Suburban Potatoes


| 3/25/2009 3:34:33 PM


Tags: potatoes, urban farming,

Paul Gardener and chickenThere are a lot of folks in my neighborhood that have gardens. Utah is actually a pretty good place for that compared to a lot of other largely urbanized areas. I have neighbors that grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers. I have a Thai and Chinese family across the street that grows insanely hot chilies and lemongrass, and another neighbor who grew up on property in Wisconsin that grows corn like he was back on the farm. The one crop that I don’t know many folks that grow is potatoes.

Of course I don’t know everyone in my neighborhood, and I’m sure there are those that do, my point is that potatoes, for whatever reason, seem to be one of those food crops that have been relegated to the likes of large farms or at the very least to large lots within the boundary communities.

Last year I tried to grow them in containers in the back yard. They got a great start but just never really did much beyond that. It’s an idea that I’d like to try again, but on a much smaller scale than the ten containers that I tried last year.

Potatoes in a container

Never to be told I can’t do something though, I decided this year that it was time to get serious about this potato growing business; you know, back to basics. That meant rows and hilling. Rows and hilling was something that required space and space is sometimes a tight commodity in the suburbs. So what’s a guy to do when he’s trying to “grow possibilities” in the ‘burbs? Till some new area that’s what.

One of the features of the particular suburban area that I have chosen to urban farm is the accessory parking strip that resides just to the side of our driveways. It’s usually the depth of our driveway and in many homes has been concreted to provide a home for the RV, or the boat. In our case we had a small 14ft, old wooden boat. It sat on that side yard for 5 years and I don’t think it saw the water even once. So, I moved it out of the way, picked up the scrap wood and bits of trash that had blown in there and got to tilling.

Cindy Murphy
7/19/2009 12:07:28 PM

Hi, Paul. I've got kind of a weird potato question for you. Our plants did something I've never seen them do in previous years, and when Hubs asked me about it, I said I didn't know, but knew just the person to ask. He harvested a few of the plants yesterday - they were starting to die back, and he figured they were ready. We put more potatoes in then we have in the past - a customer at the nursery where I work gave me a bunch of seed potatoes - but we're still just doing it for fun as opposed to for a big production. I'm actually amazed at how many potatoes Keith dug yesterday from the three plants - we've got enough for more than a few meals. The plants from the seed potatoes are still growing strong, and aren't ready to dig yet. The harvested potatoes all came from volunteer plants. I'm guessing they grew from not-completely decomposted stuff from the compost pile I spread on the veggie garden in early spring, or from some of the potatoes Shannon missed last year when she "dug for buried potato treasure". When Keith pulled the plants, he found what looks like loose clusters of hard, green grapes under some of the leaves, which I'm sure developed from the flowers going to seed. I know that it takes a whole lot of energy for a plant to produce flowers and seed. Because potatoes are a root crop, should we have cut off the flowers to prevent these seed clusters from developing to make the plants stronger, and will it adversely affect the taste of the potatoes?


Paul Gardener
5/15/2009 2:46:36 PM

Thanks Tom, I actually intend to do just that! This weekend one of my goals is to straw mulch the whole stinkin garden. Next week will be into the 80's for the first time. If I don't mulch around here nothing grows worth a darn. Too hot. Thanks for your input. Paul~


Tom Gibson
5/15/2009 2:39:06 PM

Keep the potatoes covered with sheet mulch several inches thick. Each time the potato plants get large throw down another 3-6 inches of much. You don't need to plant potatoes in the ground. They will grow on the ground as long as you have enough organic matter on top of the roots. The will put out even more side shoots if you keep "hilling up" the mulch. Potatoes are now a weed in my garden after getting sheet mulch over 12 inches deep.





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