Fill the bottom of the barrel with about 6 inches of loose planting soil and compost. Soil needs to be loose and moist so using a planting soil with peat moss or other soil amendment like coconut husks will keep the soil from becoming too compacted. Between mid-May and mid-June add seed potatoes to the layer of soil. You can either plant the potatoes whole or cut them up into pieces. (Each piece should have a couple of eyes.) Leave about 12-inches of space between each potato. Cover the potatoes with another 6 inches of your soil and compost mix. Do not compact the soil. Water just enough to dampen the dampen. The soil must be kept damp at all times but do not overwater. When plants have about 6 to 8 inches of foliage, add another layer of your soil/compost mix. Cover about one-half to three-quarters of the visible stems and foliage. Repeat this process of plants sprouting, covering the sprouts and moistening the soil until the plants grow to the top of the barrel.
Harvest potatoes a week or two after plants flower or when plants start to yellow. This will be about 10 weeks after planting. Carefully dig down with your hands to inspect the top-most layer, potatoes should be well shaped and firm. Discard any green potatoes. Waiting to harvest until tops have died down is good if storing potatoes. Just make sure you harvest them all before they freeze.
Potato Pests and Diseases
- Aphids may present if potato foliage curls, puckers and turns yellow. They can be found on the underside of of young leaves. Spray vigorously with water to remove aphids.
- Cutworms may be a problem if seedlings or transplants are severed below the soil. Make a trap around each plant by sprinkling cornmeal or bran meal.
- Early Blight causes irregular dark spots on older leaves. As the spots grow they begin to look like a target. To combat blight apply a copper based fungicide every 7-10 days until it's time to harvest.
- Ring Rot causes leaflets, stems and stalks to wilt and turn yellow and die. A yellow mass can be squeezed out of a cut tuber. Ring Rot cannot be cured, so plants need to be destroyed.
- Potatoes are very versatile. For a variety of recipes click here.
Nutrients in Potatoes
- Vitamin c and B6