From the balcony to the backyard, there’s a method for everyone to grow some of their own potatoes. Originally from South America, these small balls of goodness contain high vitamin C (amongst other nutrients) are one of the only carbohydrates you can grow yourself and there are literally thousands of varieties to choose from.
Our latest Crisis Gardening video shows you three ways you can grow your own. You can watch it now here.
1. The pot (or hessian sack, tree bag or maybe even a pillowcase)
This is the method for people with tiny amounts of space. Think balcony, courtyard or perhaps you’re renting and aren’t allowed to dig up the lawn.
You can buy a “potato bag” from a nursery, or use a hessian sack, tree bag or really probably a pillow case. Please note, I’m yet to try a pillow case, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for one season only (it’ll break down quickly).
2. The in-ground method
If you’re starting with lawn, this involves a fair amount of digging and weeding. It’s perfect for folks without access to lots of resources to build a no-dig garden. Due to covid-19, it can be tricky to source big loads of mulch and/or compost – so we really wanted to show you this method as well.
3. The no-dig method
This is our preferred method as it looks after, and fosters fantastic soil health. Wherever possible we always work towards a no, or minimal till approach to gardening so we minimise/eliminate how much we disturb the soil profile. BECAUSE, each time you dig the ground you’re releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying the structure of the soil. Sounds very dramatic – because it is. You can read/see a bit about no-dig gardening over here on a previous Crisis Gardening vlog. You can also watch Mr Peter Cundall demonstrate another version of the no-dig potato bed here. Thanks Pete.
When to plant your potatoes
Late winter or early spring is the normal time to plant them – a few weeks before your last frost. Frost harms the leaf, so you’re looking to avoid the cold snaps. We’ll be planting a crop in then, however we’re also doing one in late Autumn (now) as we don’t have heavy/significant frosts on our property. This crop will grow slowly over winter and we’ll harvest it in spring. It wont be the biggest yields, but it’ll be some of the earliest in the region – and that’s what we’re after.
Dutch cream spuds already sprouting. This process is called “chitting” – by sprouting them before you plant them out, they’re getting a head start on growing.
Week 5 of our Crisis Gardening series has us looking at our weeds – and eating them. Specifically the mighty dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale).
Now, it’s slightly crazy that we spend so much time pampering “traditional” vegetables in the garden when some of the weeds growing in our lawn are significantly more nutritious than they’ll ever be. Take dandelion for example, this beauty of a plant is one of the most nutritious plants EVER tested by the US Department of Agriculture. It’s high in iron, calcium, vitamins A, B6, E and K, thiamin, antioxidants and beta- and alpha-carotene (The Weed Forager’s Handbook).
Obviously we all need to be eating dandelion! Watch our latest video here to get you started.
- If you’d like to read about the process, you can also read a much older blog of making dandelion tea (aka dandelion coffee) here.
- The Weed Forager’s Handbook: You can buy your own copy of it here
If you’ve got lots of bulk organic matter in your garden, then hot composting is for you. It’s a great way to process large amounts of material to cycle it back into your landscape to improve soil health and ultimately, grow more food. You can watch our latest covid-19 Crisis Gardening video to see how we do it in our own garden here.
Additional hot composting resources we’ve created over time include:
In conclusion, compost (in its many shapes and forms) is an essential part of living a good life. Whether you’re doing it in your backyard, community space or your local Council’s facilitating it for/with you – get into it. There’s nothing more satisfying than turning all that comfrey and spoiled straw you can see below into dark brown nutritious compost for our garden!
Food waste composting – it can be a baffling affair, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a glorious, slightly magical process to help facilitate.
We’ve just popped up another little backyard video as part of our Covid-19 Crisis Gardening series, showing three ways people can compost their food waste – you can now watch it here.
A little disclaimer – it’s so hard for me to put this very brief overview up as I know there’s a million more bits of information that I missed out on telling y’all. For example, things to NOT put in a small compost bin (as seen above) include:
- Weedy plants, i.e. runner grasses, oxalis and seeds from invasive species. As it’s a cold compost they wont break down and you’ll end up spreading them everywhere!
- Diseased plants – if you’re plant’s sick, bin or burn it instead of putting it into your compost bin.
- Large bits of meat/bones.
- Glossy paper/magazines (too much heavy ink).
- Some tea bags have polypropylene plastics – check with the brand if you’re not sure.
So be sure to dig a bit deeper into some of our free resources below for a lot more information and inspiration for you to wrap your beautiful brains around.