Monday, May 14, 2012

Compost Potatoes

A few months ago (back in February) Michael and I were planting a handful of early crops. We were even bold enough to put out some seed potatoes, since spring in Fresno (California) comes pretty early. At the time, blossoms were already out on the almond trees throughout the valley.

Since we have a fairly small garden spot, we had left-over potato pieces after planting. Michael, as an afterthought, just tossed the extra pieces in the compost pile. Neither one of us thought much about it until a few days later when I noticed young potato leaves coming up – not from the planted potatoes, but from the discarded ones in the compost.

It seems that the small seed potatoes had fallen heavy enough to move into the compost heap by a few inches. It was deep enough that the warmth of the old decomposing leaves and lawn clippings encouraged them to grow – even at a time (in the middle of a mild winter) when we were still experiencing occasional frosts.  

I watched the potatoes grow. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the few freezing nights that we had, nor were they bothered by the lack of direct sunlight (my compost pile is in an area that is shaded all of the time in the winter). They grew rapidly and were obviously very happy where they were.

Last week, I needed some of the compost and had to pull up one of the plants. To my pleasant surprise, I found three nice potatoes – about the size of lemons. This is definitely the earliest I have ever harvested potatoes before – its only mid May, mind you!

Next year I plan on repeating the experiment – maybe even plant the things in January. I’m beginning to wonder if potatoes might yield two crops a year if managed half the time in compost. Michael is quite pleased by all this. He’s claiming that it was his discovery. I guess maybe it was.

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