Growing Potatoes for Self Sufficiency
An important part of the self-sufficient diet is the potato. They are easy to grow and can be stored for months. The potato is a great, healthy staple in many diets, and they can be prepared in countless ways to add variety to your meal plan. Here is how to grow enough potatoes for a year for you and your family.
First determine how many potatoes you eat each in a year, then put in enough seed potatoes to grow this quantity. On average one adult eats about 32kg a year, and you would need to plant about 3.2kg of seed potatoes.
Of course, this is different for every person and every garden. Let’s take a detailed look at how to grow enough potatoes for your family.
How To Grow Enough Potatoes For A Year
When growing enough potatoes to be self-sufficient, you need to consider:
- How many potatoes do I need?
- How many plants do I need?
- How much land do I need?
Once you have figured these out, we will look at how to improve your garden conditions to naturally benefit your potato yield.
1. How Many Potatoes Do I Need?
To save enough potatoes for a whole year, you need to determine how many potatoes you eat. In our family, each adult eats about 450g of potatoes (3-4 spuds) each meal. We eat about 2 meals of potatoes each week, so a total of 900g (1.75lbs). So if we eat 900g (1.75 lbs) of potatoes a week for nine months, we need 32kg (70lbs) of potatoes a year per person.
Why only 9 months?Unfortunately, it is fairly unrealistic to eat your own potatoes all year long. Most potatoes will only store for 4 to 6 months in good conditions, though some varieties can store for up to 9 months. After that, you can sneak out a few creamer potatoes, but you will probably have to wait for the fall for the rest of the harvest.
2. How Many Plants Do I Need?
On average, you will harvest ten times as many potatoes as you plant. So for each 450g (1lb) of potatoes you plant, you will harvest 4.5kg (10lbs). As we figured before, if we each 32kg of potatoes a year, we need to plant 3.2kg (7lbs) of potatoes.
Another way to look at it is a single plant will produce 3 to 6 full-sized potatoes. So you would need 216 potatoes per person (6 potatoes a week for 9 months), so you need to grow about 36 plants per person.
Some seed companies offer tools to help you calculate how much you need to grow for each crop, such as this one here.
3. How Much Land Do I Need?
Potato plants are typically spaced 30cm (12inches) apart. This is close enough to maximize space, without having the plants crowd each other out. These rows are spaced generally 60cm (24inches) wide so there is enough space to walk along without stepping on the plants.
If you plan to grow 36 plants per person, this means you only need about 11m (36ft) of garden space to grow enough potatoes for one person. In any garden, it is well worth it to make space for this in your plot. Don’t forget that the beautiful flowers on a potato plant can easily be added to an edible landscape to create a delicious and aesthetic garden.
Every garden will grow potatoes differently. Soil type, climate, soil health, tilth, and many other factors affect how your your plants will perform. Here are a few aspects that directly effect the potato that you can easily improve to have abundant tubers.
Potato tubers are heavy feeders, meaning the plant consumes a lot of nutrients from the soil to produce a healthy potato. To improve your fertility, add lots of compost to your garden to feed the potatoes.
Potatoes are also heavy drinkers. A potato is about 80% water, so keeping your potatoes well watered will help them produce large, healthy tubers.
Tilth is defined as the physical condition of soil. Tilth describes what the soil is composed of (sand, clay, etc.), its texture (light, compacted, and so on), and its aeration and water retention. A soil that is ideal for growing potatoes will be loose, well drained, and have lots decomposing organic matter (your compost). In other words, a good soil for growing potatoes will have a good tilth.
My grandparents grew up on a farm during the Great Depression and its aftermath. One year, the drought was really bad and the fields became so dry compacted that the ground cracked. When harvest time came, the potatoes were shaped like thin, flat disks. The ground was so compacted that the only place the potatoes could grow was squished between the cracks.
Planting your potatoes too close together can lower the yields. A good plant spacing is about 30cm (12″) apart. Or if you are planting in a potato bag or box, plant about 3 to 4 potatoes in 30 square cm (12 square inches) If they are much closer than that, they will choke each other out.
Don’t be intimidated by the numbers. This might seem like a lot of potatoes, especially if you only have limited space, but potatoes can be grown very productively in a small area. Potatoes are a great staple, and well worth the time and effort to grow your own. If you grow enough potatoes to last for even a few months, you are well on your way to being a self-sufficient gardener.