Thursday, May 20, 2010

The persistence of potatoes

By now you know that Kim has a thing for potatoes, and that we have done a fair amount of raised-bed construction just to satisfy her craving for lots and lots of potatoes. This year we have two 12 x 4 beds devoted to potatoes, as well as a dozen big plastic tubs. Next year we might not bother. Why? Because the compost pile seems to grow potatoes better all by itself than we do.

Potatoes ended up in the compost early this spring when they started growing spontaneously in the beds where they'd been last year. We thought we'd dug them all up. Then when they started sprouting we dug up all the ones we didn't get the first time. Those are the ones now growing in the compost. (Why not just leave them in the vegetable beds, you might be asking? Because it's really, really bad to grow potatoes in the same soil in consecutive years - you're just asking for problems with disease. And we didn't plant them somewhere else because we thought they'd got too chewed up in the digging to be viable. Were we wrong.)

If that weren't bad enough, potatoes are still sprouting in last year's beds. I'm getting pretty tired of digging through mounds of dirt looking for tiny renegade spuds. But they're sprouting in beds where I've now planted carrots, and I think all that potato activity under the soil won't be good. So I keep decapitating the sprouts, hoping the potato will get the idea and stop trying. So far, no luck.

Contrast all that drama with the ease we anticipate in growing potatoes in plastic buckets. The idea is that you start them in a few inches of compost and soil, and then as they sprout and start to grow you keep adding more and more soil or compost or even just straw, causing more and more offspring potatoes to be formed. In the fall you tip over the bucket on a tarp, sift sanely through the soil for the fruit of your labour, and then use the soil (screened, to make sure no tiny baby potatoes make it through to cause havoc the next year) somewhere else. To me that all seems way less work than pitchforking through a big bed for the umpteenth time looking for elusive morsels of potato.


Paula said...

Good to know. My original plan for the garden called for potato barrels, which would have been the grow bags, but then I decided against it because Steve shouldn't get too many potatoes. But he seems to think he can handle them- I wonder if it's too late this year? Well, I can always leave it for next year. But I for sure won't be trying it in the ground!

Toni aka irishlas said...

I still grow my spuds traditionally in the ground, but, I have friends who are growing them in burlap bags. Same method as the buckets, but, no worry about off-gasing of materials from the buckets.

Good luck with your renegades!

Have a great weekend, ladies!

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