Garden to Table: Here’s how to easily grow and harvest potatoes for tasty meals

Portable, totable grow bags make growing and harvesting potatoes a breeze. Perfect for patios and gardens in small spaces.

While it is tempting to sit idle in the shade, avoiding the dog in these final summer days, I set morning time aside to see to the curing, drying and preserving of back-to-back gifts from the garden, and to sow winter greens and vegetables for transplantation.

Advantaging the warm soil and still-long days now, will ensure that I can grow more than enough healthy seedlings to plant and to share, so that during the darkest days of winter, I can feed myself and my family with homegrown, nutrient-dense goodness.

My mother-in-law speaks of loving winter as a child, because it meant quiet respite from long summer days spent growing, hoeing, and preserving. While I understand her sentiments, our no-dig, urban permaculture garden is regenerative in nature, and requires much less work than most traditional home food gardens.

Gardening and garden menu planning are pure joy for me – most particularly today as I sorted and stored potatoes that we grew in bags this year after committing in perpetuity, the raised beds slated for potato rotation, to asparagus.

The potatoes made me hungry for the salt cod cakes and winter greens dish that I make using a colorful blend of homegrown baby mustards and kales, and an old-school comfort food recipe for salt cod cakes shared with me by Lori McCarthy, author of the beautiful recipe and food story book entitled Food, Culture, Place: Stories, Traditions, and Recipes of Newfoundland.

It was a breeze to grow potatoes in grow bags, and we will absolutely do it again next year. I do love the vibrancy and beauty of potato plants for about half of the time they spend in our garden, but can live without the impertinent sprawl of fading stalks spilling heavily over each other and into the paths – their lives cut short by the sharp wooden edges of the raised beds.

We learned a thing or two about grow bags, namely: round shapes are more manageable than square, and rectangles are ridiculous (flopping open midway down the long side). Grow bags may need a wash between uses, as soil and solution-borne minerals produce a patchwork of stains (easily removed with dish soap). The bags are a breeze to move using handy built-in handles, and they rest sturdily atop wheeled pot coasters, ceramic feet, or upended nursery trays.

I chose black non-woven bags for our garden, and green felt for my mother-in-law. She was tickled as she now gardens in limited space on her patio. On average, moisture evaporates quicker from bags than from pots, but by using living soil, and mulching well, one needn’t worry.

To keep sprawling arms and legs in check and in place, use a peony hoop or a home-made version made from wire coat hangers. Potato plants and flowers are as beautiful as any tender annual from a garden center, and promise a bumper crop of tasty ground apples to squirrel away until winter, when we can cook what we grew with our own hands, for those we love.

Grow bags “air prune” the roots of plants grown in them, which helps prevent root binding. Hot air “burns” away (dries) small roots as they hit the fabric, encouraging healthy new growth throughout. When I upended our grow bags into galvanized tubs for harvesting, I could see the tiny roots stuck to the sides and bottom of the bags. The gorgeous soil, still alive with worms and billions of micro-organisms, was then mixed with the mulch and the chopped greens, and will be used to top-up raised beds for the winter.

Tonight, after sowing dwarf kales and fancy mustards for winter, I will make hot-smoked trout and potato cakes over just-picked wild arugula. For six cakes, mix two cups each grated boiled potatoes (peeled) and shredded fish with sautéed grated onion, chopped dill, and one egg. Pat into cakes, dredge in flour, brown in olive oil then warm through in a 175℃ oven.

I couldn’t reach Lori to ask permission to share her egg-less salt cod cake recipe, but others of hers can be found online.

Laura Marie Neubert is also a West Vancouver-based urban permaculture designer. Follow her on Instagram @upfrontandbeautiful, learn more about permaculture by visiting her Upfront & Beautiful website or email your questions to her here.

For a taste of permaculture, click on the YouTube link below:

(Video – Courtesy of West Vancouver Memorial Library)