21 September 2009

Urban Potato Farming: Harvest

Back in June I wrote about re-using an old recycling bin and some sprouting potatoes from the pantry to attempt growing my own potatoes in my urban backyard. The results are in: success!

The potatoes turned out to be a great urban crop. They grew in a relatively small space. I only saw two potato bugs the entire summer. And even the squirrels didn't eat them (but that might just be because they're already full on birdseed and stolen tomatoes).

I did have a minor setback when I harvested the first batch too early. I don't know if the Yukon Golds I planted need more time than other potatoes or if I just jumped the gun on harvesting, but as you can see in the first picture, those tiny potatoes to the left don't even begin to compare to what I dug up this morning.


I ended up with potatoes in every size from marbles to monsters (they could easily make a satisfying meal all on their own).

Notes:
  • We had a lot of rain this summer, so the plants didn't need much watering. But when it was hot and dry for a few days, the plants were quick to wilt. Keep an eye on your potato plants!
  • Wait until the plants are completely dead before you attempt to harvest. If the plants are just yellow or starting to dry out, you end up with a disappointing harvest (see evidence above).
  • Once the plants have died don't worry if you don't have time to dig up the potatoes right away--they store just fine in the soil for at least a month (although I wouldn't leave them in there too much longer).
  • On the other hand, if you harvest them as soon as possible, you'll have time to grow another crop in the same container. Some sort of leafy green would make an ideal second crop (fast growing and fine in cooler weather).
  • Potatoes (even organic ones) are cheap to buy, so don't get into this with the idea that you'll save money. It does help the cost factor if you can make your own compost or if you're lucky enough to know someone with a farm (free manure). Still, with a reused container and "seeds" that would have otherwise gone to waste, potatoes are one of the least expensive crops you can grow at home.
  • You can use the spent soil to top-up garden beds or to sprinkle on the lawn. Don't re-use it to grow veggies, though. Spent soil still has nutrients, but not enough to nourish a fresh crop (greens or herbs would be okay, though).
  • Once the potatoes are harvested, rinse and dry them before storing in a cool, dark place. Light makes them turn green (and green potatoes are toxic).
I'll definitely be growing my own potatoes again next year, although instead of planting entire sprouting potatoes, I'm going to cut them into chunks (with 2 to 3 sprouts per piece) and plant those. That way I'll get more plants and, hopefully, more potatoes. Cost effective or not, there's something ridiculously satisfying about growing your own food. I highly recommend it.

3 comments:

bella said...

Very cool. This is something I hadn't even considered for next year, although you've just put that on my list.

Bill said...

"You can use the spent soil to top-up garden beds or to sprinkle on the lawn. Don't re-use it to grow veggies, though. Spent soil still has nutrients, but not enough to nourish a fresh crop (greens or herbs would be okay, though)."

Is just wrong.

Aspasia said...

Care to elaborate, Bill?