May 11, 2016 Leaving potatoes too long could cause them to go bad. The skin of a potato ages the same way as human skin does. When left for too long, the potato skin will start to sag, develop spots and wrinkles. Old potatoes will start taking on a mushy texture when touched. All these are warning signs that potatoes are no longer safe to eat.
Spring is in full force, and that means its time to plant potato crates in our garden.
And it might just be about the easiest garden chore we have! But it certainly wasn’t always that way.
Up until about 5 years ago, we struggled like every other gardener does with the laborious task of growing potatoes.
First, there is creating the trenches for planting. Next, of course, there is planting and covering with soil.
And then the real work begins!
The constant hilling of the soil to keep the potatoes covered, and the endless weeding of the rows.
But perhaps beyond all of the hard labor, the most frustrating thing of all occurs during harvest.
After planting, hilling and weeding all summer long, it was always so frustrating for us to damage a portion of the crop when attempting to dig them up.
Without fail, we would always spear a fair number of potatoes in the process. And it always seemed like our shovel or pitchfork would manage to hit the best ones!
But that whole nightmare scenario changed a few years back with one little growing experiment.
That is when we began to grow our potatoes vertically, in homemade potato crates.
Not only are they extremely easy to plant and care for, harvesting is a breeze as well.
I can say with 100% certainty that we will never plant them in the traditional method again. Here is a look at how we plant our crates.
We make all of our crates inexpensively from scrap lumber.
We actually have an entire article dedicated to building the crates, (How To Build Homemade Potato Crates), but in short we use a few 2 x 4’s for frame, and then nail or screw on thin wood slats to create an open-ended crate.
By open, we simply mean that there is no bottom, nor top – only the slatted sides. We have built them in various sizes, but have found that our current crates that measure 36″ x 24″ x 18 high are the easiest to work with.
The process to plant potato crates couldn’t be more simple. And it can be accomplished in mere minutes.
We place our open ended crates on the surface of the soil in the back edge of our garden.
We start by placing place a few inches of soil in the bottom of the crate. Instead of just straight soil, (which can be used successfully) we make a lighter soil mix.
We make ours mix from equal parts of compost and garden soil, with a bit of straw and shredded leaves mixed in as well.
You don’t have to use this exact mix to have success, but lightening up the soil with a bit of compost is a big plus.
Not only is it easier to work with when placing into the crates, it allows the potatoes to grow more freely.
Next comes the “planting” process.
We simply place our seed potatoes in the bottom layer of soil to plant, and then cover with an inch of soil.
We plant about 5 pounds of seed in each of our 36″ x 24″ crates. At about 5 minutes to plant per crate, it is a gloriously fast and easy task.
From each of those, we usually harvest between 25 to 35 pounds of potatoes in each crate.
We have had a lot of success growing Yukon Gold, Red Potatoes and even the more unique blue and purple potato varieties. We also grow our sweet potatoes (Beauregard variety) from slips in crates.
The one potato that does not seem to work well for us with this method is the Russet.
One of the beautiful things about growing in crates is the ease of maintaining the crop during the season.
Once the potatoes grow through the soil, we simply begin to add the soil mix to keep the soil about an inch under their leaves.
We continue adding the soil every week or so until the soil reaches the top of the crate. Once this happens, we then let the potatoes grow until they die back to signal harvest time.
And speaking of the harvest, this is where the real magic happens when you plant potato crates.
Once the potatoes die back, we simply lift up the crates, and the soil mix falls down for easy picking.
There is no accidental stabbing or injuring of the potatoes. Just a gentle sifting through the dirt to pluck out gorgeous, unharmed potatoes.
When we are finished with the harvest, we put the soil mix into the compost pile to help create more great compost for the following year’s garden.
It really is that easy!
Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary.
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