Growing Potatoes Two Ways (with fiends and barrels)


Long rows of potatoes or potatoes in containers?  What is best?  Well, y’all know our potato addiction over here so the answer is both.


My potato order didn’t come until late this year but I still go them into the ground.  In three long rows I planted potatoes a foot apart.  Red, white, and blue potatoes because I fell prey to middle of winter seed catalogues.  It sounded super fun to have flag colored potatoes underground.  The green shoots are just coming up.  As they come up I will then cover them snugly with straw, mounding it over the hills to suppress weeds and to keep the growing potatoes from receiving light.  This turns them green and makes them a bit of a tummy ache.


This year, I beat myself to the punch and put out the straw as I planted them.  The straw thirstily drank up all the water and didn’t let the ground beneath it get wet.  So, we moved the hay off.  Now that we have had a rain storm and daily waterings the straw will keep the moisture in longer.

Back up two months and a look in the basement would find shriveled potatoes from last year’s crop with antennas reaching for the high, bleak window.  Last year, I threw the three foot long rooted potatoes in the compost.  This year I ignored them until mid-April.  The eyes had sprung crazily forth but thinking back to olden days through books and stories made me ponder, ‘What the heck do I think folks planted each year?   What do I think I just got for a pretty penny through the mail order catalogue?’  Last year’s potatoes, folks, that’s what.


So, I planted them in the two trash cans outside that I planted potatoes in last year with a see-what-happens attitude.  Last year’s didn’t work.  In the fall we dumped out two trash cans of very damp soil, not a potato to be found.  Already wet and composted and one with the earth.  This year we are watering the barrels less.  I planted the potatoes with the antennae-looking things pointing up.  A few weeks later I realized that those were probably the roots!  Well, somehow they have righted themselves and are coming up beautifully in the barrels.  They will be done before the long rows, didn’t cost me a thing, and made me feel like a homesteader.  (Oh my gosh, we are so far removed from our ancestors.  They are in heaven laughing I’m pretty sure.)  This year, I will save out potatoes to plant on purpose.  No seed catalogue order next year with any luck!


The thing I do like about the barrels is that I do not have a pest problem.  See this mound of dirt?  They are all over the potato, garlic, and onion patches and are heading due east to the pumpkin patch, which is fightin’ words.  This is Pumpkin Hollow Farm after all.  The voles have lost all cuteness, but I can’t find a hole, and I can’t even see them.  Every day there are vegetables missing and a new mound to show their path.  I wish I were in Looney Toons and could just stick some dynamite down there!

Potatoes like water but they don’t want to compost yet either.  If you stick your finger in the soil and it is dry to the top of your second knuckle, water it for twenty seconds.  That seems to be two inches here in the prairie.  Do this daily if needed.  In the fall, we’ll peel back the straw and carefully dig up our bounty.  In late July, we may sneak a few baby potatoes leaving the rest to finish growing.

Potatoes are a staple in many cultures, a homesteading must!  Plant potatoes and you won’t be hungry this winter.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Bill says:

    I so agree with you. Potatoes are an essential homesteading food. Easy to store and easy to save seed, they helped keep our ancestors alive through centuries of winters. And they taste great. Count me in as a fellow potato-lover.

    Here in Virginia we’re having an unusually bad time with the Colorado Potato Beetles. They’ve been particularly hard on the fingerlings. Our Yukon Golds are holding up much better. Hopefully they’ll all pull through and we’ll have a great harvest. Hoping you do too!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      Thank you! I hope you win the fight against the beetles.

  2. This is a very old Victorian technique for growing potatoes vertically – that is, in specially designed tall pots that look like your barrels, but with drainage holes. The trick is to plant two layers – one deeper than the other so they produce successively. However, I have found that planting this way, they don’t produce as much as when they are in the ground. Great thinking and improvisation, though!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      It will be interesting to see what the result is!

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