Sunday, April 28, 2013

Unruly Teenage Tomatoes and the Potato Party

Is this a sign that we planted our precious tomato seedlings a bit too early?

These plants have grown so big, that they began falling over last week. If you look carefully, you'll see we had to rig a twine and tape system to hold them up against the window, along with wooden-skewer stilts tied to some of the stems to help hold them!

In the back of my mind, I often compare seedlings to children. You spend so much time nurturing them in their little nurseries during the late winter, like newborns. You fuss over them, worry about them, rejoice when they grow strong and tall, and lose sleep when they are having difficulties. Eventually the young plants you raised will be transplanted out in the world, where it will be up to them to prove productive and happy.

Well, if the analogy is applied to our tomatoes, they are teenagers--albeit late teens--who have outstayed their welcome home. They should have been out in the world on their own weeks ago. I will not kick them out, because the weather is still bitter at night (waiting for the 'magic' plant date of Mother's Day). But wow. They are entirely too big to still be at home. We thought about getting out to the garden and setting up a cover system with pvc piping and plastic, but money is tight as well as time. We are going to hold out. When it comes time to transplant them, we'll have to dig deep to provide some support to those long, long stems. I know that last year when it came time to transplant outside, our tomatoes were only about a third this tall. Another interesting development that these teenage behemoths are boasting? They are attempting to make tomatoes already! Look at one of the blooms I found.

In other Little Harvest news, we have decided to plant potatoes. This week we had a potato planting party!

There are so many great ideas for planting potatoes in small spaces. The trick is to keep covering them with soil or compost or rotting leaves/straw (whatever organic material you have on hand, basically) as they grow.  The same holds true whether planting in the ground or in a container. In order to keep burying the growing potatoes, you want to plant them at the bottom of something large. I have been on the lookout for the perfect large container for a few months. I wanted a washtub-style container, or whiskey barrel. Some old tires would have been great (stacking and filling with soil as the potatoes grow). But this giant white plastic pot will hopefully do the trick. I found it by chance at the dollar store at a deep discount, since it has a small crack at the top, which I knew would not effect our potato growing plans at all.

We have not purchased seed potatoes. I have already talked to a seasoned gardener in my family who has told me I MUST buy seed potatoes. Well, we had a bag of organic potatoes that were no longer fit for making lunch, and the sprouts coming out of them seemed to be begging to be put somewhere that they could keep growing. I have a stubborn streak, and being told I must do something a certain way only invites my effort to try a different (and cheaper) way!

Before heading outdoors, the kids and I examined the sprouty potatoes. "Gross" and "Weird" and "Scary" were the words I heard most as they touched and looked at the potatoes. I encouraged words like "Awesome" and "Amazing!" How amazing is it that these old potatoes want to grow into new ones?

We cut two of the sprouts off one of the potatoes, leaving some potato flesh with it. We put the rest of the potatoes in the cold garage, thinking we might find more places to plant them later. We then headed out (on a VERY windy day, mind you) and collected some compost. Oh, that rich, wonderful homemade soil! We marveled at the fact that each one of us remembered putting vegetable peelings, straw, and other old stuff, and here it was, transformed at the bottom of our compost ball.

You can see our unruly tomatoes hanging out in the window behind us!

About to blow away in the wind!!!

As I mentioned above, just a small amount of soil in the bottom of the pot will do. Place the potato bits in, sprouts faced up to the sky, and cover the sprouts with a thin layer of soil. As the sprouts grow through, add soil over the growing plant, leaving just a couple of green leaves poking out into the sun. In this way, the potato plant will grow up into the soil and create many roots. Lots of roots will eventually grow lots of potatoes!

We have high hopes for our new venture. If this proves successful, I'll be on the lookout for suitable containers for more potato growing!


  1. Very interesting - we were just thiniking of trying potatoes this year. Thanks for showing us how!!


  2. Karen, you'll have to try it and we can compare notes. ;) This being our first time, I'm not certain of success...but hopeful!

  3. How amazing! when I see this picture it`s really so green and I am impressed. There are also so many great ideas for planting potatoes in small spaces. I want to make a small garden. This information is very important for me.