bin is actually meant to be 3 tiers high, but I'm going to wait for the vines to come up a bit before adding the 3rd layer, all the while covering them with soil/compost/straw as they pop through and keep on going until I have all 3 layers chock-full of taters. Note the netting on top. This is to deter my bottomless-pit chickens from climbing in and scratching and pecking my tater bin to death. My fingers are crossed that this will work, because we're using the same "bird netting" on all of our raised beds this year. I love my hennies dearly, but when it comes the the garden, they are like a plague of locusts and must be stopped from devouring the whole kit & caboodle.

I planted just 6 potatoes in the bin - 3 Yukon Golds (my fav), 2 Yellow Finn and 1 nubbly-old Russet that we had in the cupboard. I'll be interested to see how much my 2 lbs of seed potatoes yield. As I do with pretty much everything I grow, I'll do my darndest to keep track of the pounds harvested to give myself (and you) an idea of what kind of return on investment can be expected for the relatively little time and trouble required to grow potatoes. Check back in August for a progress report.


  1. Last year I tried to grow potatoes in my garden. The plants got HUGE and the yield was pathetic. This idea is genius, sheer genius!! I don't have a compost bin (yet) but I'm reasonably sure I can make one that'll work. Container potatoes, LOVE THAT!! And you can do several varities, oh my mind is spinning!! Do you get seed potatoes from a garden center? Thank you for posting this Michelle!! I'm so excited to make my own potato container! :)

  2. Thanks, Andrea! We do the container potatoes because a) I'm much too lazy to dig for them, and b) we have hostile clay "soil" that nothing can grow in.

    I did get the Yellow Finns and Yukon Golds from the garden center. They were $1.30 per pound, so I spent maybe $2.00. The Russet was just a scraggler in the cupboard that I decided to throw in. This is actually the first year that I've bothered to buy seed potatoes. I usually just throw my older spuds in the garden and see what happens.

    Good luck with your taters! May the spud gods smile upon you this year! :)

  3. By the way - you don't need to buy a compost bin or other fancy contraption to do this. I've heard of people using large cardboard boxes for their potato bins. Some people even progressively stack old tires one upon the other for their potato container, but there is some concern that nasty things can leach from the tires into your food. Ick!

  4. I found directions for using a trash bin for potatoes. I have a question, though. the directions I found said to never let your bottom layer of dirt/newspapper/whatever get dry. How wet do potatoes need to be to grow properly? I am so bad at knowing how much to water.
    PS I just had your blueberry jam on a homemade English muffin. We all did..and we all loved it, even my non-blueberry kids! Thanks!!!

  5. Potatoes like a fairly dark and moist environment, but I don't think that they have to be wet 24/7. In fact, they'd probably rot if they were. The Organic Gardener recommends that you plant your taters in moisture retentive but well drained soil. That's pretty much what I shoot for. I can imagine that, living in the south, you'd probably have to be a little more vigilant about keeping your spuds watered than I do here in the rain-soaked Pacific NW. ;)

    Good Luck! Let me know how it goes! :)

  6. I love potatoes but have never tried growing them but 1 year - and the yield was pathetic. We do have some old tires laying around, so I just may try that this year.