1. To grow potatoes almost anywhere, you need
a. seed potatoes
b. a big container with good drainage and
c. enough rocks the size of golf balls to cover the bottom of the container
d. dirt, straw, peat moss or grass clippings for the potatoes to grow in.
2. Any potato with sprouting “eyes” can be a seed potato. To help eyes grow, put seed potatoes in a warm place in a paper bag. Organic potatoes are more likely to sprout as they have not been irradiated to prevent sprouting. It might take 7-10 days to have eyes grow shoots. You can cut a big potato into 2-4 chunks. Chunks need at least 24 hours to “seal” before being planted. (Otherwise they might rot.)
3. For containers, some people use old tires or large plastic garbage cans with holes cut in the bottom. Some people use burlap sacs. I recommend a wooden box that is 2-3 feet wide by 2-3 feet deep. For height (2-3 feet), build it up as your potato plants grow – see growing instructions
a. To build the box, gather chunks of wood that are 2-3 feet long. Construction sites are a great source as they often throw short pieces away.
b. Use nails or screws to create a simple wooden box.
c. Attach chicken wire across the bottom of the box instead of wood. You don’t need to have a wood base.
d. Build the box so that it sits an inch or two above the ground. This helps with drainage.
4. Move your container to where you will grow the potatoes.
5. Put a layer of rocks at the bottom for better drainage. The rocks should be about the size of golf balls. Completely cover the bottom.
6. Put a layer of dirt 4-5 inches thick over the rocks.
7. Plant your seed potatoes.
8. Sprinkle seed potatoes with just enough dirt or straw and dirt to cover them, including the eyes. Peat moss can work too.
9. Water, so that the soil is damp, but not sopping wet.
• Water from time to time, allowing the box contents to dry out a bit but not too much. (Burrow down 4 inches or so to see if the soil is drying out. Don’t water so much that you are in danger of rot. If the weather is hot you need to water more than if the weather is cool and damp.
• After 1-2 weeks you should see white, red or green shoots coming up through the dirt/straw/grass clippings. When these shoots become visible, add another inch of dirt/straw. This will encourage the potato plant to develop more shoots and therefore more potatoes. As new shoots keep coming above the surface, keep adding more dirt/hay until you reach the top of the box.
• When the dirt reaches the top, just let the potato plant grow.
• Continue to water regularly, i.e. if the potato plant leaves look wilty.
• If the potato plants start to produce flowers then pinch these off to encourage the plant to produce larger potatoes and not seed.
• Wire worms can ruin a crop. They and other pests are less likely to affect growing potatoes in a container.
• You can plant Lemon Thyme around the potato plants at the top of the box to help with pest control.
• After 8-10 weeks you can begin to harvest potatoes from the bottom of the box by taking off one or two of the lower board, feeling around and pulling out potatoes from that level, and then closing up the box again. You can also wait until the end of the season and harvest all at once.
• If you wait longer you will get larger potatoes.
• Potatoes are ready for harvest when the foliage starts to turn yellow. Potatoes can be left in the container for several weeks longer.
• Once harvested, keep the potatoes in a cool dark place – like the fridge.
Reprinted with permission from the Sea to Sky Putting Children First Initiative Final Report, March, 2010