Sweetening the pot(ato)

Ran into my farmer friend Becky while picking up CSA veggies at the market and discovered we share a common sickness. Neither of us can leave two square feet of land unplanted, even when it makes no sense. She has one 50-yard row after another lined with tomatoes, for just two people. Becky shook her head saying, “I know it’s wrong…” Without missing a beat, we finished the sentence in unison, “But why wouldn’t you plant delicious tomatoes?”

This is why Brad doesn’t let me go to the market alone. I have found my people. And we enable one another.

The latest plot development in our continuing attempt to farm every inch of the yard comes in the form of containerized sweet potatoes. Using five-gallon, food-grade work buckets from Lowe’s — with several one-inch drainage holes drilled in the bottom of each — we now have a thriving tater patch that is somewhat Seamus-proof.  No sticker shock required, as these suckers cost a mere $3 apiece, and they’ll stack neatly under the house after summer’s end.

Will they produce as many potatoes as an in-ground vine? Probably not. But even if we only harvest five per bucket, that’s sixty organic, locally-grown spuds to enjoy all winter long. And we’ll be able to start our own slips next spring, so it’s quite a savings in the long run.

More to come on a homemade trellis system for those vines…

Blog reader John had an incredibly valid question about the safety of plastic buckets. I despise plastic and am not excited about the thought of chemicals leaching into our food. But after a good bit of research, I felt comfortable using #2 plastic containers. Not all buckets are made from #2 plastic, and I had to check several home improvement stores until I found these. 

It’s not a perfect solution, but there are so many things to weigh when deciding what food to put in your body. Is it better to eat from local farms that use pesticide or to buy organic food from Peru or New Zealand — food that has thousands of carbon miles attached to it? Is it better to plant directly in soil that’s lived through 100 years of industrial use or to plant in plastic that may or may not be healthy? Each of us has to make those decisions for ourselves, and I only hope that a day comes in our lifetime when we don’t have to choose the lesser of two poisons.

There are lots of articles on the subject, but here’s one I found helpful.

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