Small Potatoes

North Carolina encompasses three USDA Hardiness Zones (6,7,8), five if you count the subzones (A,B). Plants that flourish in one area may fail in another, even if the distance between them seems insignificant. Add climate change to the mix and…well, nobody can tell you with any degree of certainty what’s actually going to grow where and when.

"potato cage side view"

Re-re-purposed wire shelving unit, former home of Aeschylus, La Tortuga, who’s currently hibernating in his palatial new digs…

In general, Western NC (mountains) is colder than Eastern NC (coast); the Piedmont (foothills, where we’re located) lies somewhere in the middle, geographically and in terms of climate. Elevation, drainage, and other factors play a role, of course. (In addition, most areas have their own micro-climates; so basically, you really don’t know what you can grow until you try.)

"potato cage top view"

…lined with cardboard and filled with alternating strata of leaves, straw, and chicken muck, which will serve as a growing medium for the potatoes.

Because of these disparities, and — let’s face it — because I’m a Pennsylvania girl who’s still, seven years post-migration, utterly enchanted by the notion that not every place on Earth freezes solid for 11 months out of every 12, I like to experiment with my crops.

Autumn is a good time to experiment with potatoes (and other root vegetables) because all you really have to do is bury them in a pit of nutrient-rich filth and then wait until spring.

Anyway, first I acquired some seed potatoes (Purple Majesty and German Butterball, because why not grow something interesting?).

Then we raided the scrap pile for wood, from which My Fella built a bin. Like so —

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The potato cage will be a case of occasionally topping up with dirt and compost but otherwise forgetting about it until something sprouts. The potato bin is a bit more hands-on: we’ll be adding slats to the sides and re-mounding the plants as they grow, for greater density.

Hopefully it will work. If not, it’s at least somewhere to put all the fallen leaves and chicken $#!+ that accumulate.

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