Sunday, August 26, 2012

Potato Bin - Harvest Update

 Early this year I started an experiment, I was attempting to grow 100 lbs of potatoes in just a few square feet with a potato bin using hay.  I harvested my bins a couple months back and I need to report to you the good bits and bad bits.  First off the potatoes tasted so good, far better than any from the store.  The Yukon's, Reds and Purples all were different and so tasty.  We really enjoyed the Purple majesty potatoes, they were probably our favorites. Despite how yummy they were, sorry to say this experiment did not yield the number of taters that we expected.

We did harvest potatoes but only about 8lbs from three bins.  We gained a harvest but no where near what we should have, even for planting them in a traditional hilled fashion.  Consider we planted 3 lbs of seed potatoes and harvested only 8 lbs, most sources indicated that one pound of seed should grow at least 10 lbs of potatoes.   

One thing I did differently was instead of adding soil and compost to the bin, I used hay.  I have heard of this working but I am not sure what climate it worked.  Also the other thing I have learned, is that a lot of hay has persistent herbicides in them.  These are herbicides that are sprayed on the fields when the hay is growing, these herbicides are taken into the hay plant, when we use hay as a mulch the herbicides come out and stunt or kill plants. I am not sure if I had  issues from the hay or not, though there is a good way to test the hay to see if there is problems, I'll post about that one day soon.

Very moist straw, starting to decompose
I did find that the core of the bin stayed really moist, too moist I believe.  I also did not use the best potatoes for this type of system.  I should have used a "main crop" or long season variety, these varieties will continually set tubers all season, where as the ones I used only set tubers for a short time.  Next spring I will order out some long season taters and use the bins again.  The more standard potatoes like the Yukon golds I will buy locally at a feed store for less than a dollar a pound.

Bin sides removed, I continually added hay almost daily
So all in all it was an fun experiment.  We learned some things along the way.  It is interesting to try new methods and learn from them and try to improve them.  I originally used the hay because I did not have a few extra yards of soil or compost on hand and hay was cheap.  We now know what potatoes should work better next time.  We learned that with hay and our current watering methods that the plants are staying too moist.  We also learned that there are some great local inexpensive sources for the more common varieties of potatoes, and there are some great online places to find the more exotic or heirloom types.

Let me tell you, home grown potatoes are by far the best way to get your potatoes.  As we strive to use methods far beyond "organic" methods we find an increase the nutrition and safety of our food.  The food really comes out better in every way.  We also gain the enjoyment of cultivating it and the pleasure of harvesting and then eating it.  Growing our own food connects us back to our food, the land and with ourselves.

Beautiful Viking Reds, Purple Majesty and Yukon Golds.
While the potato bin experiment did not yield several hundred pounds of potatoes we are not discouraged.  When we garden we expect to have things not work out, and when they don't we learn.  We then can take those learning experiences and apply them to future gardens.  Each year improving and expanding our knowledge and the production of our gardens.

Some Previous Potato Posts

Potato Bin Grow 100lbs in 4 square feet?

Potato Bin Update

Seed Potatoes Where to Buy Them

Our Focus on Gardening 

No comments: