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Potatoes are traditional vegetables that pretty much everybody loves. They’re easy to grow, and harvesting spuds is a little like hunting for buried treasure — but a whole lot easier.
While potatoes certainly aren’t your standard house plants, they’re surprisingly easy to grow indoors, and unlike planting in the garden, you get to control the growing conditions. Better yet, you can grow potatoes indoors any time of year, which means fresh potatoes for dinner, even when snow is falling.
By the way, while you can plant potatoes indoors in large buckets or plastic containers, it’s really fun to grow them in plastic garbage bags. Here’s how.
Preparing to Plant
Start with fresh seed potatoes from a reputable garden supply store. Avoid potatoes from the grocery store, which are treated with substances that keep the potatoes from sprouting. If you decide to try planting grocery store potatoes, be sure they’re organic.
If the potatoes are large, cut them into chunks about the size of a small egg, each with at least two “eyes.” Set cut potatoes aside to dry at room temperature for three or four days.
Place 4 to 6 inches of potting soil in a large garbage bag, and then fold the top of the bag down to just above the surface of the soil.
Planting Seed Potatoes
Plant the seed potatoes on top of the potting soil, with at least one eye facing up. As a general rule, figure about three seed potatoes for every square foot of planting space, then add one more for every 4-inch square.
Cover the seed potatoes with an inch or two of potting soil. No fertilizer is needed if you use fresh, good quality potting soil.
Caring for Potato Plants
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Place the garbage bag where the seed potatoes are exposed to full sunlight (or grow lights).
Water as needed to keep the potting soil barely moist. Don’t water to the point of sogginess, but on the other hand, never let the soil become completely dry.
When the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, roll up the bag and add just enough soil to cover the entire plant so just the tips of the top leaves are visible. You can also use straw or a mixture of potting soil and straw, which keeps the soil loose and easy to handle.
Continue to roll up the bag and add more potting soil every so often as the plants grow. Be sure the potatoes are never exposed to direct sunlight, which can cause them to turn green. Never eat green potatoes, as they contain solanine, a substance that makes potatoes taste unpleasant and can make you sick if you eat enough.
Harvesting the Potatoes
Stop watering the potatoes when the leaves begin to die back and turn yellow – generally about 10 weeks. The extra time gives the skin time to firm up.
To harvest potatoes, simply reach into the bag and pull them out. Or, take the bag outdoors and dump the contents on the ground, and then pick out the potatoes.
Brush the soil off of the potatoes, and then set them in a dry, sunny spot to dry for a few hours. If it’s too cold, spread them out under a fluorescent light.
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