My current home doesn't have a verandah but I'd like it to! A long porch surrounding the entire house. With a porch swing, potted blueberry plants, and a long strong dog laying at my feet. The sweet smell of lrosemary and freshly-turned soil wafting across my yard. The chickens clucking contentedly as they scratch for goodies in the fertile dirt. Knowing we have a full root cellar, trees in the orchard about to drop their bounty, and soup made all from hand-picked harvests bubbling in the crockpot. Heaven.

Please move with me over to my current blog, ... thank you!

Growing Potatoes in a Trash Can or Bag

I got my seed potatoes the other day in the mail: Rose Finn Apple. Fingerlings. They are laying on a table in my grow room (because the instructions said to do that 1-2 weeks before planting). Plus I have store-bought baking potatoes from last Fall that have begun to sprout (I know... these might not produce very well so I'll double or triple how many I place in each container).

At our last house in 2008, we used tires to grow potatoes. What worked fine until a neighbor played a little trick on us, and we lost all of our potatoes. Plus you need to be really careful about using tires that haven't had "fix-o-flat" used in them. I guess we could try again, but we don't have any extra tires around anymore.

Somewhere I'd read that it's possible to grow potatoes in hay/straw. Lay some down, place the cut seed potatoes, cover with hay and keep covering as the leaves and stems get taller. Always leave a little leaf showing.

That seemed easy, so I thought maybe I'd do that. Take my 2x2 frames and fill with hay, then as I added more hay, add more frames till it gets kinda tall and allow to die back. I already have the wood for frames. We have plenty of hay for the critters, so it would be no problem to use some for the potatoes.

But then, as I was researching how long it takes potatoes to grow to maturity, I came across a little thing about how to grow potatoes in a trash can.

I know. Convenient!

Here's a link: using a 30-gallon trash can.

This makes me think... regular sized kitchen trash cans are available at the dollar store for about $3 each. Our soil here is mostly sand anyway. Plus I have lots of cheap large black trash bags and empty Miracle Grow potting soil bags. I did a bit more research, and made the following plan:

-start now... a few weeks before the "last frost" for Zone 5
-a week or two before planting date, set seed potatoes where exposed to light and temps between 60-70 degrees
-a day or 2 before planting, use sharp clean knife to slice potatoes (1-2 eyes per part)
-buy a few 30-gallon kitchen trash cans (or use big bags)
-somehow label the can/bag with what kind of potatoes will be grown in it
-drill (or poke) 3 holes in the bottom of each can/bag
-drill (or poke) 2-3 holes around outside of can/bag, 3-6 inches up
-place a couple of layers of newspaper in bottom (to slow drainage)
-add couple of inches of hay or shredded newspaper
-add a few inches of potting soil
-add 3-4 potato eyes (eyes pointed up), spread out
-cover with another few inches of potting soil
-water but don't allow to get soggy; keep moist
-place can/bag in area where it will get 4-6 hours of sunlight
-bring can/bag inside if threatened with frost, and back out when it's "safe"
-... or place the lid over it at night (off during the day)
-in a few days, you'll see sprouts
-add a little more compost, soil or hay (we'll probably use hay)
-leave about 1 inch of leaves uncovered
-keep steadily moist and mounded (but not soggy)
-keep adding compost and so on, leaving that 1 inch showing
-on very hot days, move cans to where they can be shaded
-make sure bags or trash cans are supported so they don't fall over when full
-little offshoots form on the growing stem on which taters grow all the way up the stem
-by end of growing season, can/bag will be full
-if frost comes before you're ready to harvest, bring inside if possible
-do not expose potatoes to sunlight (causes greening which is somewhat poisonous)
-when flowers start, you can harvest new potatoes (usually in July)
-when the flowers fade and plant stalks die/turn yellow, the bigguns start to grow
-when ready to harvest, allow soil to dry out 2-3 days
-gently dump entire can or split bag onto a tarp
-pick out potatoes, handling as little as possible
-place the potatoes in sun for 2-3 hours to dry (some ref says 2-3 days)
-brush off soil (do NOT wash until ready to use)
-store in cool dark area (38-40 degrees) between sheets of newspaper
-collect soil from tarp and use again for something else (or place in composter)
-sterilize container with sun or bleach and put away to use next year
-for people who have a long growing season, start Crop #2 mid-June

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Days to Maturity (Potatoes):
Early varieties 70 to 90 days, mid season varieties 90 to 120 days, late varieties 120 to 140 days.
No clue what the baking potatoes I bought at the store to eat are... possibly late? The Rose Finn Apple potatoes take 90-110 days.

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We have so many of those pallets that we got the other weekend, AND I have lots of black trash bags (although they are the cheap kind so I'll double up). And since we have no soil, just sand, for this first year here, I'm buying big bags of Miracle Grow potting soil; I think I'll keep those bags and use them! I also have big bags from when I bought rice. So we'll place the pallets on the sandy soil where I want the potatoes, and start the potatoes-in-bags there. The pallets will keep the cheap bags from decomposing on the soil and will help the bag heat up. Hopefully not too hot!

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Note: I read one website where they used cardboard boxes to do this. Hmmm... we just moved and have a ton of empty moving boxes. Perhaps we could use those? Would need to put a bunch of rocks on the bottom so it wouldn't blow away in the huge winds we get here. But wouldn't the boxes get soggy and disintegrate under rains and regular watering? Wouldn't the beginning (bottom) part of the box be shaded so how would the potato plant grow being in the shade?

I also read about growing potatoes in laundry baskets ... they are cheap at the dollar store too. I'd place rocks in the bottom to keep them from blowing away. The only thing I'd be concerned about is the holes in the baskets... (1) wouldn't the soil fall through in which case it's be smarter to use hay, straw or shredded newspaper instead of soil, and (2) the potatoes could possibly poke through which means they'd turn green so maybe the laundry basket could be placed in one of those cheap black trash bags to keep the sun off. Guess it's the same principle as using a milk crate. Anyone?

Has anybody done it in any of these ways? If so, how successful were you? Did you use potting soil (what kind), compost, yard dirt, hay, straw or what? How many potatoes did you get out of each eye (estimate)? What happens when the plant grows taller than the trash can... just let it keep growing and ignore it?

And ... Can this be done indoors with a grow-light? I would think so, wouldn't you?

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Trashdigger said...

I like all you are doing but please dont buy Miracle-Grow soils.. Chemicals yuk. I prefer generics organic soils, available at WallieWorld or make yer own.. sandy soil, top soil, compost and peat moss.

Trashdigger said...

I thought you might like this

Vikki and the Kid said...

Trash: I'll look into alternates. I usually buy what's on sale. Basically... anything is better than this pure sand we have! Thanks.. Vikki

Anonymous said...

Ace hardware has topsoil and composted manure on sale only this Saturday for .77 per bag. (Limit 5, with coupon.)

regarding grow lights: The best ones use a LOT of electricity (250 to 500 watts?). Unless you get your power for free, it isn't a paying proposition. Florescent tubes aren't enough unless you also get sunlight from a window (so I've heard), and those use around 80 watts x 12 hours/day = $.11/day => $3.00/month.

I also have read that plain old cool white tubes will grow shorter, sturdier plants than the "grow-lights" will. No direct experience - sorry.

Store-bought potatoes are so cheap anyway, that it is mostly just for bragging rights.

Anonymous said...

In Virginia I had fabulous gardens, built with horse manure/sawdust mixture shoveled out of stalls at a riding academy. Horse manure has very little nitrogen and won't burn anything. My friend who arranged for me to get many truckloads of it free, with me doing the shoveling, spread a large area about six inches deep with the material and planted potatoes just under the sawdust surface. He did not prepare the ground which was ordinary pasture. The crop was all of huge baking potatoes which he sold to restaurants. I have seen potatoes grown by professional farmers in NC and VA and Idaho but I've never seen anything to compare to those potatoes. We didn't count them, we just ate them and sold them.