Potato, Horseradish and Pea

With a little planning, growing potatoes in containers can well be worth the effort. They require equal parts of soil and leaves with a little sand, thoroughly mixed together and set aside in a second container. I will explain why as we go.

 You don’t necessarily have to buy seed potatoes. The “eyes” of commercial potatoes are treated to suppress growth but that is not true of organic potatoes. They can be cut up into pieces. Each piece should have at least two eyes. The potato pieces need to dry for a few days but then can be planted outside up to four weeks before your last frost date. Fill half your container with the soil mix and plant the dried potato pieces two to three inches deep. When the foliage has reached 6 to 8 inches in height add more soil allowing only 4 inches of foliage showing. In two or three more weeks do this again. The potatoes form all along these buried stems. While they are actively making leaves the soil must be kept moist and fertilized with fish fertilizer before flowering (no manure here, by the way). When the blossoming is done curtail the fertilizer and reduce the water. Little potatoes have already formed and can be harvested but for the best crop, harvest late in the season or after the first fall frost has killed the foliage.

 The benefit of container grown potatoes is that in the fall you don’t have to dig them up. Just dump the container on a tarp and remove the potatoes from the soil. This is the perfect time to mix some new leaves, compost and organic fertilizer in the soil in anticipation of next year. Return the restored soil to the storage container and you are set to grow potatoes again next year.

Potatoes are particularly fond of peas because of the nitrogen they provide, although peas aren’t too keen on the layering of soil. Since both are planted early at least keep them in each other’s company. When the pea vines are done chop them up and add them to your potatoes as mulch. Potato likes the entire companion group but is especially fond of nasturtium as well as horseradish. Horseradish is a large, leafy perennial and needs its own container. Horseradish should be purchased as young plants rather than attempting from seed which is problematic and requires 6-8 months to mature.

 Potatoes from seed take 9 to 15 days to germinate and 100 to 115 days to mature. Four to five plants can be grown in a five-gallon container, whether started from seed, seed potato, or potato pieces. All prefer the layering technique described earlier.

 Although potatoes need to be kept moist the required leaf content of the soil and the sand suggest that they despise heavy, waterlogged soil. Potatoes are often grown in chicken wire cages above ground. Consider one of those cheap plastic clothes hampers that have holes throughout the sides as an alternative to chicken wire.

 Although potatoes are friendly enough with corn, peas, and the cabbage family, they despise cucumber, squash, and pumpkin.

 Here is a good place to include sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas). Sweet potato is actually a perennial from Tropical America but it can not survive the cold. Sweet potato can be purchased in bundles of small plants. I couldn’t find any information concerning what companions sweet potato might like but I will speculate that melons could be good. Morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) a tropical annual, is a cousin to sweet potato and a companion to melon. This could well be a solid bio-dynamic group.

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