Container Gardening – Potatoes and More

A few weeks ago, Will checked out a book for me from the library called the “Bountiful Container: Gardening in Small Spaces”. Unfortunately, I got sucked into some other books and only managed to read a couple chapters before it was due back. (I would have renewed but there was a waiting list; it’s obviously a popular topic.) From what I read, it’s a great book and it definitely fanned the flames of my gardening urges even higher.

Chinese take-out container with plantsSo far I have just a few plants going – peas and basil outside on the porch, tiny tomato seedlings safe in the kitchen, and two trays of seedlings ready to be transplanted to Maggie & Nathan’s garden next week. I tried to get creative and plant some herbs in little take-out Chinese containers but most of the seeds didn’t sprout. I suspect the problem is that I didn’t poke drainage holes, although I did put a bunch of peanuts in the shell at the bottom to provide some drainage (I didn’t have any rocks handy), and some of seeds sprouted quite well. So perhaps the other seeds were nonviable or there wasn’t quite enough light for some of the containers.pot with tomato plants

My next project will be potatoes. The main thing with potatoes is that you want to keep adding soil on top of the plant as it grows so that it will produce lots of potatoes. Normally this is done with a trench-and-mound system in the garden where you dig a trench, plant the potatoes, and then add more soil every week or so until it’s mounded up above ground level. I have seen two container versions and am not sure which to use. Both involve our arch-nemesis, plastic.

Maggie holding potatoFor the first method, you start with a heavy duty garbage back and fold over the top to make a really short bag – kinda like cuffing your jeans instead of hemming them. There need to be some holes in the back and some rocks (peanuts?) for drainage. Plant the potatoes in a few inches of dirt to start and as they grow, you unroll part of the bag and add more dirt or leaves or straw. By the end, you have a bag full of dirt and hopefully potatoes.

The other method is basically the same thing except you use a big trash can with drainage holes and just keep filling it with dirt as the potatoes grow. The possible advantage to this method is that my parents donated an old trash can with wheels to my cause, which might make a nice transportable planter for future projects.

I need to make up my mind pretty soon, as I have a pound of organic seed potatoes waiting patiently in my living room. On the other hand, they’ve been pretty patient so far… this!

5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jessica said,

    May 16, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

    I used to keep a pretty respectable container garden on the patio of the condo I lived in before I joined the Army, but the downstairs neighbors complained that dirt fell through the deck and water leaked down. God forbid they got water on their porch!
    I never really even thought about potatos in a container though. Hopefully I will have a yard soon so it wont be an issue, but those are interesting ideas. I’ll bet the garbage bag one would work in a burlap sack, but it would be a one time use item on the burlap sack. At the end of the year, you’d want to compost it or something.

  2. 2

    jeff-naturehills said,

    May 17, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

    I think the trash can idea is great. I have never thought of using a trash can.

  3. 3

    Maggie said,

    May 19, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

    Hmmmm. A burlap sack is a good idea, except that I don’t know where to get one. That seems to be one of those things that used to be super common (and free) but now you have to search for them and pay big money. But I might have some old fertilizer sacks I could use. Good suggestion!

  4. 4

    Summer Gardening Thoughts | said,

    July 24, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

    […] but this year I haven’t done much at all.  Well, I did plant one crop.  Remember those potatoes I was going to grow in a trash can?  Well, I kept procrastinating until the little seed potatoes had sprouted all over the place so I […]

  5. 5

    Handmade Christmas | said,

    December 30, 2008 @ 12:27 am

    […] of their projects are things we have already written about such as making a potato barrel, building with slip straw, and conducting an electrical consumption analysis. The rest are projects […]

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