One potato, two potato, three potato, four…
…five potato, six potato, seven potato moooore…
Growing spuds. Without the new terraces being ready, I didn’t really have anywhere sunny at The Treehouse to do it. No matter-I decided to build a potato column. It was easy peasey, and so far, it seems to be working!
I did a bit of research into this and found that there are a few options, but I ended up kind of making up my own. A bit of a hybrid, I guess. The basic idea behind all of these is that you make use of limited horizontal gardening space by thinking vertically, and encouraging your taties to do the same. This not only makes the most of you flat space but also maximises your yield, as you convince the spuds to produce a lot more than they would if grown the conventional way.
The other advantages to this method are the ease of harvesting-no digging around and possibly missing some of your precious yield, you just chop open the wall of your container and voila. Well, maybe a bit of shuffling around in a small amount of dirt, but no digging. And you can also sneak a few potatoes in advance before the entire crop is ready-again, by the judicious opening of only part of your container.
I just used some wire mesh to make a tube about 80cm in diameter, with more wire mesh forming a ‘bottom’ on one end of the tube. The width of the wire means that the tube is about 110cm high. Then I just lined the bottom 30cm of the tube with newspaper (about 8-10 sheets thick) and filled it with half of a 30 litre bag of good quality potting mix. And when I say good quality, I mean it. There is some really crappy potting mix out there-and generally, you get what you pay for. So really, if you buy cheap stuff, you may as well throw your money down the toilet. And throw your plants in after it. Because they’ll hate the crappy potting mix and DIE. Or just not grow well. A waste of time in any case.
But I digress! I bought some seed potatoes (these are free of diseases-if you use potatoes from the greengrocer you are at more risk of disease wrecking your potato growing efforts) from my local nursery back in July-I was a bit slow off the mark and there was not a lot of choice by the time I was choosing my spuds. I was desperately hoping for some Dutch Cream (beautiful, waxy) and some Kipflers- but ended up with some great all-rounder Nicolas.
Anyway, I cut up the 12 seed potatoes so that each piece had 2-3 sprouting ‘eyes’, laid them evenly on the soil, then covered them with the rest of the potting mix and a good 10cm of sugarcane mulch. Then a good watering in, and a few weeks wait…
The first sprouts began to emerge after about 2 weeks-but they weren’t cooperating with my vertical growth plan, and tried to make a run for it out the sides of the column! So I threaded them carefully back inside the wire and put more mulch down the sides of the column between the sprouts and the wire, and waited a few more weeks for them to grow through the top of the mulch.
Once the sprouts are through the top of the mulch, you add another thick layer of mulch over the top to force the potato to keep growing upwards, and form more potato-producing sideways nodes. As far as I can tell, this continues until you reach the top of your column, and then you let the potato plants leaf-up and grow for the rest of the summer. Once the green plants wither and die, you are ready to harvest!
I’ll be giving mine a good feed with seaweed tonic every couple of weeks during the growing season, and I’ll keep you posted with how they go!