Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gardening: Potatoes

Live Christmas trees are a family tradition for both sides of our family. What does that have to do with potatoes? Stay with me on this one; I'm getting to that. Most years we go cut our own tree, or pick a live one already cut for the living room. Just a few years back, we were convinced by a friend (and our first pig-partner) to purchase a balled tree from a charity he was working with. The price was fair, and since our area was more deciduous forest, we thought a little evergreen nearby would be nice. So we bought the tree, and we bought a wooden barrel that had been cut in half to hold (and hide) the root ball while it was in the house. The effect was very handsome... but what to do with the barrel once Christmas was over?

Ever since then, we have been growing potatoes in wooden barrels. They are attractive and convenient. Each Christmas dinner we put aside a few potatoes or sweet potatoes in paper bags on a shelf in the kitchen. When spring arrives, we remix the soil in the barrels, add the already-sprouted potatoes, and watch them grow all summer. At the end of the season, we just dump out the barrel onto a tarp, pick out the potatoes, and put the dirt back in until the next year.

We don't exactly have huge potato crops each year, but the cost is almost nothing, and potato plants are gorgeous to look at. They have extremely dark green leaves, and when they flower, the flowers are bright yellow. It is a very nice contrast, and the rugged-looking barrels are a great ornament. I would probably grow potatoes even if they didn't result in anything edible!

Aren't They Pretty? And they're not even full grown yet!


  1. Are they prettier if the colors are different? For example Red or blue potatoes?

  2. So far we have grown Russets, White Potatoes, and Yams. All 3 had similarly super-dark green leaves and yellow flowers. We haven't experimented with blue potatoes, and I believe the red potatoes failed (we only tried them once).

    I know you have a fence line. They grow quite tall and can even climb. you might consider them along a chain-link fence - but you would have to dig them out. That's the real beauty of the barrel- dump and go!