Friday, April 27, 2012

Do I Grow My Own Potatoes?

This post is in response to kymber's question on my last post.

"do you grow your own potatoes??? you could save a ton of money if you did and if you keep them in a cool basement, barn, root cellar made out of hay bales - they'll last right up until you can start harvesting baby potatoes."

Well.  The simple answer is, I plant potatoes, but no, I don't really grow them, lol.

I know there are nearly as many methods to grow potatoes as there are varieties of potatoes.  kymber does an impressive job with the old tire stack method.  Other people have built boxes.  Some use garbage cans.  They all keep adding dirt and raising the foundation to encourage tuber growth.  They harvest lots of potatoes. 

Some people plant potatoes directly in the ground, and keep hilling them up throughout the season.  Some people (like my dad) plant them in the ground, and hill them once.  Some people toss them on the ground, cover them with straw, and ignore them.  They harvest lots of potatoes.

When we lived down south, I grew potatoes.  Just a couple of rows, hilled once, and I harvested lots of potatoes.

Then we moved up north.  The first year, I planted potatoes in the ground, hilled them once, and they did rather poorly.  The second year, I planted them in large tree pots, forgot to water them, and they did poorly.  The third year, I went back to planting them in the ground after adding lots of composted manure to the garden, and they did better, but still poorly.

Now, my crappy soil did not help anything to grow the first couple of years.  It can take some of the blame, but not all of it.  The short growing season might be partly to blame, but there are varieties that do fine in shorter time periods.

Truth be told, it is my fault.  I plant potatoes.  Rows and rows of potatoes.  And then I ignore them.  The weeds get higher than the plants.  I hill them too late in the season.  I bury more of the plant than I should.  And then, when I don't get instant gratification from the first couple of hills...
Potatoes from 4 feet of hills
I ignore them some more, and don't even dig the rest up!

You see, a few years ago, I found The Potato Man.  His farm is less than an hour away.  All he grows is potatoes.  Rows and rows of potatoes.  More potatoes than the bottomless pits of my children could ever eat.

In the fall, when they're new, he sells a 50 pound bag for $20.  He has a number of restaurant customers, who only want the big potatoes.  He sorts them and sells the smaller potatoes for $15 for 50 pounds.  After a month or two, when he's running out of storage space, he sells those smaller potatoes for $10 for 50 pounds.  Once I even got them for $7.

He doesn't use a bunch of chemicals.  They are perfect for planting in the spring.  That's why I still grow potatoes.  The eyes get me every year.  Why throw them out, when I can grow free potatoes?  Except, I really don't.  I just plant them.  Then ignore them.  Because I know I can buy cheap, local, healthy potatoes just down the road, and I don't have to dig them up.

I paid roughly $100 for 450 pounds of potatoes this year.  How many potatoes could I grow for $100?  Boxes of seed potatoes are about $10 each, and I think they claim to grow 50 pounds each (it's been a while).  Maybe more?

But here's the kicker...  Firewood is $65 a chord.  How many chords of firewood can I cut in the time it would take me to deal with those potatoes every year?  Especially in the fall, when we're getting close to the wire.  Where is my time better spent?

I always end up leaving potatoes in the ground, and cutting up another tree.

Still snowing...  4 days in a row now.  Only about two inches on the ground, because it's not really frozen anymore.  -6°C.


  1. teeheehee...well yer nothing if not honest gurl! but truth be told - if i had the potatoe Man living nearby and charging that little for them - yer darn tootins i would get my potatoes from him!!! and you are dead right - the time you save can be better spent elsewhere!

    thanks for this post Wendy! your friend,

  2. Wendy,
    The Potato Man sounds like a perfect solution. Lack of chemicals is a big draw. Of course, I don't farm, but I have my Sweet Potato Man. buying directly makes me feel better somehow.

    We all have to throw our money where our strengths and needs lie.

    1. Exactly. He's local and direct, so I don't feel the least bit guilty about it, lol.