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How NOT to Plant Potatoes in Containers

Also known as: Jim was right, and I was wrong.

Or: Why shortcuts are a bad idea.

Or: It doesn’t hurt to think ahead while gardening.

This post had four possible titles. Take your pick. (I have a good idea which one Jim would choose, however!)

This year, I decided to try growing potatoes in containers after I heard that it’s easy to do and especially easy to harvest without damaging the potatoes. In addition, much of our garden space is spoken for, so branching out into container gardening seemed a great way to expand our territory.

I did not have pots the appropriate size around. We remembered visiting a cool hamburger place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, called Motoraunt, which is one of the most unique restaurants we’ve ever visited. We were there in July, and there were lines of white 5 gallon containers sporting healthy tomato plants all around the property. The owner said she grew all of the tomatoes they used, serving them as they ripened and wrapping all the green tomatoes in newspaper so they’d ripen all winter long, and, given Edmonton’s short growing season, that’s pretty impressive. I thought if they could use 5 gallon buckets for growing tomatoes, I could use them for growing potatoes.

I had prepared my seed potatoes by cutting them and letting them form a callus. Then I thought I should hurry up and plant them before they dried up so I had to get my hands on some 5 gallon buckets. In desperation, I purchased the very last one available at our local garden store ($2.99) While walking to the car, I spied another used white bucket sitting by the garbage pile at a restaurant across the street. It wasn’t too dirty so I took that along. On the way home, I saw another one in an alley next to the garbage so I took that too. I cleaned out the buckets when I got home.

Then I planted the potatoes in one good-sized black plastic pot and the three 5 gallon buckets. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I should have made drainage holes in the containers but I was in a big hurry. Maybe I thought I’d make them later. Maybe I didn’t really think much about it. I put the buckets in the yard and left them to grow potatoes.

After a couple of days of rainy weather, there was standing water in the white buckets. I tried to dump some water out without disturbing the planted potatoes, but that was hard to do. And it kept raining.

On Saturday past, Jim asked me what I was thinking when I planted something in a container with no drainage.

Um, not thinking is probably the best way of describing the situation.

In a moment of do-it-now, Jim had the hand drill out in the yard and nice drainage holes in all three buckets in a jiffy.

It may be too late for my first round of seed potatoes to be saved, however. I’m going to give them a couple of days more (I’m an optimist) but I may need to buy more seed potatoes to replace the possibly too water-logged and/or rotted by now original ones. (… Jim suggested realistically)

So the moral of this gardening story is Think ahead while gardening.

Or Shortcuts can lead to minor disasters.

Or Do not plant potatoes (or probably anything) in containers without drainage holes.

Or Jim was right.

Enough said.

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