Easy methods for growing potatoes

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

From giant, starchy baking potatoes to small, waxy fingerlings; from pale white to deep purple, there are almost endless options available to you when you grow your own potatoes, and there are in fact more varieties about than we ever seem to be able to lay our hands on in the stores, and also the stores that sell seed potatoes.

The flavors and colors far exceed what's available in most grocery stores. And, with a little planning, even those of us with small gardens can grow at least a few potatoes.

But, you do not, if you do not want, have to buy seed potatoes – I don't. You can use, despite the fact that supposed gardening experts will tell you that you must by seed potatoes, simply store bought ones that have developed eyes. I do that all the time and they taste so much better than those from the shops, even though that's where they can from originally.

You can grow potatoes in many ways, from the “original” method of rows that you earth up later, to growing potatoes in a raised bed, growing in a garbage bag, and growing in a wire mesh cylinder.

I have found that growing potatoes in planters, in my case they are large plastic tubs in which trees came from planting, to which soil gets added periodically, after the initial layer of soil, onto which the slips of potatoes are placed and then covered, to “hill up” or “earth up” and I have had fairly good results from very little input. In fact the slips I use for my potatoes are but eyes on a thick slice of potato peel.

I have had a volunteer potato plant – actually I had more than one – last year and one of them, while not producing many (I had hoped for more from that large plant) produced, apart from some small little ones, one large baking potato that was about two pounds in weight.

Then again, I must say that I did absolutely nothing to that plant, bar giving it water, and it was, in fact, too close to the surface and some of the potatoes had gotten exposed to the light and thus gone green and had become inedible. It is being said, always, that potatoes that have gone green from exposure to light are poisonous and I am not about to try as to whether that is true or not.

It is important that the container or raised bed is deep enough and you must ensure that any small potatoes that may work their way up to the surface get covered with coil rather pronto. That way you get a good supply of taters.

As far as I am concerned I can live on taters, cabbage and beans, with a few extra additions. A little different to the Native Americans' “Three Sisters” but... and the “Three Sisters” can also come along, as one of them is already part of my version, namely the bean.

You can buy, nowadays, containers specially designed and created for planting potatoes and I have one presently under test, so to speak, though already mentioned by way of a review and that is the Potato Grow Pot from ??? and available in the UK, amongst others, from the Lakeland Garden Catalog 2011.

But whether you need such special planters or not is more or less up to you. If you can find some large tubs, or some boxes – of the kind that are being used for kerbside recycling – and others, I am sure you can grow a good crop of potatoes also that way.

Growing potatoes, while in general very simple indeed, does have problems, and the greatest is the potato blight, which is also carried by its close cousin, the tomato. That is the very reason that you must never have potatoes and tomatoes in close proximity.

The blight will decimate all your potatoes in no time and wet weather is one of the greatest causal agent. Tomatoes that have caught the blight, on the other hand, if they grow too close to you potatoes, can do it faster still than wet weather.

© 2011