So the Potato Project is officially finished. In terms of rigorous scientific method it was a total disaster. Which is why all my evidence will be of the best kind: anecdotal.
I managed a harvest of about 18 lbs of Yukon Gold and Purple potatoes from two 1 lb. packs of starter potatoes. Not bad, but not great. I think I can do better next year.
Here, in short, is what I learned.
- Potatoes are really, really easy to grow. Seriously. I neglected the hell out of them and they still grew just fine. Barely watered them all Summer. Never fertilized them once. Subjected them to daily psychological and emotional abuse. The soil was just a 2:1 mix of garden dirt and compost, without any lime added to soften it and no fertilizer. And yet they struggled through it. Lesson learned: Potatoes appear to be immune to psychological torture. And yeah, I probably should water them more next time. Maybe a dose of fertilizer wouldn't hurt either. But damn, potatoes sure are hardy critters.
- Potatoes grow just fine in whatever you put them in. Just plant them near the bottom and mound away. In terms of yield, I didn't notice a difference between the boxes and the grain sack. The potatoes in the plastic tubs were larger, so I guess the tubs win. But those potatoes were planted a couple weeks before the rest, so they had a head start. Lesson learned: plant earlier. Around St Patty's.
- The plastic tubs and the grain bag held up just fine and will be used again next year. The cardboard boxes though... Ok. They held up just fine, in that they more or less kept all the soil in and supported the plants as they grew. But the bottom did eventually rot out around them, so moving them once planted: not an option. Also my Weedwhacker did a number on the cardboard, so watch out for that one. But it was nice to chuck the boxes and spent plants into the compost bin all at once at harvest time. No fuss, no muss. Lesson learned: the plastic bins are probably the best, but cardboard worked out just fine. I seem to be racking up old tires right now, so I may try the tire stacking method next year too.
- I recommend harvesting on a sunny day if possible. It's much more pleasant to dig around in the dirt and the potatoes are easier to spot.. Also, they face less chance of molding or anything else untoward.
- Growing potatoes in boxes is a great way to plant them without having to dig up your landlord's lawn or put in a bed. I'd say if you put a good tarp down underneath (to help with cleanup) you could do this pretty much anywhere.
Not that they'll last that long. They're delicious.
Died back and ready to harvest!
Rotten right down to the core.
Digging Yukons is fun. They're like buried gold bars. Arrr, treasure!
Sometimes I can take OK photographs.