The ‘pot-ato’ story continues….

It’s another overcast morning in Sydney which means not a lot of sun for the garden….again. We’ve had a lot of moist overcast weather these last few months which has had a detrimental effect on our solar hot water supply and on some of our veggies, particularly our zucchinis and cucumbers who developed a serious case of powdery mildew! More on that later.

But yesterday was magnificent and as it was a day off, we enlisted some help from our daughter’s boyfriend Jez, who’s a plumber! (Always handy having a plumber in the family). So Chris and Jez spent the day catching up with some outstanding water tank work.

Luke and Jez plumbing a tank overflow in the nursery

However, today’s update is on growing ‘pot’-atoes….spuds that I grow in pots. Okay, I know for some of you this will be totally boring!!! but for those of you who are interested in growing potatoes in containers I hope my experience might help you get better results and sharing information is one of the key underpinning ethics of Permaculture.

I first learnt about the idea from another Permie blogger in Melbourne, Deep Green Permaculture – a fantastic site full of inspiration, ideas and results from a mere 64m² organic garden.

Anyway, as you know, we’re growing our potatoes in pots because we just don’t have the room to grow them in the garden. Lots of people I know don’t have a backyard at all, and growing potatoes in a container is a fabulous idea for someone living in the city, or in a unit, or like us has limited space in their yard. It’s fun and satisfying and doesn’t take all that long to get a crop and while it would be difficult to keep up a constant supply, it’s great to be able to experience the fresh home grown potato taste every now and then.

We’ve grown 5 pots worth since October 2011 and have now harvested from 4 of the 5 pots. The pots we’ve used are 60cm black plastic pots or equivalent. They don’t take up a huge amount of space and this is what 3 of them look like on our deck.

We grew 3 pots of sebago potatoes and 2 pots of kipflers and this is what we’ve ended up with so far….

Kipfler – I’ve only harvested one of the Kipfler pots which started with 6 seed potatoes. They grew about 24 potatoes but they only weighed 491g.

Sebago – I’ve harvested 3 Sebago pots which, each pot started off with 5 seed potatoes in each. These grew 19, 21 and 29 potatoes and weighed 615g, 892g and 1130g.

Last October, after all the green foliage had died back, I harvested one of each type and while the Sebagos were acceptable I’d have to admit the Kipflers were a little embarrassing. Even though there were quite a few in the pot, they were mostly on the small side with some being ridiculously small like pixies. I decided not to cook the pixies but baked the others with garlic and parsley, salt and oil and the family agreed they were nothing short of delicious.

The first Sebago harvest - 890g

Anyway, I decided to leave the three remaining pots for a while. I wanted to see if it would make a difference to the size.  A bit of a risk and potential sacrifice because they can re-sprout, but I’d read that you can store grown potatoes safely in the soil for some time without them rotting. 

Freshly picked Sebagos - over 1kg

Even though I left them longer than I had intended, the unveiling of two more pots only a week ago was interesting. In one pot we discovered over 1kg of more familiar sized potatoes and while the other pot had a couple of gnomes, which are slightly larger than pixies, they were generally more generous in size.

So I’ve learnt a few things so far about  growing potatoes in pots. All the pot-atoes grew very quickly and as I had set size containers I had no room to add additional layers. Next time I’m going to try and extend the  growing process by using a taller extendable or stackable growing container such as a hessian sack, or extend the height of the black pots by adding a wire circle or similar. I was also a little too hasty in harvesting from the first two pots and next time will leave them longer in their cool soil environment. Just because the green foliage has died doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to go because beneath the surface, there’s a whole lot more going on than we can imagine.

I’m already addicted to growing potatoes in pots and perhaps it’s got something to do with the mystery and surprise at the end. Unlike veggies that grow above the surface, you can’t actually see what’s going on down there until it’s time to harvest and there’s something exciting about that. But whatever the results, the flavour is unmistakably fresh and a reminder of just how and why we’re excited about growing our own food.

So here’s to healthy organic home grown veggies!

Stay tuned for my next blog… update on some recent additions to our Permaculture space.

Results from another pot - 615g Sebagos

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