The Q&A Archives: Raising Potatoes In Alkaline Soil

Question: No matter what I do, i.e., using compost, my soil remains high alkaline (and is also clay-based). I get foliage but few potatoes. Are there potatoes that do well in high alkaline soils?

Answer: One solution to the problem might be growing potatoes above ground. It saves space, makes harvesting easier, and
often produces more potatoes per plant than regular garden planting.
You can purchase "potato barrels", or simply create your own. Use a piece of chicken wire or hardware cloth to create cylinders about 3 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter. Loosen the soil underneath for good drainage, and set the cylinder in place. Place a layer of hay in the bottom of the cylinder, and add a few inches of soil. Then plant your
seed potatoes, about 4 per cylinder. Cover with another few inches of soil. Once the potato stalks have grown 4-6", add a layer of hay, then more soil, to cover the stalks, leaving the top leaves showing. Continue in this fashion until you reach the top of the cylinder.

You can begin harvesting when the first flowers appear, for those small, thin-skinned "new potatoes". Or wait until just before the first frost for full-sized potatoes. To harvest, simply remove the chicken wire and the potatoes will be easy to find!

While you're growing your potatoes above-ground, you can continue to improve your garden plot by adding more compost and working it in well. It takes several years of extra care to change clay soil into good garden loam!

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