When it comes to the easiest way ever to grow potatoes, there is simply nothing better than growing potatoes in inexpensive, homemade potato crates!
Over the years, we have covered the topic of planting and growing potatoes vertically in homemade wooden crates. The crates are certainly simple and uncomplicated. In fact, we make ours using a few scrap pallets or 2×4’s (more on that later).
But what is special is how incredibly easy planting, maintaining and harvesting the potatoes in the crates can be. One thing is for sure, we get a lot of emails about the entire process, and thought today would be the perfect time to take gardeners through the whole process – from start to finish!
Today’s article covers all aspects of growing potatoes with this simple method. From how to create a basic growing crate to filling it with soil and planting. And perhaps best of all, how to maintain and harvest it with ease!
With that in mind – here is a look at the easiest way to grow potatoes ever, and why it works so well!
The Easiest Way To Grow Potatoes – Potato Crates!
Growing potatoes in the old-fashioned, traditional “row” style can be an extremely labor intensive process. First there is the time spent in preparing the long planting rows. And the tasks of planting and covering the crop down the rows.
Next comes the hard work of keeping those long rows free of weeds all summer. All of course, revisiting your crop every week or two to “hill up” more soil to keep the potatoes covered.
Harvest time adds another layer of labor to the process. And it can be a painful one for the potatoes too. Back when we grew in traditional rows, we always ended up ruining some of our crop with the blade of a shovel or pitchfork.
It was always so frustrating to ruin a great potato and not be able to store it for later. And then everything changed for the better about 8 years back, when we begin growing vertically in crates. The rest, as they say, is history.
That first crop yielded more potatoes in just two crates than we had ever grown in our long rows. And, we didn’t have to worry about weeds, weeding or hilling up the potatoes.
The Simple Ease of Growing Potatoes In Crates
In fact, the entire process was a complete breeze. Planting. Maintaining the crop. And harvesting? It was as simple as lifting the crate up and sifting through for potatoes at the end of the season. Talk about a breath of fresh air!
By the second year, we switched to growing all of our potatoes in crates, and have never looked back. We even now use it for our sweet potato crop, with the same amazing results. (See: How To Grow Sweet Potatoes)
The process if growing potatoes with this method all begins with creating a simple, inexpensive crate to grow your potatoes in. Let’s take a look at that first.
Building Crates – The Easiest Way To Grow Potatoes Ever!
We make all of our crates inexpensively from scrap lumber. We actually have an entire article dedicated to building the crates, (How To Build Homemade Potato Crates), but in short, we use a few 2 x 4’s for the frame, and then nail or screw on thin wood slats to create an open-ended crate.
By open, we simply mean that there is no bottom, nor top – only the slatted sides. We have built them in various sizes, but have found our current crates that measure 36″ x 24″ x 18 high are the easiest to work with, and large enough to produce a good-sized crop.
With that size of a crate, we have found you can plant it with about 3 to 5 pounds of seed potatoes. As for expected harvest, depending on the variety we grow, we usually get 25 to 35 pounds per crate.
It is important to note that you can create the crates from whatever lumber you have access to. Some put a screen inside to hold in the soil mix better, but we have never had much issue with leaving the slats open.
The soil mix binds together well inside as the potatoes grow. Again, you can be as creative or simple as you like with the crates. As long as they will hold soil in, they will work!
Selecting The Right Variety To Grow
Here is a big secret for growing in crates – some varieties perform way better than others! We have had great success growing Yukon Gold, Red Potatoes, New Potatoes, Fingerlings & heirloom Adirondack Blue & Purple Majesty potatoes.
On that note, you will never find more beautiful potatoes to cut into than the heirloom Purple Majesty! It is simply stunning to see the streaks of color all throughout the core of this potato. You can check out a photo of it in the seed link below.
Yukon Golds are definitely are go-to for our main potato crop. They perform incredibly well in the crates with good growth and great yields. One potato that just does not see to work well in a crate is the Russet variety. We have tried for a few years now, and they just never seem to develop into a good crop.
When it comes to sweet potatoes, the Beauregard variety is our go-to for planting in crates. Much like the Yukon Gold potato, it has really good growth and yields in the crates. Here are a few seed links below to all:
Potato Seed Links :
Planting The Crates – The Easiest Way To Grow Potatoes Ever!
Once you have your crates, and the outside temperature has warmed enough for planting, it is time to get those potatoes into the crates! For us here in Ohio, that is usually mid-April.
The planting process to plant the crates couldn’t be more simple. And it can be accomplished in mere minutes.
We begin by placing our open-ended crates on the surface of the soil in the back edge of our garden. The crates can of course go anywhere, but just make sure the crop will get full sun or near full sun.
Next, we place a few inches of our soil mixture in the bottom of the crate. Instead of just straight soil, (which can be used successfully) we make a lighter soil mix. It is easier to work with, and by having compost in it, chock-full of nutrients.
The Soil Mix
We make our mix from equal parts of compost, garden soil, straw and shredded leaves. You don’t have to use this exact mix to have success, but lightening up the soil is a big plus. It helps the potatoes grow with ease, and makes it easy to fill the crates as they grow.
Next, we place our cut potato seed in the soil at the bottom with the eyes up, spacing the seed only a few inches apart throughout the crate. We cover the potatoes with about an inch of the soil mix.
We plant around 3 5o 5 pounds of seed in each of our 36″ x 24″ crates. It really depends on the size of the seed potatoes. At about 5 minutes to plant per crate, it is a gloriously fast and easy task.
When growing with this method, the potatoes can be crowded together a little more than the traditional row spacing. This also helps to create a much larger yield come harvest time.
Maintaining The Crates – The Easiest Way To Grow Potatoes Ever!
One of the beautiful things about growing in crates is the ease of maintaining the crop during the season. Once the potatoes grow through the soil, we simply begin to add the soil mix to keep the soil about an inch under their leaves.
We continue adding the soil every week or so until the soil reaches the top of the crate. Once this happens, we then let the potatoes grow until they die back.
Once the potatoes begin to die back, it signals it is time for harvesting! (You can harvest earlier for “new” or “baby” potatoes)
Speaking of the harvest, this is where the real magic happens when using potato crates. Once the potatoes die back, we first cut back the top growth and remove. Then, we simply lift up the crates, and the soil mix falls down for easy sifting and picking.
A No Damage Harvest!
There is no accidental stabbing or injuring of the potatoes. Just a gentle sifting through the dirt to pluck out gorgeous, unharmed potatoes. When we are finished with the harvest, we put the soil mix into the compost pile to help create more great compost for the following year’s garden.
It really is that easy! I still remember the looks Mary and I gave one another that first year when we lifted the crates to reveal the harvest.
It was that “Aha” moment that I will never forget. It was pretty much a “where has this been all of our gardening life” moment!
Here is to growing potatoes with ease this year in crates – and to a wonderful harvest! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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