Potato half barrels

From Grown & Gathered by Matt & Lentil ed Published by PLUM. Rrp. $45

A potato half barrel is a really fun and easy way to grow over 50 kg of potatoes on less than 1 m2. It doesn’t have to be in a half wine barrel, any similarly large, structural vessel will do – it’s even better if your vessel has only sides and no floor, so your potatoes can tap into the actual ground. A stack of old tyres is a great alternative as they can be stacked on top of each other throughout the process, allowing for a lot of height in a very small space. The depth of the container is important – if it’s too deep there won’t be enough sunlight for the plants in the initial stages of growth, and if it’s not deep enough there’s really not much point. This process should begin in early to mid-spring after the danger of frost has nearly passed.

POTATO HALF BARRELS
Materials
1 large vessel, ideally with only sides and no floor
0.2 m3 of compost-rich soil
12 potatoes (save your smallest potatoes from the previous season)
1 straw bale (any straw will do)

  1. To begin, fill the base of your vessel with at least 20 cm of compost-rich soil and then evenly space a dozen potatoes on top of the soil. Cover them with another 15 cm of soil. Water it all down, and keep it moist but not wet for the duration of the potatoes’ growth.

  2. Your potato plants will continually grow lush greenery above the surface of the soil for the next few months. At fortnightly or so intervals, nearly completely cover that greenery with straw, leaving only about 15 cm of growth above the surface each time. Continue until the barrel is completely full, at which point you can just let the greens grow strong and tall out of the barrel.

  3. At the end of the season, simply tip the whole thing over and harvest. You can harvest new baby spuds from mid-summer, but the main harvest is in autumn, even after a frost (in fact, you can leave potatoes in well-drained soil all winter and the earth around them will act like a big fridge!). Underneath the straw, and all the way down into the initial layer of soil, potatoes will have formed throughout. It’s a super effective example of maximising space, and perfect for backyard situations where that space is limited.

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