Sunday, June 12, 2011

Potato Boxes

Space is at a premium here in our micro suburban homestead. We love growing potatoes particularly in leaves and soft materials. This year we decided to go vertical. Gentlevoice found some plans for potato boxes online and of course I modified them just a little.

Using fencing boards and 2” x 2”s, the original plan called for the 2” x 2's to be 4' long in each corner. I did not want to look at that sticking up for weeks on end, and I consider the stubs to be safety hazards, so I cobbled together these frames. I offset the 2” x 2”s to allow for stacking. Each 2” x 2” is the 6” long and offsets to the board by 3 “.

I set potatoes on the ground and covered them to the top of the 1st board with soil and leaves.

Stubs up at the back,
down in the front,
doesn't it look better?
As the plants reach 12” in height I cover ½ of the stem. It took 3 weeks before I needed to add a level to hold the additional mulch. However I needed to add the next level the very next week. This setup is 5 weeks old; I was very late getting to this.
There are claims that it is possible to grow up to 100 lbs of potatoes in this set up. We will not come close to that this year for several reasons. First, the late start cost me precious growing time. Second, I chose a German ButterBall potato which is very small; this potato weighs a few ounces, nowhere close to an Irish or other larger growing variety. Lastly I think I have made a mistake. I used leaf mold enriched with manure instead of just leaves with the last “fill up”. Not a best practice for several reasons. I may have heated the pile with compost instead of simply providing a growing medium. One of the stacks has wilted in the last few days, whether it is blight or I overheated the stack remains to be seen.

Time for at least one more box,
maybe after the worst of the afternoon heat!
I held off on this project for several years because it just did not seem cost efficient. These stacks of boxes cost $ 12 -15 each for materials. You can buy a lot of potatoes for $15. However I hope these will last several years possibly, much longer. I also like the idea of another place to compost in place or store leaves.

We will update this when we harvest the remaining plants. If it doesn't work this time we will try again this fall or next spring. Again at worst we have made compost at best we have a space saving technique for growing taters.

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