I grew up in rural Manitoba and my parents always grew a really big garden that had, among other things, rows upon rows of potatoes – enough to feed our family of five throughout the winter. To me, potatoes kind of symbolize the feeling of ‘plenty’ – because even if there’s not much else in the kitchen, you can always do something if you have potatoes in your root cellar. In fact, one of my favourite soups when I was a kid was ‘butter soup’ which was an extremely simple soup made with potatoes, onions, and fresh egg drop noodles – with a pat of butter added to the pot right before serving. So good!
During my years of urban gardening in Winnipeg, I had miserable luck growing potatoes. If I planted them in my community plot, the plants always got vandalized, and my own yard was too tiny. Our 95 year old neighbour across the street lent us space in her backyard garden in return for mowing her lawn, but it was quite shady back there and they didn’t do too well either.
When I started my garden this year in Nova Scotia for the first time, I knew that this year was going to be MY POTATO YEAR. I have about a dozen small raised beds in my veggie garden at home, and I immediately set aside the two largest plots for potatoes and bought just enough seed potatoes to fill them up.
The next week after I planted my garden, somebody at work found a bag of organic potatoes in the basement of the Ecology Action Centre that were definitely past their prime – some of the sprouts were a foot long. They were going to toss them into the compost, but I thought I would do some potato-planting experimentation!
I tossed these babies everywhere I could find a spare spot. Any bare patch in my perennial flower garden that hadn’t already been filled with a vegetable got a potato. As space opened up, new potatoes went in. And they’re all growing!
My most interesting experiment is with growing potatoes in containers. I found an old rubbermaid bin in our shed that I thought would make a lovely potato garden, so I drilled lots of drainage holes in the bottom and started filling it with dirt and compost. When there was 3 or four inches of dirt in the bin, I tossed in some potatoes, and covered them up with a few more inches of dirt.
A few weeks later, and I have little baby potato plants in my bin! When they get around six inches tall, I’ll cover them up with some more dirt, and keep on doing this until the whole bin is full of soil and the plants are at the top!
That’s the theory, anyway. I’ll keep you posted on how this actually turns out!
Yours in food,