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The last few years, I have been trying to grow a massive potato harvest from pots. I’ve even tried these potato crates. I was getting an ok harvest, but the potatoes were always small, and never as big of a harvest as I had hoped. A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon someone on YouTube, who was having absolutely amazing results. Dan from Allotment Diary who is from the UK. The video I watched, he harvested over 25 pounds from a 13 gallon (50 liter) pot, and some of these potatoes were HUGE!
Thankfully Dan from Allotment Diary, has made a lot of videos on his process. This is the video I originally watched:
So last year, I grew my potatoes his way. The results were AMAZING! I actually had, that massive potato harvest from pots that I had been trying to achieve! So I am here to share how I did it, following Dan’s advice. I did not weigh all my food harvested last year, but I did weigh my best pot. It was only a small pot, about 10″ wide x 12″ high, so approximately 2-3 gallons I am guessing? My harvest from that single little pot was 12.8lbs!!!! And the potatoes were HUGE compared to what I have been getting in the past! They were the German Butterball variety. Dan has different varieties of potatoes in the UK than we do in the US, so I am having to experiment a bit to see which varieties do well with this method. A new variety that I grew for the first time last year, also did very well using this method, they are called Ciklamen. Yukon Gold also did well.
The bed that I planted my pots into, was a bed that was developed two years ago using Back to Eden gardening methods. First I layered cardboard over the grass. Than we moved our goat barn manure and used bedding pile, onto the cardboard. It was about 6″-8″ thick after spreading it evenly over the entire bed. Than I covered that, with a thick layer of straw, maybe another 6″. We did this in the fall, and let it just sit over the winter. By spring, the soil was and still is, amazing. This is where I decided I would plant my potato pots. Instead of planting in rows, like Dan shows in the video, I dug a large hole for each potato pot. I placed the pot in the hole, and moved the soil back up around the potato pot, covering the bottom 8-10″ of the pot, so the roots can grow out of the pot, into the soil. I couldn’t find the same fertilizers Dan used in the UK, so I used an all purpose organic vegetable fertilizer with the highest phosphate number I could find.
This year, I added a new spin on growing the potatoes this year. As you all may have figured out, I am a huge Paul Gautschi fan from the Back to Eden gardening method. Paul does plant his potatoes in the ground, but he harvests his potatoes and then immediately plants his BIGGEST potato from the harvest, back into the same hole. The thought being, the potato you plant, is actually the food, for the new potato plant. So why would you plant small one’s? Or cut them into smaller pieces? Paul harvests and plants all in about 5 minutes in late September. So when I harvested last fall, I used this method, and replanted my largest potatoes straight back into the pots I harvested from. I added more fresh home made compost mixed together with a little bit of store bought organic compost and mixed that together with the compost the potatoes were planted in previously. Than I covered the whole area of pots with a thick layer of straw to help insulate them a bit for the winter.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if this new twist of planting the potatoes in the fall would even work. With our very wet winters here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought there was a very high likelyhood that the potatoes would just rot. But this week I noticed new growth starting to poke out of a few of the pots! So I am very excited to see now how this works out. I did not fertilize last fall when I planted them. So I immediately went and grabbed the fertilizer when I saw the new growth, and sprinkled maybe 2 TBSN’s over each pot. When the new growth is more consistent across all of the pots, I will remove the straw that is on top of each pot, and add some more fresh compost to the top of each pot with maybe another tablespoon of fertilizer mixed in. I will than cover the pots with another layer of straw. I am only adding the top layer of straw, to prevent the uppermost potatoes from getting sun scald. Last year, the potatoes were literally bursting up out of the soil and the pots! They were so full! Anyway, stay tuned. I will definitely post an update on my harvest for this year! Let me know if you are going to try this method! I am anxious to hear about your results. 🙂
In case you are wondering about WHY I choose to plant potatoes in pots instead of the ground, it is because it is easier to harvest them. Lay out a tarp and dump the pot, or dump the pot in a wheel barrow, and you can easily find all the potatoes. If you plant in the ground, it is often difficult to find them all, and then you will have more potatoes coming up in that spot forever! It is also easy to nick the potatoes with the shovel or garden fork you are digging them up with. It is not too late to plant your own potatoes using this method. In the past, I’ve usually aimed for St Patrick’s Day in March, as a target date to get my potatoes planted here in the Pacific Northwest. In colder climates, you can plant into April. If you plant much later than that, consider planting some early potatoes like Red Norland or Caribe and you should still do ok.