Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A Potato Box

I have always been amazed just how many potatoes it is possible to get from a potato box or barrel or bin or whatever it is called in your part of the world. I know that potatoes are not usually over-expensive but I like organic early potatoes and these are expensive, so this year I have built a potato box and will grow our own. The box is made from old pallets (painted in an environmentally friendly wood treatment we had left over) and measures about 33” square by 24” high. The bottom of the box has duck tape wrapped around it to seal it from the ground, this should show up in one of the photos, and the inside has old black plastic sacks secured by brass thumbtacks on the top edge so covering the top and the inside wood to protect it from moisture and stop the growing medium from drying out, another photo shows this at the half-way stage. I will put a few inches of compost on the bottom, lay a few early chitted seed potatoes on it and cover over them for three or so inches with compost, then as the potatoes shoots grow up I will carry on covering them up until I get near to the top and the box will fill with new potatos. (Can't come soon enough for me!) The system will be frost resistant and I will save some of the first of the crop and store them in the fridge to plant again for a second crop around July time, crafty or what? Incidentally, the compost bin that is next to the potato box was also built from unwanted pallets... Waste not, want not...


Kati said...

Hey Peter, a question, do the potatoes that grow toward the bottom of the box (the ones that would come earliest, I guess) come out of the box larger than the potatoes toward the top of the box??? It would make sense if this were the case, but I'm curious.

Also, how many potatoes (or, do you use pieces of potatoes?) do you put in each box???? I was unable to get any Yukon Golds from SSE when I ordered today, but I'm hoping that a quick shout-out on Freecycle might net me a COUPLE Of potatoes from a neighbour to use as my seed. I'm wondering if I could allow each to sprout a bit, then cut them into halves or quarters, thus netting me more "seed" than a simple 2 or 3 initial potatoes would be.

Any tips or advice would be lovely. Thanks in advance!!!!

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Hi Kati,

They all come out different sizes and I have put six seed potatoes in the box.

The idea of cutting the seed potatoes up had never occured to me, it seems like a good idea and I will try it. It should work as our son missed his bin when he was putting peelings into it and they lay behind it and sprouted!

Brandon C. said...

Hello Peter,

Your potato box looks awesome. I am building one for myself this year.

I am curious how the crop turned out last year?

You said you keep adding compost as the plants grow up. Did you only plant the seed potatoes at the bottom and then only add compost? Do the green parts of the plant turn to roots once covered by soil (compost)? Or did you plant seed potatoes on different levels as you filled the box?

Thanks in advance for any information. I have been looking elsewhere online for this type of growing technique, and haven't found much.

Thanks again,


Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Hi Brandon,

Put three or four seed potatoes tubers on top of a 6-8in layer of good quality compost then cover the tubers with a further 4in layer of compost.

As the plants grow and shoots emerge above the surface, add more compost to cover the shoots and repeat until the compost is about 2in below the top.

Keep the compost moist at all times but don't saturate it as this might cause the tubers to rot.

Potatoes need plenty of moisture, particularly round about flowering time which is when the tubers start to form.

An occasional heavy watering is better than little and often as this does not get down far enough and encourages shallow rooting.

This works well and gives a good crop, it would also work with a heavy duty plastic sack, (they are sold as 'Rubble Bags' in the UK) with drainage holes in the bottom, if they don't have them already.

Thanks for calling by!

judlee said...

Hi Peter,

If you are willing to share some tips with my readers on growing potatoes in a box, I would be most happy to provide a link back to your blog.

Potato gardening

Best Potato Recipes


Fr. Peter Doodes said...

I would be more than happy to do so Judith and thank you for visiting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter:
I have tried for two years growing potatoes in a potato box with very poor results. The first year I used red potatoes and yukon golds and then I found I should have used late season potatoes. This year I planted late season german butter ball potatoes and did much better. The problem with the german potatoes was I grew 80-85% of the potaotes on the first level where the seed potatoes were placed and very few on the higher levels. I use 1 x 6 boards for the sides so as the plants grow about 9 inches I add a board and fill about 6 inches up on the plants with a 50/50 mixture of top soil and compost from bags. The claims for a 2'x2' box are for 100 lbs and I'm getting about 20. I also planted 2 extra potatoes in a raised bed and hilled once obtaining the same amount as my box. Any suggestions on what I could be doing wrong?