Frugal Gardener – Potato Experiment

I remember my grandfather’s planting  iris potatoes when I was a very young kid.

Granddaddy headed into town with his one horse wagon and returned with a 50 lb bag of seed potatoes; we kids helped Grandma and Mama cut the spuds into large chunks, each containing at least one “eye” that would develop into a plant.

Those seed potatoes were so big that a good sized  core was left after the seed portion was removed.   We had potato soup for several days, I remember I loved it!
Now before going into the   ground those  cuts had to “heal” by being exposed to air for a few hours at least.

Recommended size for cuts; I learned to wait!!

Granddaddy would break up a large area near the house with a horse pulled turn plow, then work and smooth the surface before using a different plow to pull deep furrows.     He carefully walked those furrowed rows, a bucket of cut portions under one arm,  carefully spacing “seed potatoes”;  he insisted the “eye” had to face up, if it did not he would carefully turn it upright with a gentle nudge, with the toe of his brogan work shoe.

About one quarter acre of potato garden was planted, then again, going methodically down to rows, he would pull just enough soil to cover the  spuds before covering the whole area with an eighteen inches deep layer of   freshly gathered  pine straw that had been raked and brought from the woods in the old one horse wagon.

It was a lot of work initially.  Considering that no more work had to be done until harvest time, the potato crop was    probably the easiest endeavor on the little two horse family farm.

Move forward fifty or so years.  I decide to grow potatoes just for the heck of it,  it is a good reminder of the old days.

I  have read quiet a bit about growing in trashcans and buckets.  The principles echo the old straw covered plantings of my youth………..why not try?

First order of business, the seed.  For an experiment I do not  want to spend so much cash for five or six potatoes.

Yes, the rules say DO NOT use potatoes from the grocery store, for several reasons.

  1. Using non-certified seeds could spread diseases that infect my soil
  2. Potatoes are usually treated with a  sprout inhibitor that enforces a  period of dormancy nearly  impossible to break.
  3. Potatoes from the grocery store are probably not grown under local climatic conditions and probably will not grow under local conditions.

Rules are made to break, is my motto:

  • Where can I find sprouted potatoes?

It is not easy;  finally my daughter says “I got some”;  gave me four with promising sprouts.    Seven good sized portions resulted.

  • Do I start them in pots and transplant after sprouts grow?

Everything I read said, “No.”  Potatoes do not easily transplant.

I wonder why not?

Most tubers are  easy to relocate once they begin to  grow.

These seven cut portions were placed in containers and set under a fluorescent fixture to speed growth.   The tuber portion turned green, as potatoes exposed to light are suppose to do, the budding sprouts just sat, and sat…and sat.

Finally I said: “To heck with it!” (roughly translated) and set them aside.

Uh, the books say these will not make plants--they're thin peels

A month later I again visit my daughter.  She excitedly informs me her husband has saved  more sprouts, as she hands me a zip lock bag with about five pathetically thin slivers of peel with healthy head of eyes attached.

Not wanting to appear ungrateful or impolite, I accept the peels , thank her and determine I will discard them when I get home; all my reading says “No way! No how” these  little pieces of skin will support growth of a plant.

“I wonder if?”  took over as I was unpacking.

I put the pieces in a plant insert tray, place them under lights and can not believe, a week later,  I have very health looking sprouts.

From thin peel slivers in less than one month under grow lights ".

Ten days later, this is what  I see  each time I look at these plants “that will not grow”.

When I transplant into 5 gallon containers a few days later, each has a chunk of potato the size of the end of my thumb, not a sliver of peel, attached!

Starting March 15, 2010 over a period of several days these plants are transferred to the larger containers.   About an inch of compost is put on the bottom of the bucket,the plant is buried up to the newest leaves in more compost.

Begging "Give us more compost..hurry!"

Did I experience set back?  Judge for yourself.  This is a photo of first 2 plants  sixteen days later, ready for another burial!!   The others are coming along just a beautifully.

I can not wait to see if I get a harvest.  The rules say I will not, I have done everything wrong.   I say, “We’ll wait to see!”


I want to emphasize , I am not advocating this as the way to go.  
I am recording  my experience.  I grow for the joy of learning. 
 That means sometimes I re-invent the wheel, most of the time, 
I ignore the rules!!

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by LarryDavis on April 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm


    Your “Potato Experiment” article was interesting to me and instantly brought back memories of my own grandparents planting potatoes as you described. Only thing different that I remember was the fact that they dusted the cutseed potatoes with sulfur. I think it acted as an antifungal.
    Anyway…our family enjoyed their bounty of homegrown potatoes as mashed, baked, skillet-fried in a cast iron skillet with chopped onions and Potato Soup! What a versatile vegetable!! Before they were mature, we would grub out a few immature “new” potatoes which would be delicious boiled or cut in half & cooked up with a piece of pork in a pot of homegrown snap beans. Nothin’ better!!!!

    Thanks for the memories!!


    • Seems that Granddaddy may have dusted something on them, now that you mention it. The pity is that everyone who could tell me for sure are gone.

      Being the older generation has its disadvantage when it comes to being able to verify some sources, doesn’t it?

      Glad you liked the article and good to hear from you again.


  2. I imagine some of you will find the “Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)” at the end of this blog as offensive as I do. Unfortunately, I know of no way to disassociate them from my blog post. I apologize.
    Lane Cockrell


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: