Grow Potatoes in an Expandable Potato Box
This is my first year growing potatoes, but I have read a lot about growing potatoes in various structures like a trash can or in stacked used tires. I decided to try an idea I saw on the internet about potato boxes.
Potatoes are a tuber, not a root, so the potatoes grow around the base of the plant. If you continue to stack soil around the growing plant, the plant will get taller and more potatoes will grow in the added soil and result in a greater yield.
I am growing my garden in a greenhouse addition to my home. Once I picked the spot where I wanted my potatoes, I set to work building the boxes from 2×6 and 2×2 boards. The plans I was working from indicated a box 2 feet wide by 2 feet long. I decided to go with 3×3′ boxes so that I could grow more plants in that space. You can use just about any scrap boards that you may have to build these boxes. That can mean free!
First, I created a base frame using screws so they could be easily removed later. Then I placed 2×2 boards vertically and screwed them into place to help keep the future layers straight and give me something to fasten those rows of boards onto. Now it is time to find its permanent place. I prefer to use a weed barrier cloth under my raised boxes to keep the plants from rooting into the ground below and to keep any grass or weeds from growing up into my plants. Then soil can be placed into the box and watered periodocally to ensure a consistent moisture in the soil.
I placed another layer of 2×6 boards above the first as they will not be so high as to block the sunlight but will be convenient for the next time I need to add soil. For this first day, I brought the soil level up to the top of the first layer of boards, about six inches. Then once it is watered adequately, it is time to place the seed potatoes on top of the soil in the places where I will want them planted. This visual aid is helpful to ensure the plants are evenly spaced.
Then with one hand, I pick up a potato. With the other hand, I move the soil aside where the potato had been and place the seed potato about 4 inches down with the “eyes” facing up if possible. Then I cover the hole and the potato is hidden completely. It is very important to make sure that potatoes are not exposed to sunlight while they grow. They will become green and a toxin is formed which is poisonous. Never eat a green potato! In the photo above, you can see the furthest box is already complete and the box in the foreground is prepared for planting with the seed potatoes on top of the soil before they’re buried. I planted these on March 10th, 2012 in a greenhouse and watered daily.
Wow, look at the growth in just six weeks! The last photo above was taken on April 26th, 2012, just about six weeks after the seed potatoes were planted. As the potato plants emerged from the soil and began to grow, I made sure they had adequate water and when they got about 12 inches high, I placed another board layer and filled the previously placed one with soil being careful not to damage the growing plants. Every time I added soil as the plants got taller, I was amazed how sparse the plants looked after new soil was added. but they quickly fluffed right back out in a few days. As you can see, I have now six layers of boards filled with soil and the plants are still growing. I don’t think I will be adding any more layers.
It is important to pinch off any emerging blossoms or flower buds on your potato plants. If a potato plant is allowed to flower, I have heard the potatoes will stop growing. It is time to harvest when the potato plants have turned brown and died. It’s time to prepare for whatever method of preservation you are choosing to use when you notice the plants are starting to turn brown. Canning is an excellent option as in storage in a cool, dark place such as a root cellar.
I will update this page when it is time to harvest my potatoes and share photos of the bounty. Please send me your photos and methods of growing potatoes! I love to learn new things and share information. If you have any questions, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.