It All Comes Down to the Meat and Potatoes: Part 1

Reader Contribution by Amanda Stoffels
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Potatoes have been something I wanted to experiment with growing for quite sometime. As I would find old potatoes in the pantry with eyes growing on them, I would find myself thinking where could I plant them. Timing and space have always been a challenge so I was never able to act on the itch to grow them until this year.

With the expansion of the garden to the back, I took it upon myself to take the summer and fall to make compost from the chicken coop. As the months went on, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to fill the garden box to the top with my own compost by spring, but I wasn’t going to haul more dirt to the back until it got a lot warmer. After reading about building a potato box, I felt a half-filled raised bed was the next best thing.

One January day as I was making mashed potatoes, I discovered a jewel at the bottom of the bag! I immediately cut it up into chunks and headed out to the raised bed in the back. The puppies were right behind me trying to figure out what I was up to. I shooed them away and got to planting. I only had four so I felt I could fit them in a corner of the square-foot garden. I headed back in with a sense of pride. 

A day later I came back out like a little school child to check the plant and to my dismay the dogs had dug it up! I searched all around but to no avail. The dog(s) had eaten my potato! The challenge has begun!  

I bought planting potatoes at the local feed store and put them in a dark place so that they were good and ready to plant. On March 1, I was so excited to have a beautiful day so I locked the dogs up and planted all my awesome onions and potatoes. It was a success! A few weeks later I consulted the Farmers Almanac, and begun planting more plants. Things were going great! 

About this same time, I bought some broiler hens so that we could have a great homegrown meal of meat and potatoes. As the birds were growing so were the pine shavings and poop pile. I was very proud of my naive idea to use the shavings with straight chicken poop as mulch for the raised bed in the back yard where my dogs run free. I watered the plants knowing I was fertilizing the plants and helping conserve water while I did it! 

By the next morning, the bird dogs had dug a considerable size hole in the raised bed, killing multiple plants and breaking all of my square-foot garden markers. I guess they thought if they kept digging they would find a chicken hiding in the dirt. Luckily I still had some potato plants growing and I still had time to plant so I took this as another challenge. The potato plants had begun to shoot up beautiful green stalks so I took some plywood and made a temporary wall on the open side of the plants.

Next I proceeded to put more dirt on top of the plants in hope of encouraging more potato growth. I then asked my husband to expand the electric fence around the raised bed to keep the dogs out. So far the dogs have not hurt any plants, but the electric fence is too close to the bountiful plants and is killing anything that touches it. So we need to make it farther away from the edges of the raised bed. I guess I will just have to make my garden bigger!

Things are growing great here in the garden these days, though I have had to trim back plants that are touching the electric fence. I have potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes growing strong. The first of the blackberries and strawberries have been picked and my zucchini are ready to pick! The harvest is just around the corner! 

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