Growing Potatoes in a Greenhouse can provide you with amazing results.
In New Hampshire, we grew redsen potatoes, and a few yellow potatoes, in an unheated greenhouse covered in Polydress(R)SolaWrap greenhouse film. The potatoes grew in soil grow beds, however we also have aquaponic grow beds in our greenhouse, as well. We planted during a blizzard at the end of February. The plants started off rather slowly, but quickly grew as the days got longer. We watered them regularly, making sure they got at least an inch of water per week. The grow beds also drain really well, so the tubers were never able to stay wet for too long, keeping them from rotting. The foliage looked so healthy and the plants grew so straight that one visitor remarked that they looked fake. Then the foliage started to weigh the plants down, and they fell over one by one. By May, they were ready for harvest. We held off a little, hoping that they would grow just a little bigger. When we discovered aphids on the leaves, we knew it was time to harvest.
We cut the stalks and shook off the aphids over the fish tank. The fish went wild! They loved the sweet treat. Aphids have a melon-like flavor, making them very appealing to both predatory insects and fish. In an aquaponic system, feeding fish a natural diet can greatly enhance the flavor and nutrient level of the growing food.
We left the potatoes in the ground for two more days, allowing them to dry slightly before we harvested. My toddler, preschooler, and I began to dig and pull the tubers out of the raised beds. After we harvested 21 pounds of potatoes in our greenhouse, we were wiped out! So we sent daddy out to dig the rest. When the rest of the potatoes had been harvested, we had almost 60 lbs of potatoes from a 30 square foot area of raised bed space.
The potatoes varied in size. Some were small “soup potatoes” that I don’t even have to cut up to put in stew. Some are the size of softballs. We allowed the potatoes to dry on our counter for a day, then we layered them with paper towels in a cardboard box. We store them in our basement, which maintains a temperature between 40° and 60°. Consulting different sources can give you vastly varying temperature ranges for the ideal potato storage. Some say between 30° and 40°, others between 50° and 60°. So we figure we are safe with between 40° and 60°, considering that the alternative is to have one giant party with the motherload of potato salad.
We are growing another round of potatoes in a different part of the grow bed in the summer. We are using diatomaceous earth proactively on the leaves and dirt surrounding them. Last year, in the outside garden, we dealt with colorado potato beetles. We are hoping to avoid the same scourge of pestilence this year with DE. Diatomaceous earth is made of crushed diatomes, which are ancient crustaceans. It is chemically inert, and so cannot hurt your plants, or you and your children. It’s power lies in it’s physical characteristic: spikes. The razor spikes of the uneven edges of the diatomes cut the outer layers of soft-bodied pests such as aphids and colorado potato beetle larvae.
Unfortunately, we do not have any ladybugs in our greenhouse. Ladybugs thrive on aphids, and can wipe out populations without any assistance from us. However, ladybugs are also hurt by DE in their larval stage. So we feel safe using DE in our greenhouse.
We also moved the potatoes to a new bed so we could follow the last crop up with beans. Potatoes are heavy feeders, meaning they really deplete the soil because of the nutrients they use. We mixed in compost about six inches deep and then planted beans. Green beans fix nitrogen into the soil, so following potatoes with beans can help restore lost nutrients. Our beans are already sprouting.
Having a greenhouse has changed the way our family looks at food. We have learned so much about plants, and the cycles they go through and need. I love teaching my children about food through hands-on learning. My kids eat vegetables right off the vine, that’s just how they are being raised.
If you are concerned about the quality of the food you are feeding your family, perhaps building your own greenhouse in your back yard is the solution. Don’t try this alone, as for some, there can be challenges. It is more fun to build a greenhouse and grow food together with others; even if you meet online to discuss your project We are here to increase your level of success. Simply join our webinars and ask your questions, see you there!