In the garden: Grow a tower of potatoes in little space
by Carol Barany
Americans have rediscovered fresh, locally grown food, they love it, and, increasingly, they want to grow it themselves.
Last year, 35 percent of all American households, 42 million of them, grew food at home or in a community garden. That’s more vegetable gardens than we’ve seen in a decade, according to “Garden to Table: A 5-Year Look at Food Gardening in America,” a special report of the National Gardening Association.
This trend was certainly reflected in the slate of seminars presented at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle on Feb. 11-15, where a main focus was on growing edibles. A host of speakers assured their audiences that all it takes is creativity and commitment to produce amazing food in even the tiniest urban space. That’s certainly true in Yakima, where I’ve seen vegetables growing on apartment balconies, in black plastic garbage bags, in planters hung from a fence, in burlap sacks and plastic laundry bins.
At “Towering Tubers: Grow 20 lbs. of Spuds in Less Than 4 Square Feet,” a seminar hosted by Fine Gardening magazine’s Danielle Sherry, I learned how even a sprawling crop like potatoes could be cultivated in a much smaller space. In this case, a simple vertical tower of wire fencing from 2 to 4 feet tall (a use for my ill-conceived tomato cages!) is lined with straw (my de-seeded and chopped ornamental grasses) and filled with compost.
Grown this way, there’s no need to deeply till or amend garden soil (a must for potatoes), there’s no weeding and crop rotation is not a concern.
Spuds on tap: pick what you need for your meal and leave the rest to grow
Photo: GAP Photos/Gary Smith
How to grow potatoes in pots
Not only fantastic if you’re short on space, growing potatoes in containers make for a delicious crop
By Lia Leendertz
That sweet, nutty taste and the texture like slicing butter just doesn’t exist in the shop-bought potato, and I wanted it back in my life.
The answer has been to start growing them in pots. There are lots of ways in which this beats growing them in the ground, and a few in which it really doesn’t. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. This is not the way to grow if you are after bulk and high yield. It is also high maintenance and you will need to remember to water regularly and well.
However, if flavour rather than bulk is your priority then this is a lovely way to grow them.
Potatoes grown in pots become almost a different vegetable. One of the reasons they are so good is that they grow so fast, giving them a soft, moist texture and almost non-existent skins. This also happens to be the secret behind the flown-in earlies: they are grown in places where the soils warm early in the year, so growth is speedy. But most of us don’t garden in a south-facing sloping Jersey field by the sea. After the chill of winter most UK soils are slowly warmed through by a still-weak sun. But pots can be moved to a sheltered corner to bake, onto a sunny balcony or patio, or even into a polytunnel or greenhouse. This will help increase the heat in the compost and therefore the growth rate of the potatoes.