DIY: Grow Your Own Potatoes in Small Spaces
Get the Best Yields with the Least Work Using the Garbage Bag Methodby Angie Mohr
Living in the city, it can be hard to find a place in your garden for potatoes. Potatoes grown conventionally take up a lot of growing space and are time-intensive when it's time to dig them up. There are benefits
to growing your own potatoes, though. You have a much wider selection than that which you get in the grocery store. You will also have a ready supply of baby new potatoes, considered an expensive delicacy if you have to purchase them. There are, however, many different methods to growing potatoes in your small garden that save time, space and work. I have tried many of these methods, but the garbage bag method is the easiest and most productive.
To use the garbage bag method of growing potatoes, all you need is a sturdy garbage bag, like Glad Force Flex, some compost, shredded leaves and seed potatoes. You can purchase certified seed potatoes from a nursery or use sprouted potatoes from your pantry. Seed potatoes are your best bet, as they are certified disease-free and come in many varieties and colors, from yellow to pink to purple and blue. Cut larger potatoes into pieces that have two or three eyes each. Let potato pieces sit out to dry overnight.
When you are ready to plant, fill the garbage bag four inches deep with compost. Roll down sides of bag until just above the level of the soil. Poke holes with the point of a pair of scissors around the exterior of the bag just below the soil line. Sit the bag where it will get at least six hours of full sun every day. It can be by a fence, on your balcony or in a sunny unused area of your yard. Plant three seed potato chunks into the soil and cover shallowly. Water lightly. The black garbage bag will provide extra warmth to the potatoes in the spring and fall and they will grow faster than if they were in the ground.
When shoots sprout from the potatoes and the first leaves appear, roll bag sides up to top of shoots and fill with shredded leaves until only the top leaves are visible. Water lightly. Continue to fill bag as growth
continues until either the bag is full or flowers appear. The shoots will continue to seek sunlight and will grow upwards as long as you keep covering most of the growth. This gives the potato plants extra length to sprout growing shoots. The bag will begin to expand outward as well as upward, giving the potatoes more space to grow. After the potato plant blooms, it will send out subterranean shoots that will bear the potatoes. The potatoes will grow in all levels of the bag due to the continuous covering. After bloom, you may sneak your hand in and around the shredded leaves to "grabble" for some baby new potatoes, leaving the others to reach maturity.
Continue watering throughout the season. Whenever the weather threatens storms or late frosts, pull the top of the garbage bag closed to protect the plants. Make sure to open it back up as soon as possible to give the plants air circulation.
Two to three weeks after the potato plant's foliage dies back, you are ready to harvest your main crop of potatoes. It couldn't be simpler: simply rip open the garbage bag and sift through the shredded leaves for the potatoes. There is far less chance of damaging the potato skins than there would be if you were digging them up with a spade. Add the leaves, compost and spent plant back into the compost pile and leave the potatoes in a cool, dry, sheltered area to cure for three days. Do not wash until you are ready to use each potato or you will shorten its storage life.
If you have never eaten a home-grown potato, you have no idea what you're in for. The taste of a homegrown potato far surpasses a store-bought one and has more nutrients. Once you find how easy it is to grow potatoes in small spaces, you will be hooked!
Alternatively, along the same guidelines, you can grow 100 pounds of potatoes in about 4 square feet of space.
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