Raw Materials

Lured by the promise of harvesting 100 pounds of potatoes from four square feet, I decided to build myself a potato box, with the plans provided here, by LifeHacker. After gathering the lumber last weekend, I found an hour (it might take less time if you’re handier than I am) after work today to cut my lengths of cedar to size and screw them together. It’s very important to use untreated lumber when building for an edible garden, and cedar lasts longest. Tomorrow, I’ll give the box a coat of linseed oil to protect it from the elements and give it a nice sheen. All in all, it’s a quick project that ended up costing about $50 in supplies – cedar doesn’t come cheap, but this is a multiyear investment.
The box is a pretty ingenious but simple concept for potato growing. New potatoes grow in the soil above the seed potato. This box grows with the potato plants. I’ll start by uprooting some sod and digging in the long legs of the box. I’ll remove all of the side boards of the box, except the lowest course, giving me essentially a 6″ deep planter. Once the potato plants fill that space, I’ll add the second course of boards and fill it with more soil. It’s kind of like blanching leeks or celery, except instead of keeping the stems tender and white, the new soil will encourage the plants to send out more potato tubers in the new soil above. I’ll continue, adding a course every month or so, until the box is complete, and the potato leaves are coming out of the top. 
The coolest thing about this box is that I don’t have to wait until the end of the season to dig up the whole potato plants and kill them to get at some potatoes. I can remove the lowest course, steal some potatoes out, and replace the course while the plant still thrives.   

The finished potato box

I picked up some seed potatoes last weekend as well (a whole bunch of Yukon golds – my favorite, red skins and white baking potatoes for less than a dollar), but I still have to figure out the ideal number to plant in the box, and the right kind of soil to add. That’s on the docket for later this week, as my window for potato planting is getting short. Stay tuned!

Inside the potato box