Monday, March 26, 2012

Potato Bin - Grow 100lbs in 4 square feet?

Fist of many layers to the bins.
The claim is that you can grow over 100 lbs of potatoes in just 4 square feet.  You might have seen this on the internet.  Basically you plant potatoes and add soil and bin rails as the potatoes grow.  The concept is that most potatoes will continue to develop tubers if you bury the bottom portion of the plant as it grows, much like hilling your potatoes but rather than inches you are adding 3-4 feet up.  This works best with mid to long season potatoes as they are more likely to continue forming tubers.

Young potato plant
We are trying it this year.  We have three bins, one 2 foot x 2 foot and two 2'x3'.  Actually they are 27 inches to give a full 4 square feet inside.  The larger ones have an inside dimension of 24" x 32"

We planted one pound of seed potatoes in each.  We planted Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty and Viking Red.  The Yukon golds will probably not produce much as they are an early season potato and stop producing quickly.

I have salvaged a lot of scrap 2x6's from the burn piles at construction sites (with permission).  A few screws and I have my bin layers.  I will detail our progress with these bins as this early season continues. We plan to use straw/hay in place of soil/compost.  We don't have an excess of soil or compost on hand so a couple bales of hay will work great.  I also feel that 4 feet of soil may become compacted and constrain growth.  Using the hay will also make our harvest very easy.  The hay is great added to the compost pile after the season, if I can find some old moldy hay will work and often can be picked up for free.

Starting to sprout after greening.
Freshly cut, set out for 24 hrs to callous.
Steps to a Potato Bin:
  1. About 3 weeks before we planted them we "greened" our potatoes by leaving them out in the light in the warmth of our house.  This encourages good sturdy sprouting eyes.
  2. We cut our potatoes leaving at least 2 eyes per piece.
  3. Leave your cut pieces out over a day or so to develop a scab over the recent cuts
  4. We started with some well prepared soil
  5. Plant the pieces 4 inches below the soil (eyes up) about 6 inches apart
  6. Place first layer of the bin around the          planted seed potatoes I used 2x6 boards cut to 27 inches each.
  7. Keep the soil moist (not wet)  
  8. Plants will take 2-4 weeks to emerge depending on soil temperatures.
  9. As the plants reach 6-8 inches add soil, compost or straw around all but top 3 inches of plant.
  10. Continue adding soil and new rails to the crib as the plants grow.
  11. Keep adequately watered, they can get a little dry as the bin grows.
  12. When the plant dies back and has set for 2 weeks or so remove rails and harvest your potatoes

We will keep you updated as our potato experiment continues and we will weigh out our harvest at the end.... lets see if we can pull off 100 pounds...  

Our plants are coming up time to add some more rails to the bins....
Editorial UPDATE: Find out how well it worked....Harvest Update HERE

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