Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pots of Potatoes

Last summer, in mid-July, I was given a small handful of fingerling potatoes that had started to sprout, and I planted them in Miracle Grow Potting Soil in two big pots. One of the pots was bigger that the other. I had read, in the past, about growing potatoes in barrels and bags and old bales of straw, and it seemed likely that big pots would also work.

Yesterday, when I finally dumped the pots into the wheelbarrow, I found about one and a quarter pounds of fingerling potatoes, so I couldn't say that the experiment was a resounding success, but I did find that the bigger pot had more potatoes. Also, I found some mushy potatoes that had been nearer the edges of both pots, and I didn't count those as actual "potatoes" in the weight measurement. I think those had probably frozen in the previous week's colder weather, so if I had dumped the pots a couple of weeks earlier, it is likely that the harvested weight would have been more.

I really would like for this method of growing potatoes to work, because potatoes are in the same plant family as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and rotating plant families around the garden to keep these from being grown in the same place year after year is difficult in a small garden---each spot should go at least three years without one of these plants in it. Growing potatoes in big containers would keep them completely out of the rotation.

I know that potatoes are sensitive to moisture levels (drying out is bad!) and that they are cool-season vegetables (high heat is bad!), and those characteristics may explain why the bigger pot did better than the smaller pot. The bigger pot was probably less prone to swings in both moisture and temperature, staying both more damp and more cool in the deep center than the smaller pot.

So, next year I am going to try again, in Spring and with regular (probably something like Red Pontiac) potatoes, with the largest container I can find and with soil that has been specifically amended for the needs of potatoes, which is going to require some research.

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