I like eating potatoes, so I naturally wanted to grow some of my own. I went online to both Backwoods Home Magazine and Mother Earth News to see if I could find some tips that would make this project easier on me and that search lead me to a website where the author had a really smart idea of making a “bin”. He said that you could harvest 100 pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet of garden space. I really liked that idea, but it seemed a lot of work to screw the boards in and out as the potatoes grew.
I decided to take the idea and run with it by Growing Potatoes in Pallet Wood Boxes.
Luckily I have lots of bee hive bodies lying around to give me inspiration, and I thought to myself “if the goal is to build a box that will go around the potatoes plants as they grow so that they can be buried to grow more potatoes then these bee hive boxes will work perfectly….” However, my hive boxes are brand new, and while they are not expensive, I don’t want to waste them on potatoes, when honey provides more value in a smaller space (representing the highest and best use for my boxes).
What I did have is a lot of broken up pallets that I had been collecting. I finished breaking them up into the component wood, and then sorted them into two piles: broken and whole pieces. I then looked at the broken pieces and decided on the best length to get the most usable wood was to cut the broken pieces about 22 inches long. This was unscientifically decided upon, and you can use whatever dimensions work for your needs. I wanted my boxes to be rectangular in shape as I am planting things along the fence so that bear (our Great Pyrenees) won’t dig out, and I wanted large to hold many potatoes.
I then nailed the boards together to make a frame, just like a really big (but shorter) bee box. I made several of these, as the idea is to plant the potatoes in the ground, then as the plants grow, to add a new box on top of the older box and then fill it level with straw.
If I wait until the plant has twice as much growth (height wise) out of the top of the last level of straw as the height of the next empty box, then the plant will root in the new layer of straw and make another layer of potatoes.
I dug up a bed and planted certified seed potatoes (that way I know what I am getting, and they have fewer diseases than if I just threw in sprouted potatoes from the grocery.
Potatoes are heavy feeders, so I added some compost and some rabbit manure to the mix, they also don’t like to be overwatered, and if you get them too wet they can have black hollows in the center of the potatoes.
I planted these in the spring, as potatoes are not very heat tolerant and I wanted a decent yeald for my first experiment. My goal is to harvest the topmost layer of potatoes when the plant flowers for “new” potatoes that don’t store very well and wait until the vine dies and turns brown before I harvest the other layers of potatoes, as those will be full sized and ready for long term storage.
Two things you have to watch out for is sunlight (either during growing or during storage) as potatoes exposed to sunlight turn green and become toxic. The other is to be careful not to store potatoes near onions, as they are incompatible as the gases and enzymes produced the onion causes spoilage in potatoes (and vice versa).
So we will see how my black thumb works for potatoes, as I am notoriously bad gardener. Hopefully in a few months I can do a video on dehydrating potatoes or otherwise using what I have grown…