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Growing potatoes

My first two attempts at potatoes have been a total disaster so far.  Possibly because I just planted potatoes that had sprouted in the cupboard (not proper seed potatoes) and also because our soil had too much clay and went as hard as concrete.  I think we barely harvested more than we planted!  This put me off completely (I'm easily put off by my gardening failures), so I haven't tried again since.

However, when I think about what we produce, we have everything except a decent starchy staple cro[ that could be used as a carbohydrate in a meal if required.  I think that potatoes will be the easiest option (although I'm intrigued by some of the unique cereal suggestions on this blog AND we have some very vigorously growing arrowroot, which is supposed to be good for flour, I just haven't tried it yet).

So I have decided to have a decent go at potatoes this season, following the method seen here (or the results seen there anyway, now I see that the method was actually sent to me in an email) combined with some info from here.  Apparently a large container was used.  So I have an empty drum with the bottom cut out, that was previously used for compost, and I'm now building up  a compost/manure mix in preparation.  Then I'll get some decent seed potatoes (doing things properly this time, although the disappointment will be worse if it doesn't work, I'll have nothing to blame!) and when they have finished growing I can tip the drum over, fork out the potatoes and put the rest of the compost on the garden.

My potato drum (right) next to my weed tea drum and compost bin.

My potato drum filled with manure, comfrey, compost,
hay, lantana  that we pulled out.
On a side note, regarding cereals, one thing that I found very interesting when reading "The Ethics of What We Eat", was the conclusion that eating meat is unethical because we don't actually need it to survive and we could use the same land and water to produce more energy in cereal crops to feed the world.  This works for people who don't produce their own food, but I argue that if you produce your own and have land that's not useful for mass cereal cropping, you're better off raising animals to eat.  They're certainly less work!  Grain is the one thing that is very difficult to grow for a small producer, you need so much equipment to plant and process it.  Animals on pasture pretty much look after themselves.  We supplement feed ours a scoop of grain every day to keep them tame, but they would live without that (not that you'd believe it if you heard the hungry mooing at our place from 4pm onwards).

Have you had any success growing potatoes?  Or grain?  


  1. I find the debate around eating meat interesting. Monocultural food production is a problem; I think that a farm runs better with a combination of different animals and plants like what you're doing. They work in harmony with each other as the animals provide fertiliser for the plants. Polyface farms in the USA is a well touted example that inspires me.
    I don't feel guilty about eating meat at all! I do try to buy meat that has been raised in a sustainable manner though. And I try not to waste what I get, using the bones for stock and the fat for cooking with. What I would like to do one day, when I get up the courage, is eat more of an animal - like the liver and kidneys.
    Good luck with your potatoes!

  2. I haven't been able to grow good potatoes here. I have bought seed potatoes and tried the sprouting ones from the cupboard no luck but sweet potatoes grow quite well.
    Good luck with your spuds.

  3. I tried using a potato condo a few years ago but didn't have all the info I needed to make it successful. You might find this helpful...

    They've made a huge container for their potatoes but the same principles would apply.

  4. Thanks for the links.

    I have filled the drum and I'm hoping that the level will drop as the compost decomposes. Then I can plant the potatoes and top up with more compost as they grow. If the level doesn't drop enough I'll have to remove some compost before I start.

    I found some more info on SGA Particularly their advice to sit the potatoes in the sun before planting them. I hope it will work this time!


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