Potatoes are one of the easiest and most versatile vegetables to grow. Even apartment dwellers can grow them if you have a balcony with several hours of sunlight. They can also be grown in greenhouses, high tunnels, or even an enclosed porch, allowing you to harvest delicious potatoes year-around.
We used to only grow these in our garden, but have discovered how little space several plants can take if you use a stackable system. Several options include using old tires, trash bins with drilled holes for drainage, or wooden stackable boxes.
We prefer not to use tires due to the chemicals and petroleum product residues that can leach into food – and the same goes with plastic tubs and containers. I saw a picture recently of someone planting lettuce directly in a plastic Miracle Grow soil bag, and it seems to defeat the point of growing something yourself.
You can buy stackable boxes and raised beds from garden centers, but these can be exorbitantly priced. We have solved this with inexpensive and durable rough sawn oak boards. You can make these boxes with any untreated wood from the hardware store. Please don’t make the boxes out of pressure treated boards, that will also leach chemicals into your soil.
Take the boards and cut them into equal lengths – approximately 2 feet long makes a good-sized box. If you have a dirt floor to grow this on, you won’t need a bottom, otherwise, cut a piece of plywood to fit your dimensions. Make extra bottomless boxes in the same dimensions. These will be your sides as your plants grow.
We mix a soil mixture of approximately one-third top soil, one-third compost, and one-third seed starter mix with lots of peat. Potatoes don’t like to grow in hard soil, so the peat mix makes the soil considerably more lofty.
Take seed potatoes, or even store potatoes that are beginning to sprout. Don’t use potatoes from the store that are not sprouting since they may have been sprayed with a substance that will prevent them from sprouting. These will never grow. You can order seed potatoes. Buying organic ones is also a good option. Buy late season potatoes since they will continue to send out new potato shoots throughout the growing season!
Plant the potatoes in the lowest layer and cover with soil. Before long, you should see potato plants pushing through the dirt. Keep them evenly watered but not soggy. As they grow. Add anther wooden “box” and start building the soil around the base of the plants always leaving a portion of the plants exposed for photosynthesis.
These potato plants have pushed up through their second layer and are now ready for a third box. As they grow, they will put out extra roots that will form potatoes, filling the box as it grows taller.
You can start harvesting the potatoes when the plants have bloomed. This is the baby potato stage. If you want larger potatoes, wait another month or two.