How Not to Grow Potatoes

Despite doing everything wrong we had a more bountiful than expected harvest of potatoes this summer season. We grew our ‘taters in a stack of tires. Used treads, due to their ubiquity along the sides of our blighted streets, ought to be named the official city flower of Los Angeles, but we digress. The idea with ‘tater tire stacks is that you add another tire as the plant grows and in so doing encourage the plant to throw out more roots. At the end of the season you kick over the tire stack, which will end up being about three to four tires high, and feast on many pounds of ‘taters.

Just don’t do what we did and try to grow them from sprouting supermarket potatoes. Experts recommend buying special seed potatoes which are certified not to carry any of the diseases that plague this member of the nightshade family. We knew better but felt lazy about ordering seed potatoes. Our potato plants looked sad, failed to flower and eventually died. Much to our surprise when we finally got around to knocking down our ‘tater tire stacks after over a month and many complaints from visiting aesthetes, we discovered a trove of potatoes at the bottom. Amazingly after stewing in the summer heat for at least a month we still had a meager harvest. And speaking of heat, we suspect that potatoes may do better here in Southern California in the winter and we’re going to try it again soon–this time with seed potatoes.

If any of you loyal readers have any ‘tater growing experiences please share them with us. And don’t worry, we haven’t read Benton’s book and won’t resort to the same cheap white trash humor.

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  1. I’ve grown mine by digging trenches, which I then fill as the plants grow. The last couple years, though, we’ve been lazy (uh, busy with two tots, actually) and have just planted our seed potatoes in the ground and let them grow. Perhaps our yield isn’t quite as high as it would be otherwise, but we still get tons of taters. This spring, we didn’t plant any potatoes, just let the spuds still in the ground from last year grow (in fact, much of our garden was “all volunteer,” including a bumper crop of sunflowers and squash). We had a surprisingly good harvest. My favorite tater is Rose Finn Apple–a fingerling with super potato flavor and excellent for boiling.

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