Grow potatoes in containers to save space

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African proverb

Don’t have enough space for potato growing? You’re probably right. Unless you grow potatoes in containers. I have learned from a bunch of great gardeners about their tried and tested methods to growing potatoes and sweet potatoes above soil. These clever ideas all revolved around containers made from either firm materials such as wood or also other surprising materials such as feeder bags. All surprisingly do-able, smart ideas aimed for growing potatoes with least effort and best yield. Note: these “containers” are mostly recycled, cheap or free.

My favorite grow potatoes in containers examples are:

A wooden box container made from 4 x small doors: When all the doors are locked together, they form a square planter. The planter can either have a bottom or be open to drain into the soil it stands on.

  • Pro’s: If made from a hard wood, or wood that is for example scorch-treated, this container will last forever. You can move it around and harvesting is made easy by unlocking the doors when the time is right.
  • Cons: to grow potatoes in cobtainers this way, can be a pricey process, especially if you build them big enough to carry a descent amount of spuds.
  • How To: Fill a third high and plant. Keep filling to hill as the potatoes grow. Once the potato stems have browned, open the doors and let the potatoes roll out.

Did you know? The scorching method has been used for centuries in Japan and is known as shou sugi ban. The fire-charring method on the wood surface is followed by a coating of natural oil which effectively preserves the wood as it is also followed with a coating of natural oil.  

Rolled hessian or feeder bags: Allowing you to always at the right height.

  • Pro’s: The depth can easily be adjusted by simply unrolling the sides. These bags can be used as a recycling alternative and will most likely be free. Watch out for over-watering though!
  • Con’s: Finding a descent hessian bag may not be as easy as plastic options and nobody wants to grow in plastic. Fabric bags may not last longer than a season.
  • How To: Roll the bag low so that your first planting depth is correct. Unroll and fill with soil as you need to hill around the ever-taller plants. At harvesting time, simply empty the bag out.

Wire fencing loop containers: Double loops of recycled wire fencing works a charm and any size is achievable.

  • Pro’s: Finding damaged fencing is easy and usually free, making this a fantastic recycling option. The material is light and easy to work with allowing an easy set-up and harvesting. The material can also be used again and again.
  • Con’s: If you are using damaged wired fencing, make sure there’s no rust or sharp points.
  • How To: Double loop the fence into a barrel and secure. Fill to the right starter height and add soil as the plant grows. Once at brown stem, harvest-stage, un-fasten the fence and let it roll open to release the soil and spuds.

Stacked tire towers: A re-using idea well known by any and all that has ever likes recycling tires in the garden. It is another easy-to-dismantle idea to grow potatoes in containers.

  • Pro’s: Used tires are available to any and all, mostly always free of charge. The material itself helps retain water very well and will last probably forever.
  • Con’s: Is the material used in making a tire safe for eating? Although nobody suggest you eat the tire itself (smirk), the rubber/tire particles can leech into the soil. An alternative to planting straight into the tires, is to line them out with un-printed and plastic-free cardboard, followed by the soil so that there is no direct contact between tire and soil. Don’t let the soil get too wet.
  • How To: Lay tire 1 down, fill with soil and plant. Once the plant needs to be supported, stack the second tire on top and fill with soil to hill around the plant. A final, 3rd, tire will be needed for height. When the harvesting time comes, these tires can simply be removed.

Buried under a mount of old wood chips is a method used by some successfully, although it is not planted a container.

  • Pro’s: This is the lowest-effort option of all and your soil is fed while the wood chips break down.
  • Con’s: wood chips can lack in nutrients and rob your soil and plants of nitrogen while it breaks down. Make sure to read and understand the How To below.
  • How to: Never use new but at least 1 year old wood chips. Grow a legume, such as peas or peanuts, nearby to provide further nitrogen. Lay your potatoes or sweet potatoes on the ground and dump a mound of wood chips over these. As the stalks grow through the chips, keep adding more wood in order to ‘hill’.

My favorite option for sweet potatoes is a wired fencing loop that can act as container and also trellis for the edible greens that we harvest. For potatoes, I will probably daydream about becoming a good bag lady (hessian or other cotton) .

Thoughts?

Easiest lawn removal steps – no effort

Grow more food, less lawn. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Do you have a wish to replace your lawn but don’t know where to start? Lawns, like all other mono (single-type) crops are devoid of natural balanceand many people opt for natural, pollinator-friendly or edible gardens. We show you the easiest lawn removal steps – no effort.

 

You will not find a thriving environment hidden in lawns but with the easiest lawn removal steps, you can turn it into rich, nutrient-dense soil that will be heaven to grow your plants in. 

Our previous generations loved controlling nature and lawns were popular methods. These pieces of visual control, would be sprayed with poison to kill and fed with artificial fertilizer to ensure only grass grows. Add non-stop irrigation and maintenance to the equation and you’ve lost me on why anyone still carries on with this antiquated idea of what makes a garden.

The idea of having to dig out a lawn and sweat many days to remove every last root is the most common complaint we hear. The solution includes the easiest lawn removal steps, plus it turns your lawn into beautiful soil food.

-Does the area get enough sun energy to grow anything in it? A simple method to test the sun strength is through a solar-powered toy. If it operates in the area you have in mind, you’re good to go.

-Also keep in mind that food gardens are more successful when closer to the home. Out of sight, out of mind has never been more true than for kitchen gardens.

– How about wind or winters? Ensure a favorable microclimate in an area that provides shelter. Study wind directions and see where you can benefit from a wall for instance. The south side of your house will be a good consideration for cold climate gardens.

– Have your considered your annual rainfall and irrigation requirements? You can grow kitchen gardens and orchards even in desert gardens by including swales. Read more here….

O.K, now that you’ve considered the above, follow these 5 easy steps!

1) Mark out the bed shapes you wish to have and place cardboard sheets down inside these shapes. The cardboard should be placed on top of the lawn and overlapping each other.

2) Build a simple wooden frame to place on top of the cardboard. A height of at least 15 cm will do.

3) Fill the raised bed frames with a thick layer of green mulch (food scraps, manure or leaves), followed by the same amount of brown mulch (compost or wood chips for example), sheets of news paper and wet so that it is only just moist.

4) Repeat the above layers to the top and moisten again.

5) Moisten only when dry. These beds will be ready to use after 2 months.

Are you wondering what happened to the lawn at the bottom? It became soil food and you will be amazed at how rich and fertile these beds will be to grow in.

Charles Dowding inspires like nobody else.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!

How to make a Hugelkultur bed in these simple steps

Again, we are trying to copy nature.

How to make a Hugelkultur bed is extremely easy. It involves wood, organic material like leaves and top soil. The benefits last years. Hugelkultur means growing or cultivating on a hill or mound. These no-dig raised beds hold moisture very effectively and builds fertility.

What is Hugelkultur (Hoo-gul-culture) and why consider this method? In a nutshell, think of gardening on a “hill or mound”. This method is basically the creation of raised garden beds build on decomposing wood so that your bed is full of organic rich material and nutrients, air and moisture. This is a great growing method for fruit, vegetables and herbs. Make a Hugelkultur bed, small scale and test it out. Feeding and watering efforts and expenses literally come to an end for years.

Benefits:

  • Due to decomposition, you will find the soil will be warmer and thus your growing seasons will be longer. The wood content will hold on to nutrients and moisture and it is a win-win situation that is ideal for growers dealing with extreme temperatures and drought.
  • Although it is quite a bit of work to set it, you will find it much less work in successive years. Irrigation and fertilization will not be needed from year 2 onward.

How to make a Hugelkultur bed:
Again, we are trying to copy nature. When a tree falls in a forest, it will in time get buried with foliage, animal manure and other. Soon you will see the right kind of Fungi move into the log to begin the process of breaking it down, followed by bugs tunneling through the wood. Plants will have plenty of moisture, nutrients, warmth and protection from the wrong kind of fungi and microbes. That is because of the presence of beneficial fungi and microbes and how a safe growing space is created. By building a hugelkultur bed, you mimic this process and if you cover the wood with soil, compost and mulch, you will speed it up and creating an ideal growing place.

Step-by-step:

  • Place the largest pieces of wood on the ground where you want your bed to be.
  • Add soil, manure or compost on top so that all the openings are filled. This is an important point. These open areas cause drying out and by filling all the cracks between the wood, you are ensured a wonderful environment for your plants.
  • Add more wood and continue the layering pattern.
  • Make sure you end the bed off with a nice 10 – 15cm (about 5 inches) thick layer of soil to plant into.
  • Finally add a 5cm (2 inches) thick layer of mulch such as leaves or wood chips.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!

No dig gardening method – love it!

No-dig gardens are excellent for growing vegetables and herbs, and pretty much anything else!

Growing back the Garden of Eden with a no dig gardening method that mother nature loves!

Planting into cardboard boxes or glue-free paper bags or boxes is a great solution for no-dig gardens. The organic containers can be neaten by simply envelope the soil parcel with mulch.

When looking at the no dig gardening method, we need to observe that conventionally, farmers thought tillage help loosen compacted soil which makes it easier to plant into. At first, it will seem that tilling improves fertility in the soil – because the truth is that after tilling, the now dead soil organisms release their nutrients. After this initial nutrient boost, the soil is in fact dead.
Typically, the farmer now have to add chemical fertilizers, which further kills what is left of the original soil. This is all unnecessary to your budget and cruel to a natural system that begs to work with you. In contrast, the no dig gardening method will surprise you no end. Plants literally thrive, the garden looks happy and the results are stable.. season after season.

When leaving the soil undisturbed in the the no dig gardening method we let nature cultivate, loosen and break up the soil (and thus improves air content, nutrient and water transportation and retention. In a nutshell, you add a nice thick blanket (at least 7cm thick) of well rotted wood chips or manure, rich compost or leaf mold, old straw, and other organic matter, to the soil’s surface. This will encourage microbe, worm and insect action which results in soil crumbs glued together by their excrement. This is gold for a grower as it is a much easier system, due to having proven to have less pests and diseases. Therefor it is also budget-friendly. The no dig gardening method is a win-win situation. All that is needed, is to keep topping up every other season or as needed.

The soil is a very complex ecosystem, teeming with a rich diverse life and this ecosystem is killed through tilling because ultraviolet rays of the sun sterilizes the soil. We know this soil ecosystem improves and creates soil naturally – and also a very important (and free) relationship with the plants – which is what modern mono farmers aim to do through synthetic fertilizers at great cost.

Plants need soil bacteria, and trees need soil fungi. This beneficial relationship includes access and cycling of nutrients, movement of water and air through improved soil structures and healthier crops. All you have to do is copy the system of a forest. Don’t touch the soil, add organic matter such as fa fallen leaves, wood chips or green manure and wait for decomposition to kick in with the help of earthworms (nature’s diggers), bacteria, fungi and insects. Finally you are left with rich humus that will act like a water retaining sponge and thriving plants. Easy and free.

Fun facts: 1 table spoon of soil = 50 billion microbes. Human population = 7 billion.
Soil fungi will be found in the top 15cm layer of the soil. It literally forms a communicating skin layer for Mother Nature.
Below is Morag Gamble’s explanation on how to create a no-dig garden.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!