Sunday, February 5, 2012

(AF) Tub of Potatoes - A Tutorial

As I said in my last post, I am really getting the itch to plant stuff. It is cool today (actually, it's downright cold), but it has been exceptionally warm most of the winter, especially of late. The beautifully warm weather, the tantalizing fragrance of the damp earth as rains finally come, and the mouthwatering sight of all the yummy wild edibles springing up everywhere (nearly 2 months early) has all been too much. So on the 1st of this month, I got out and planted a tub of potatoes (yes, I know, it 's just February).

A tub of potatoes? . . . . . . . Yes, a tub . . . . . . .  There are a large number of ways to plant potatoes, and I haven't even begun to try them all. Dave and I are going to make this the year that we try several new methods and let you know how they work and which ones we think work best. I am sure that different methods will work better than others under different weather and growing conditions. I think Dave has two plantings in now (visit here and here to read about his plantings), this will be our third. Okay, so back to the tub of taters. Planted in a large bucket - plastic trash can - tub - etc - with a few holes in the bottom for drainage - potatoes are suppose to produce even more than when planted in the ground (per square foot), so we will see. Even better, harvesting them is suppose to be a breeze. Just tip the bucket over on its side, jiggle the dirt/mass of potatoes around a little, and pick up your crop.... no digging required! I like that idea!!!!

This container-type growing of potatoes also allows anyone to grow potatoes, even people with just a small patio/balcony space and no yard. So, here we go, here is how I planted my potatoes this time:

I started out with 3 red potatoes I had that had begun to sprout. No sense in tossing them out.

 First, the potatoes need to be cut into chunks, leaving about 2 to 3 eyes per chunk. I tried to make sure each piece had at least one really good, actively growing sprout, but some of them simply had eyes with sprouts that were just trying to form, and that is okay, too. Just make sure the eyes look like they are alive. This is much easier with purchased "seed" potatoes, but if your leftover store bought potatoes are sprouting, they will usually grow. 
Note: Most store bought potatoes are sprayed with an anti-sprouting chemical which makes them a bad choice for planting. But this is done in bulk and often times, one side of the potato, or even entire potatoes, are missed with the spray and they will go ahead and sprout, consequently, they will also grow. I purchased these (for table use) from our local produce market. Purchasing your root veggies from a local produce market that purchases most of their stock from locals, greatly reduces the probability that they had been chemically coated (though it is no guarantee).

Now let your chunks of potatoes 'cure' for a few days. (let the cuts dry and heal over) Mine dried for about 5 days before I got back to planting them, which was almost too long. I had them in the room with the wood stove, about 15 feet from it, and 3 days of 'curing' would have been just right. This curing process helps to keep your 'seeds' from rotting before they get the chance to start growing. That little chunk of potato is what feeds your sprouts until they establish roots and can begin to grow on their own. 

This is one of Dave's tubs. I ended up with it from our pear picking escapade (you can read about that story here and here). I kept intending to get it back to him, but I looked at it the other day and thought, "Yes, that would work great for planting some potatoes in." so ..... he isn't getting it back for awhile, lol. Sorry, Dave. *grins, bats eyes, and gives Dave a hug* You can't see it from this pic, but this tub has a couple of drainage holes in the bottom. Make sure whatever tub you use has some drainage holes or your potatoes will rot.

In the bottom of the tub I put in some really nutrient rich, good quality soil and spread it out level... about 2 inches deep. The soil is slightly loose, but not too loose. It should hold moisture well but not stay soggy. I placed the potatoes into the soil, cut sides down, pressing them into the soil just a little. The potatoes are spaced evenly apart, and, since this time of year we still have a good chance of cold weather to come, I kept the potatoes away from the sides of the tub to lessen the chances of them freezing. I probably have too many planted in this tub (half this many would probably have been sufficient), but since they weren't regular seed potatoes, and some of the sprouts looked iffey, I planted double what I thought I might need. 

 To cover the potatoes, I used rich, very loose, compost. I have a pile of composted old hay, leaves, kitchen veggie trimmings, and goat manure. It is ultra rich, very loose, and holds only a small amount of moisture. I am thinking it will work very well for this step. I am hoping I am right. I carefully spread about a 2-inch depth of this beautiful, black compost over the top of the potatoes and watered it all in well. 

And that is it for the moment. Now we wait for the sprouts to emerge through the soil. The next step? - as the sprouts begin to peek and grow through the soil, I will add a layer of old hay that is just beginning to compost. As the potatoes plants grow, I will alternate layers of my old hay with the loose compost until the tub is completely full of 'soil'. Then the hard part.... being patient as I wait for the potatoes underneath all that soil to grow and mature. I will post updates as my Tub of Potatoes progresses.

And now, all this talk of potatoes has me hungry! I am going to head into the kitchen and make me a skillet full of Fried Potatoes & Onions. Mmmmm..... my tummy is growling at the thought.


  1. Now this is a very tempting idea. I was just sorting through my potatoes yesterday, noting sprouts, but bemoaning that it's too early to plant. Technically. In a tub though, great idea.

  2. Thank you so much! Another advantage of planting this early in a tub is that, until you work the soil up higher, the tub is light enough you could bring it inside, temporarily, if a hard cold blast hits.


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