Thursday, May 20, 2010

Experiment 2: Potatoes

This year in my kitchen garden, I am going to be growing potatoes for the first time. Due to the size limitations of my garden space, I can't grow them in the traditional in-ground method so will have to find ways to tuck them into my existing place using boxes and containers.
After much research, I have decided to try out 3 different methods to grow my "Pink Fir Apple" fingerling potatoes from Hope Seeds.

Method One: Potato Tower

There is much that is documented on the web regarding the 'potato tower', a method of growing potatoes 'vertically' in the garden.  The idea seems to have originated from a guy named Greg Lutovsky from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds in Washington state.  Basically (as described in the attached link), you build a box frame, and as the potato plant grows up, you attach more boards and cover the plant with more soil. It would seem the key to success of this method would be to stay on top of covering the vines as it grows and to use a late season variety of potato seed.

http://www.irisheyesgardenseeds.com/growers1.php

http://www.denverpost.com/grow/ci_14839542



Method Two: Growing in a Container with Seaweed

I'm always stumbling across information here and there that leads to new and interesting places. I happened to read an article the other day on yougrowgirl.com about using kelp as mulch:

http://www.yougrowgirl.com/thedirt/2009/08/06/mulching-with-fresh-kelp/

This article got me thinking- since seaweed  is readily available here on the east coast- what else could I use seaweed for in the garden?  A little research later, and I found that historically in the maritimes, seaweed has been used as a medium for growing potatoes,a old method sometimes refered to as 'lazy bed' gardening.  Following are a few links that i'm using as inspiration for my experiment:
http://www.newfoundlandquarterly.ca/issue420/lazy_beds.php

>http://books.google.ca/books?id=FKbp7TeUUEMC&pg=PA25&lpg=PA25&dq=lazy+potato+beds+%2B+seaweed&source=bl&ots=D3qxDv_JgH&sig=YgL7tl1E09nkBlNn7XwRk8k3GCE&hl=en&ei=blH9S9


I'm using a cedar 'half-barrel' as the container.  I used my soil mix to plant the seedlings, and as the plant grows, I plan to cover it with my stash of clean, rinsed seaweed collected from a local beach. 
Method C: Grow Bag Potatoes

What to do with left over potato seedlings when you don't have any more containers?  Use a 'grow bag'.  Grow bag gardening is a popular method of small space vegetable gardening in the UK.   For potatoes I'm basically going to use a vegeteble soil bag with the sides rolled down.  I'll plant the seedlings in a couple of inches of soil and as they sprout up, will cover the vines with more soil rolling the sides up as I go.  I just read that the grow bags themselves may not be opaque enough to stop light from reaching the potatoes (making them green and poisonous).  I think this weekend, I may move some of the potatos to a re-usable sobeys bag to see if that will work better. If this method is successful, the idea will be to rob potatoes here and there for a meal, while leaving the potato tower and container to grow the whole season and harvest in the fall. 


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