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PHOTO: Jessica Walliser
When garden space is at a premium, you have to get creative. Potatoes take up quite a bit of real estate, so if you don’t have room to grow them—or if you just want to grow a lot of spuds in a very small space—build a potato bin out of an old piece of fencing and some newspapers. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many pounds of potatoes you’ll harvest!
Step 1: Cut The Wire
Use a pair of heavy wire cutters to cut a piece of 3-foot-tall boxwire or chicken wire fencing. Although you can make the bin any size you’d like, I find that a 6- to 8-foot-long piece of fencing makes a nice-sized bin.
Step 2: Fold The Wire Into A Cylinder
Bend the fencing into a cylindrical shape and wrap the loose ends around each other to fasten it closed. Place your bin in an area that receives a minimum of six to eight hours of full sun per day.
Step 3: Line The Wire With Newspaper
Spread a layer of newspaper, five to six layers thick, around the inside of the wire bin. This will hold the soil inside the bin and form your first layer. At the end of the season, the newspaper will degrade.
Step 4: Fill The Bin
Fill the bin up to the top of the newspapers with a 50/50 blend of compost and potting soil. Alternatively, if you want to save some money, skip the potting soil and use a blend of compost and shredded leaves.
Step 5: Plant The Potatoes
Space the seed potatoes 4 to 6 inches apart, and plant them about 3 inches deep into the compost/potting soil blend. Once they’re planted, water them in well.
Step 6: Mulch With Straw
Cover this first layer with 2 inches of straw. Make sure the bin stays watered during hot, dry weather. The potatoes should begin to sprout a week or so later.
Step 7: Add More Layers
When your potato sprouts reach about 4 or 5 inches tall, add another layer of newspaper around the inside of the bin. Fill this layer with the 50/50 compost/potting soil blend and another layer of straw, covering the plants and leaving only the top-most leaves exposed. As the plants continue to grow, add a third layer, filling the bin until the potato plants are spilling out the top. Continue to water the bin regularly throughout the growing season.
Step 8: Harvest
When the plants reach maturity, they’ll start to turn yellow and die back. Your potatoes are ready to harvest two weeks after the plants are completely dead. This extra time in the ground allows the skin to cure before the spuds are harvested, increasing their shelf-life. To harvest, simply unfold the wire edges until the bin pops open. Dig through the soil and pull out the potatoes. The same wire bin can be used for many years.