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Thunder Chicken 04-23-2012 02:17 PM

Trash Can Kennebec Potatoes in Zone 6

I am making my first attempt at growing potatoes (Kennebec) using the trash can method vs. hilling:

I ordered seed potatoes from Burpee and planted them on April 10th after leaving them out on the counter to sprout for about a week. I planted 5 seeds in to a bagged organic peat/compost/humus mix with a cup of Plant-tone tossed in for good measure. The can is a new 20 gallon black Rubbermaid trash can with drainage holes installed.

We've had a hot spell since then (pushing 90F) but I kept the can in the shade and kept it watered, and today I am seeing my first sprout. So far, so good.

I've since heard that potatoes are planted even in late winter in Maine. Was April 10 late? Burpee didn't even start shipping potatoes until early April so I couldn't do much about that, but in the future can I / should I put them in earlier? I know there is still an outside chance of a frost and I can simply put the lid on the can to keep the plant from frost damage, but isn't it pretty cold-hardy?

creeper 04-23-2012 03:03 PM

I'm not nearly ready to put potatoes in yet so I don't think you have to worry that you missed the potato boat. The leaves are not frost hardy so put the lid on when you think they are going to take a hit. I've never done container potatoes, but I've heard of it. I think you should keep them in the sun, just make sure the soil doesn't get too dry.

Don't wait until harvest to sneak a few little gems out. Delicate and melt in your mouth delicious. Just plunge your hand into the soil and feel around for a few.

Watch out for colorado potato beetle, they will ravage the leaves in no time. No leaves, No crop. They are golden with a black stripe. Just squish it with a glove and check the underside of the leaves for their orange eggs. Wipe those off.

Nothing beats a fresh baby potato

Thunder Chicken 04-23-2012 03:59 PM

Creeper - Will do. We're getting some cool rain now, and I've moved the can back out into the sun. We're getting more seasonable weather now which seems to be helping.

We're looking forward to the new potatoes. I'll report back on the trash can method and let you know how things worked out.

ghostlyvision 04-24-2012 07:13 PM

Please do Thunder Chicken, I'd love trying your method, can you post a pic of the trash can/sprouts?

Thunder Chicken 04-25-2012 05:16 PM

The sprouts are just poking through the soil surface now. Nothing much to photograph yet. When they leaf out and become visible I'll post some shots.

The seed potatoes had some good eyes on them when I planted them, but I probably could have waited a little longer to let the sprouts really form. I might have put them down a tad deep too - I put them down in about 3-4 inches and I have read that about 2 inches is about right. Whatever, the plants will figure it out.

ghostlyvision 04-27-2012 06:29 PM

Good luck with them, looking forward to the pics.

Thunder Chicken 05-02-2012 05:02 PM

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Here are some shots of the can and the first sprouts. They were planted April 10th, so they have been in the ground for about 22 days.

The first seed to break the surface is putting out leaves and looks good. There are 5 seeds set in a circle, the buds of the other four are just reaching the surface of the soil.

I think when I do this over again I am going to go to a farm and get some real compost, or maybe some potting mix. I got a 'peat and humus' mix from a box store which turned out to contain a lot of woodchips. After I first watered it it locked up stiff, almost like making paper. I think that is why the seeds are taking so long to sprout from the surface. I think it will work out. We've been getting cool showers over the last few days and everything seems happy.

I also planted rhubarb rhizomes the same day as the potatoes and they are all leafing out too. Can't wait until next year when I can start making pie. :thumbup:

ghostlyvision 05-02-2012 07:57 PM

Very cool. TC! I'm going to try potatoes your way next year, I'd love to do rhubarb but down here near the Gulf they're more likely to fry than grow very well. Thanks for the pics, hope the taters do really well for you.

Thunder Chicken 05-08-2012 11:39 AM

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May 8, 28 days in the ground, all 5 seed potatoes have broken the surface. Looking good so far. We have cool rain forecast for the next several days which seems to suit them.

Thunder Chicken 05-11-2012 01:43 PM

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May 11, 31 days in the ground, now they are really growing! I'll need to think about hilling them in a week or two at this rate. They seem to really like the cool rain. We're getting sun and scattered showers for the next several days, so I'll keep an eye on them and water as needed.

I'm thinking about getting some good compost from a local farm to cover them with, maybe alternated with leaf compost from my pile. I've heard that you can just cover the plant with straw or sawdust, but since the original "soil" in my can is so full of woodchips I think I want to get something with a bit more nitrogen in there. I can spread the compost on my lawn in the fall when the potatoes are done.

designshare 05-13-2012 01:48 AM

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Nice.the Trash Can could be a hardscape in the yard too.

Thunder Chicken 05-13-2012 09:54 AM

Well, since this is an experiment in growing potatoes on my part, I'm not inclined to add any complicating influences like ornamental plants, though I appreciate the thought.

As it is, everybody has been asking about the trashcan in the middle of the garden and they all think it is a hoot that I'm growing potatoes in it. I don't think I want to hide it!

Thunder Chicken 05-15-2012 12:18 PM

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May 15, 35 days in the ground. Stand back everybody, they're growing!

Time to start hilling. I gave them a sprinkle of Plant-tone and a good watering and then put 4-6 inches of fall lawn clippings and leaves in around the taller plants. There are still a couple of runty plants that I didn't want to bury, but if they don't get a move on I'll just cover them and hope for the best. I'll probably have to do this again in a week at the rate they are going.

Thunder Chicken 05-16-2012 03:49 PM

I poked my head into the barrel today to see how the mulch settled and it seems the plants put on a few inches of height literally overnight! They are going to clear the top of the can in a few days at this rate. I hilled up some more mulch around them. Some of the runts are buried but oh well. We've been getting warm and wet weather and everything is growing rather aggressively.

Thunder Chicken 05-23-2012 05:06 PM

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May 23rd, 43 days in the ground. The plants are now poking up above the rim of the can. I'll probably hill them with mulch one or two more times before the can is completely full. We've been getting warm and humid sun and rain. Today was really warm so I gave it a watering from the hose, but it looks green and happy.

A question for the folks who have grown potatoes before - when should I be able to start getting new potatoes from the top of the pile? I imagine I can just feel around but I am not inclined to disturb things too much as they seem to be going so well.

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