You may recall my nearly complete failure with potatoes last year. Potatoes are supposed to be really easy to grow – hell – they fed Peru, Ireland and Poland for centuries. But somehow, my finely crafted potato box didn’t do the trick. The potato foliage was robust, but I got 2 3/4 pounds total. Delicious, of course, but not worth the space. At the end of last year, I thought too much sun was the problem. I was going to move the box. Then I thought I had the wrong soil mix.

 Also, I realized we don’t eat a lot of white potatoes at home (thought I can’t resist French fries in a restaurant…) and that even organic potatoes are phenomenally inexpensive to buy.  So instead of trying again, I threw in the towel on potatoes altogether, left the box where it was, and started to think of the box as a place to pamper a new crop. That bright sunlight is a big asset, as is the deep, rich soil.

I added a full bag of leaf compost this spring, as well as some additional composted peat. My choice to replace the potatoes are two other members of the nightshade family: ground cherries and chichiquelite huckleberries.

A benefit of the very tall box is that the ground cherries can drape over the sides rather than needing to be staked and/or supported. It’s a small box – just 2 by 2 feet, so I only have four plants total in the box. The ground cherries have taken off incredibly – they’re sprawling everywhere and have lots of fruit, a few of which have already ripened. The huckleberries (which I grew from seed) are having a more challenging time. Some insect has found their leaves to be delicious, and even with vigilant applications of neem oil, they’re laced with large holes. Still, the plants have more than tripled in size since I set them out in mid-May.

Already, I think switching from potatoes has paid off. Those ground cherries are going to be really prolific!

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