Would you believe that it is possible to grow up to 100 lbs. of potatoes in a single fifty five gallon barrel? Believe it because it true. It is the perfect way for urban dwellers to have a green thumb in a not-so-large space; this method of growing is called vertical gardening. The only drawback to growing spuds in a barrel is that it can only be one kind in each barrel, unless you cut one in half and grow 2 kinds that yield roughly 50 pounds of each tuber.
Whether you like russet potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, fingerlings, or reds you’re in luck because all varieties are perfectly suited for this method. Using this method gives you a 200% - 1000% yield increase over those grown in the ground using the same seed potatoes because as the plants grow in the barrel you keep adding soil giving the plants a longer root system to help produce more potatoes per plant. Talk about efficiency, a little space that yields a huge crop!
Producing spuds this way only requires four steps. The first is to select and prepare the container you plan on using. Any 2’ – 3’ tall container will work as long as you are able to drill holes on the bottom and along the bottom sides. Potatoes require good drainage so you could also cut the bottom off the barrel and place in your garden bed or lawn. You will need to clean the barrel very well and then wipe down with a mild bleach solution to kill any type of critters left over from the previous use.
It is now time to select your seed potatoes you plan on using and getting them planted. You are better off buying them the first year so you can make sure that you don’t get a hybrid that’s been genetically altered. When planting, put about six inches of a soil and compost mix on the bottom of the barrel, on average 8 seed potatoes will fit comfortably. Cover them with about another 3 inches of soil and compost mix and then water them. Keep them moist at all times but don’t over water.
When about 6-8 inches of growth appears, add another layer of soil mix to cover approximately ¾ of the visible growth and repeat as often as necessary. When the growth reaches the top of the barrel, stop adding soil and wait patiently for roughly 10 weeks or so when the foliage turns yellow. Now it’s time to gently dig and look at the top layer and if you have potatoes if so, dump the barrel onto a tarp or ground and marvel the fruits of your minimal labor. If you approve of your results then save some potatoes to use as your seed potatoes next year. They just have to be stored in a cool dark place over the winter.
Amuse Bouche will take a look at current issues in today’s vast food world through the eyes of a sarcastic, CIA trained Chef. It will also keep readers abreast of current events and what is just arriving at the Canandaigua Farmer’s Market.