Humble potatoes are one of the most valued food sources in war-time. (Pixabay photo)

Humble potatoes are one of the most valued food sources in war-time. (Pixabay photo)

COLUMN: Yes, in my backyard! Food security at home

Spuds are nutritional power packs and an easy grower in our coastal climate

Connie Kuramoto and Jeanne Keith-Ferris

Special to the Westerly

Raise a garden trowel against Covid-19 and build food security right at home. What crop has humanity turned to for food security?

Introducing the humble potato

Potatoes have sustained communities over millennia and are the fourth most cultivated crop in the world.

An easy grower in our coastal climate, spuds are nutritional power packs; productive in small containers, and a great teaching crop for new gardeners.

Kitchen cabinet surprise

Potatoes stored in your warm, dark, kitchen cabinet may have already spouted eyes. Eyes are the growing points and may have little stems sticking out representing the start of a new potato plant. Growers who buy and use special “seed potatoes” will put them in a warm, dark place to develop eyes.

Most garden books you read may direct you to purchase certified, disease free seed potatoes; and if you are growing a lot of potatoes, and growing them in the ground, that is probably the best practice. However, if you are growing just a few potatoes for your family, I cannot see the harm of using any old potato that has sprouted in your cabinet for your seed potatoes. I would reject any that are soft or black and mushy, but other potatoes, even ones that look slightly wilted will be fine, and no, they do not have to be sprouted before planting. You can start planting potatoes anytime now.

Containers and soil

Buckets work well for growing potatoes. Five-gallon sized wooden buckets, water buckets or plastic food grade buckets are ideal. If needed, drill drainage holes into the bottom. The stamped recycle number found on the bottom of a plastic bucket should have a number 2 in it if it is food safe. Even large plasticized grocery bags can be used. These types of containers will discourage evaporation and soil drying out. Fill your container to about one third full with a good potting soil mix and bagged compost in equal measure. Place 2 seed potatoes at opposite edges and cover them completely with about four more inches of soil. Now, if you have it, add some balanced organic fertilizer. For good drainage, don’t place the containers directly on the ground, but raised-up on boards. The rugged potato requires loose, well-drained soil, food, and plenty of water. It is best to water every morning, and to water until there is some drainage from the bottom of the bucket. Use about four litres of water. Mulch with leaves, seaweed, wood chips, shredded paper or cardboard to hold moisture, and shade the potato tubers from sunlight. Light exposed tubers can turn green and are inedible.

Soon you will see the potato’s green foliage emerge. When the foliage grows about one foot, then heap-in more soil to near the container’s rim. When you see flowers on the plants, potatoes have begun to form. Potatoes are ready to harvest when the tops die down. Tip the bucket over, and it’s time to eat!

Connie Kuramoto is an Organic Master Gardener and Jeanne Keith-Ferris is the president of the Ucluelet Local Food Society.

READ MORE: Gardening is balm for your soul

RELATED: Pierogi Please! Classic Polish dish is cosy, hearty and richly flavoured

food securitygardeningTofino,ucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Gord John stands during question period in Ottawa in Sept. 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTIAN DIOTTE, HOUSE OF COMMONS PHOTO SERVICES)
2020: A Year in Review with Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns

NDP MP wants to ‘build back better’ in 2021

Tofino expects to elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Nomination period begins for Tofino byelection

Tofino is set to replace former mayor Josie Osborne, who is now the Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Quebec’s BEI completes investigation into Chantel Moore’s fatal shooting by Edmundston police officer

New Brunswick’s public prosecutions services and chief coroner to conduct public hearing

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is reminding visitors that all dogs must be leashed at all times. (Westerly file photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve urges dog owners to show respect by leashing their pets

“As Coastal Stewards, we appreciate seeing you with your pets on leashes.”

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Inmates at Metchosin’s William Head Institution are being given COVID-19 vaccines as part of the first phase. Around 600 inmates will be vaccinated in the coming days. (Black Press Media file photo)
William Head prison inmates in receive first doses of COVID vaccine

Priority set for older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A water taxi at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested after stolen water taxi raced up Victoria’s Gorge Waterway

Man is facing recommended charges of theft over $5,000 after leading police on marine chase

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)
‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

Most Read