Up here in the North Country, Good Friday is the traditional date that we plant potatoes. Although I can’t see it happening this year with 18 inches of snow on the ground, frozen ground (Not the same, sometimes snow keeps the frost from entering the soil.), and just an occasional 40 degree day.
But potatoes are a mainstay in my garden.
We aren’t Irish, but it seems that potatoes enter a meal almost daily at our house—mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, au gratin potatoes, potato soup, potatoes and creamed peas, you get the picture. POTATOES!
Potatoes are comparatively easy to grow and keep well. The only thing I don’t like about potatoes is digging them!
Experimenting with the Cage Method
Last year I tried the cage method with potatoes. Create a wire ring (I used 2×4 wire I had laying around.) about 2 feet across, plant your potatoes in a ring around the outside with the eye facing out and fill with light soil and compost, even straw or hay will work.
Layer upon layer, I got about 3 feet high. Wow, did I have potato foliage, but not too many potatoes. However, in all honesty, I think I let them get too dry at times. This method leaves a lot of area for moisture to evaporate from the soil. So was the lack of success me or the method?
What would I do differently? I think this year (As I have the cage already.) I might invest in a length of 6 inch PVC pipe and a cap. Drill holes up and down it, insert into the center of the ring and keep it filled with water.
Experimenting with the Bin Method
I also experimented with the “bin” method. Use an indeterminate potato (Russet flower all season long hence indeterminate.) and keep covering the plant as it grows leaving 6-8 inches of the top out of the soil. Worked okay in a bucket, not so good in a wire cage. Again, I think it was moisture given the drought year.
Growing Potatoes in Buckets
However, cutting the bottom out of a five gallon bucket and planting the potato in there and covering it seems to work! I only did a couple last year, but this year I plan to do more. What worked for me last year was 2-6 gallon buckets. I cut the bottom off with a circular saw, then cut the bucket in half—loved the two with the handles! Set on turned ground, put seed potato in eye up and cover with 8 to 10 inches of light soil. Tip over in the fall and gather your golden nuggets!
I have a new area of the garden that I am turning this year. I’m thinkin’ that what I am goin’ do is trench the potato row, put the buckets in side by side and use the trenched dirt to fill them. That should conserve on water if it is another dry year and save my back from both turning and bringing in coverage soil. But we’ll see!
Huh. Food for thought – literally. I think I’m gonna try the bucket method, but, I also want to multi-plant in a 55-gallon blue food-grade drum; I have seed potatoes I’ve “created” and will be planting those – russets and reds. I’ll let y’all know how that works out!
I wonder if the same methods would work out differently down here in Dixieland? One way to find out, eh?!!!
Thanks for sharing, Bev.
Aint nothin’ gonna change us from the Mel Bartholomew method of bucket potatoes…LOL Drill your drain holes, put a layer of pebbles in bottom, put your ‘tater eyes in the bottom of the buckets (we like the square buckets like he uses), 4 to a 5 gallon bucket and cover with the Mel’s Mix. When you see green, cover ’em again…keep doing this until the mix & foliage reaches the top of the bucket. Then wait. Lots of potatoes in each bucket. BUT…don’t do yukon’s they’ll only grow to one level, maybe two. Learned that the hard way…:-(
Thanks WE2 for sharing! I have the book, but I didn’t read that! I even made several raised beds and used Mel’s mix in them last year!
What is Mel’s mix? Do we make it, or buy it?
Mel’s Mix is a soil: 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss. It’s a soil specially designed for use in raised beds. It hold’s moisture well and is very fertile. It also drains well. You can find more about it in Mel Bartholomew’s book “Square Foot Gardening.” You can buy Mel’s Mix but it’s just as easy to buy the ingredients and combine them yourself. In my area the price is about the same either way. I like to add a handfull of a rockdust, azomite, to boost minerals. It really adds oompf to tomatoes.
Hey! thanks, MsKYP! Blessings,
We mix our own “Mel’s Mix” … lay down a large plastic tarp, dump the bags of each according to proportions, onto the tarp & mix with rake & shovel. As sited above (1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss). Then we put it into our compost barrel and keep it turned to stay loose. It’s important to note that it’s not “soil” and it doesn’t behave like soil, so ya gotta throw that notion out..LOL Mel’s got some interesting youtube videos if you want to check them out.
Thank you, WE2! I’ll look for them.
I did a lot of experimenting last year with the raised beds I made. I used Mels Mix in one 4×4–vermiculite is NOT cheap! I used Miracle Grow Potting Soil and half peat moss in one 4×4. Those two performed about the same. And NO WEEDS!
My other raised beds I amended heavily with compost and peat moss. Some weeds, much heavier to work with because it was garden soil and not as fertile, but a whole lot less expensive!
I have 2 25′ raised beds. The 4x4s separate the perennials (asparagus & strawberries) from the annual beds.