Thursday, April 14, 2011

Potatoes: Have fun growing your own!

Despite how easy it is, in gardens past, I never considered growing potatoes. After all, you can buy potatoes so cheap at the store – why not save your precious soil space for herbs, peppers, and other “luxury” produce? (Have I mentioned yet that this is also a budget gardener’s blog?) Then I happened upon some research (I believe it was published by Prevention Magazine) that store-bought potatoes are one of the riskiest foods to consume! When grown by a commercial agribusiness, not only are they heavily treated with pesticides, but also a chemical that inhibits sprouting! The article went on to say that some of the potato farmers interviewed said they would not consume the very potatoes they raise!! I did some cross referencing, and found the Today Show recently put potatoes on the “Dirty Dozen” list of produce that should be purchased organic or - raised yourself! (By the way, other foods that made the list tended to be ones in which the skin is consumed …think cherries, apples, grapes, etc.) With as many taters as we eat, this year we decided it was time to grow our own. And here’s how we did it…

  1. Decide whether you would like to grow your potatoes in a garden or in a container. (We chose the container method for easy harvesting and protection against underground pests and varmints).

  2. If you choose the container method, what container do you want to use? One popular method is to use a plastic trash can. You can drill holes into the bottom for drainage, and put the lid down when you’re concerned about frost. We decided to use re-usable grocery bags. They drain well, are small, and we already had them!

  3. In mid-March, choose what kind of potatoes you would like to grow. There are more varieties than you could ever imagine. (We chose Russets, Yukon Gold, and Red Potatoes).

  4. There are many places to order your “seed potatoes”. Catalogs like Seedsavers are certified organic and offer many varieties. You can also purchase seed potatoes at farm supply stores. I wouldn’t recommend using store-bought potatoes as some websites recommend because of the sprout inhibitors I mentioned.

  5. Roll the edges down on about 1/3 of your bag. Fill most of the remaining 2/3 of the bag full with potting soil or garden soil. (We added compost too!) Place in a location that receives full-sun.

  6. Now, plant your potatoes! Place each seed potato with the sprouts pointed up and cover with about 2’’ soil. We fit four “seeds” in our little grocery sacks in a square formation. Water, and watch for sprouts! Today is April the 14th and our little potatoes have been growing for about 4 weeks now. It’s important to keep them damp – but not so wet as to foster fungal growth (remember the Blight Blog?)

After Planting...

  1. As the potato plant grows, it will need to be “hilled”. This keeps the potato from sun exposure and prevents it from “greening” – a process that can render it slightly toxic! To “hill” the potatoes, add about 2” of soil to the base of the plant. It’s OK to cover the leaves. You may need to unroll your bag for a greater depth. Continue to do this as the plant grows until it flowers.

  2. Decide how big you want your potato. For “baby potatoes” harvest just after the flower appears. For fully mature potatoes, wait until the entire plant has died back! 9) Days to harvest can be a total of 60 to 120 days, depending on the variety you choose!
Feel free to leave tater recipes in the comments!


  1. Oh, My! Thanks, Meg. I love potatoes but like you, thought I could buy them cheap enough that growing my own was silly. I think I'll take another look at that. Better potatoes are probably well worth the extra work but how do you store them if you grow a lot?

  2. Hey KathyB, sorry for the delay! I just figured out how to answer comments! We found out it is really cheap to grow your own. We got a 6-pack of seed potatoes for $3 at Wal Mart. How to store, that's a pretty good question...I found this link on Ehow that should answer it!