Potatoes are a staple in many European and some American homes. In the right climate, they can even grow all year round. Potatoes are great if you're just getting started with organic farming because they don't require nutrient-rich soil like many other plants (but of course, soil rich in nutrients and microbial biodiversity is always best to work with).
Whether you have a large or small garden or just some space in your kitchen or balcony, you can grow your own potatoes organically to feed your family. As a bonus, kids will love these gardening techniques to grow their own potatoes as a nature play activity so they can make their own chips or fries when it comes time to harvest.
Rows and Rows
If you have enough space in your garden, dig shallow trenches around 2-3 feet apart and plant your seed potatoes 12 inches away from each other. Cover with soil and keep observing as the shoots grow. When they reach a foot tall, scoop soil from between the rows and pile them as mounds to bury the stems halfway. Keep covering the stems this way throughout the growing season to keep the tubers covered.
Raised Beds with Mulch
Make or buy a wooden box to turn into a raised bed. Plant your seed potatoes at the bottom in prepared soil just as you would with rows. Instead of burying the plants with more soil as they grow, cover them with straw or other dry, seed-free, organic matter. You can even add some green manure into this mulch by adding cuttings from nitrogen-fixing plants like legumes. Growing potatoes in mulch will conserve the soil moisture and prevent weeds. At harvest time, no need to dig for your potatoes, simply pull them out or tip the box over.
This is a great option for those with limited space. Eco-friendly grow bags may be purchased and kept on a balcony, driveway, or even a well-lit kitchen. The dark-colored bags will conserve heat to make the tubers grow faster. Similar to the raised bed option, cover the bottom of the bag with soil and compost mixture and plant up to four seed potatoes in each bag. Cover with soil and as the plant grows, cover with more soil and DIY compost, or with straw mulch like with the previous techniques. When it's time to harvest, tip the bag on its side. The bag should be strong enough to recycle for several seasons of potato growing.
Written by Jan Dizon
About the Author
Jan is a travelling yoga teacher and writer who advocates spiritual growth while leading a conscious, earth-centered lifestyle, as close to nature as possible. She currently lives on an island in the Philippines surrounded by tropical jungles and white sand beaches. She and her partner conduct sound meditations and journeys while advocating sustainable and organic gardening practices.