September 29, 2009

Potato Boxes

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I have received quite a few questions about the potato boxes I wrote about in my lazy day post and Independence Days Update this week.  You can go to this website for more details on the boxes. 

The photo at the top shows the plans for the boxes.  The cost of each box was around $30ish, but the boxes can be used year after year.  Because potatoes are susceptible to many diseases and insect infestation, it is important to change out your planting material (soil, mulch, etc) each year.  The planting material can be added to the compost, used on other plants next year or set to “rest” for a few years before used for potatoes again.  We chose to use the mulch for a landscape bed in the front of the house and the soil to fill in some shallow parts of the front yard. 

Our original plan had been to take photos periodically of the boxes for the blog, but this summer was a doozy for us and that plan didn’t come to fruition.  The other step that we were going to take was to “rob” the potatoes on the bottom tier of the box as we needed them this summer.  However, having a full share of the CSA this year and the vegetables from our garden proved to keep our plates full of all sorts of vegetables, including an abundance of potatoes. 

So, why potato boxes when they grow just fine in a trench and hill method?  A few reasons

  • The potato boxes allowed us to use the cultivated garden plots for other vegetables.
  • Since potatoes need to be rotated well to help prevent scab and insect infestation in future years, the boxes remedy that problem.  We are able to use fresh soil and clean the box material well to reduce those risks.
  • When you hill a potato, it helps to increase the plant’s yield.  The boxes were “hip high” (you can tell that I’m not the builder in the family), and some of the species we planted had full sized potatoes in the top layer.  It was a rough year for potatoes in our area due to all of the rain we’ve received, and I’ll be interested to see what the yield will be like next year in comparison to this one.  Some of the varieties did very well and others did not.  Even still, I had a much higher yield as compared to last year when I planted some of the same species in a cultivated bed.

Of note for the boxes--

  • We noticed that in 3 of the 4 boxes ants had gone crazy with building.  In one of those 3, they had even started to infest the potatoes themselves.  We don’t use chemical pesticides at our home, and so next year I’ll do some more research on what we can put in the boxes to help keep the ants away. 
  • We had bought some soil from a local source.  In the bottom of the boxes, it was more clay than a sandy loam.  In the future, we’ll make sure to get a lighter mix of soil.  Potatoes like well rotted compost or manure (I’ve heard at least one year old), and we do not have enough compost in our bins to use that next year.

Please add any questions or thoughts you have to the comments section so that we can address those for the benefit of all.  I hope you give them a try!

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