19 Jan 2011

indoor potato practice

by Lou Altamura

Not much has been happening around the garden in recent weeks, what with the holidays and the freezing weather and all that. But now that the seed catalogs are stuffing my mailbox, it is time to get organized for GY2011! Garden layouts are being drawn up, seeds ordered, and a new irrigation system is being planned. However, planning and research gets old after a while and I need to find a way to play in the dirt in any way that I can ...

I found these old potatoes in the pantry closet, and I decided that these would be perfect for honing my potato cultivation skills. This year, I ordered a bunch of Yukon Gold seed potatoes to plant in the garden. However, I have never grown potatoes and I thought it would be good to practice growing them indoors first. Now, I know what you're thinking: "You can't use grocery potatoes for planting! They're treated with chemicals! They're loaded with diseases! Oh no!" Well relax, this is just an experiment and these are supposedly USDA organic potatoes anyway. I promise, no compost or soil will be mistreated during the production of this blog post.


"Herrow? Ranybody in rere?" (Scooby-Doo voice)


I had been saving this giant kitty litter box for a while, because I thought that it would make a perfect planter. It is really tall so I should be able to get a fair number of potatoes in it. Also, I still had the trash can bottom left over from the dog waste composter  -- perfect for use as a drainage saucer.

First, I took a hammer and a nail punch and poked a bunch of holes in the bottom of the box for drainage.

Next, I added some shredded cardboard at the bottom to minimize soil loss through the holes.

After adding about 2 inches of potting soil, I set my potato in the middle with the eyes facing up. The potato was then covered with soil to about an inch deep, which ended up being about one-third of the height of the kitty litter box.

Now, I know what you're thinking: This is not going to make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. I admit that it's not really something that matches the decor of my kitchen or living room. Thankfully, I have a sunny window in my garage with a southern exposure that will be just perfect. The garage is insulated well enough to prevent any frosts, and should actually stay in the 40s or 50s on even the coldest days. Plus, I could always put the lid back on it at night to keep the soil warmer if necessary.

For now, the plan will be to keep the soil moist and wait for germination. As the plant grows, I will add additional soil to promote growth of more tubers until the pail is filled up. We'll see how it goes. I'll be sure to post updates in the coming weeks.


About the author:

Lou Altamura is a dirtologist in western Maryland, where he grows fruits and vegetables for his family, friends, and most of all ... for fun! He is the author of the blog "dirtology: a journal of a man and his dirt."