This year was our first year growing potatoes, and we tried them in barrels. We had one barrel of Red Pontiac and one of Yukon Gold.
The idea is that you take a big barrel, drum, bag, or other vessel and make sure it can drain out the bottom, then put in about 6 to 8 inches of soil and plant your seed potatoes. As they grow, soil is added to keep pace with their growth, until you reach the top of the barrel. They are supposed to send out roots all along their path to the top of the barrel, sprouting potatoes all along the way. The end goal: a barrel full of potatoes.
This year is our first year in our house, and the first year we’ve used this garden space. The raised beds in our garden were a big selling point of the house. Last winter we bought our seed for the year, the garden tools we were lacking, and some soil test kits. Busy with life, we got much of the garden planted late (not terribly late, just later than we wanted) and skipped the soil tests. Bad idea.
About half way through the growing season, the lackluster performance of some of our veggies prompted us to pull out the test kits and check our soil out. The most important discovery is that throughout our garden the soil PH is far higher than it should be, over 8 in some places. Most plants perform best in a range of 6 to 7, with some acid loving plants performing well as low as 5. An elevated soil PH can keep plants from absorbing available nutrients, which inhibits growth, invites pest problems, decreases yield, and makes the food produced less rich in micronutrients.
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
For the home seed saver, this might be the most useful book you can have. Since we’re growing all open pollinated and heirloom varieties, this book has been particularly helpful to us.
Seed to Seed provides essential information on how to germinate, grow, and save seed from almost any plant you could want to grow in your garden. This book is a necessity for the home gardener that’s just getting started with saving seed from heirloom and open pollinated varieties.
The Backyard Homestead
This is an excellent book. We’ve read a number of similar books, and this is our favorite.
The Backyard Homestead has great overviews on gardening, raising animals, landscaping with plants, maintaining fruit trees, keeping bees, homebrewing, cheese making, and more. While each of these topics is broad enough that you should have other guides or references if you want to undertake them, this book helps show how each of these areas fit into a backyard setup.