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When living off the grid, potatoes should be a major storage crop grown in your garden. They’re not difficult to grow, taste delicious, and are packed with energy. Keep in mind that there are tons of ways to learn how to grow potatoes (some of which are easier than others). Technically, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to grow them. After all, everyone has their own method. Plus, some methods work better for certain locations. Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, it’s important that you experiment with the different methods discussed in this article. That way, as you make the switch to self-sustainability, you’ll have a delicious food source to rely on.
Method #1: Build-As-You-Grow Potato Bins
“Build-As-You-Go” potato bins are relatively easy to build. If done properly, they can even last you a few years. Keep in mind, this method will require a lot of manual labor. You’ll also need to be somewhat familiar (not an expert) with woodworking, and using tools like drills, saws, hammers, etc. But the end result will be well worth it. With this method, you’ll be constructing a DIY potato bin in which to grow your potatoes. Due to the vast number of steps required to complete this method, it would take too long to outline in this article.
Method #2: The Lazy Bed Method
When learning how to grow potatoes, another method that you can try is the “Lazy Bed Method”. Traditionally, potatoes were grown by digging a trench in the ground, placing seed potatoes in the trench, and then mounding soil around them. Then you’d simply dig them up during harvest time.
However, this method differs from traditional potato-growing techniques. With this technique, you basically plant seed potatoes a few inches in the soil.
Then you cover them with mulch (or hay) once the potatoes have sprouted through the soil. The potato plants will then grow through the mulch, while the tubers (main edible part) remain in the soil. You might be thinking, “Okay, so what are the benefits?” Great question! In short, you won’t need to worry about weeding or mounding after sowing. It also provides you with the ability to harvest at any time. Pretty neat, right?
Method #3: Growing Potatoes in Bags
For some people, the ground may not be well-suited for learning to how go grow potatoes. If and when this happens, a great alternative will be to grow them in bags. It may sound a little unorthodox, but it works (and doesn’t cost much to do). This is also a good alternative for people who can’t invest the resources- time, money, and energy- building a wooden bin (discussed above). Once you learn how it works, the results will be easy to replicate.
Other than that, there’s not much to say. Watch the video below to see one family's experiment with this method.
Important Tips to Know
Now that we’ve covered the different ways to learn how to grow potatoes, let’s talk about a few key tips to remember. In no particular order, they are:
- Temperature: In general, potatoes can be planted as soon as the ground is able to be worked (usually sometime in the early spring). However, they most likely won’t grow until you reach a soil temperature of about 45-degrees Fahrenheit. If the soil is waterlogged, it may cause the seed potatoes to rot. For this reason, it’s a good idea to wait for the soil to dry out a bit when digging up.
- Moisture: When learning how to grow potatoes, know that they require constant moisture. If you water the ground unevenly, the results won’t be very promising. Using a soaker hose, try to maintain a moisture level that’s relatively consistent in your potato bed. Specifically, it should average about 1.5-inches of water per week. Don’t worry- it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
- Compost: It’s super-important that you add compost to your potato bed. Why? Well for one, it will ensure that the soil doesn’t compact. Secondly, it allows the roots to spread, as well as promote the growth of potato tubers. In a previous article, I talked about how you can acquire compost for free (as well as other gardening tools). I highly recommend that you check it out.
Note, these are a few of the main tips to keep in mind when learning how to grow potatoes. If you’re a beginner, know that it’s going to take some trial and error before you get it right. With that said, if you’re planning on going off the grid, make sure that you practice your gardening skills before switching completely to self-sustainability. The last thing you want is to be ill-equipped.
As mentioned, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to grow potatoes. Not only do people have their own methods that work for them, but also, certain methods work better in different locations. For these reasons, it’s imperative that you experiment with all of the methods mentioned above. Potatoes are a quality food source when living off the land. Also, if done properly, you can grow potatoes in an urban setting. But that’s a topic for a separate article.
May 2019 Update
We couldn't resist adding to this article that Dave originally posted back in 2016. It turns out that - at least for us in northern New England, potatoes are super easy to grow - and they are also a lot of fun, especially if you have little kids hanging around.
It seems like kids really enjoy helping dig them up - and why wouldn't they? Kids + Dirt = Happy Outdoor Activity! One of the things they seem to always remember is digging up spuds. What a great way to introduce them to gardening!
Anyway, I wanted to share this picture of just a small part of last year's potato crop. We put them in flats and pass them around to friends and family. Yum! Remember to keep an eye on potato bugs AND Japanese Beetles - you don't want them decimating your leaves!