Experimenting with Potatoes

Bess Miles-Duncan
Friday, 6th March 2015

Bess Miles-Duncan makes the most of her surroundings, experimenting with growing potatoes in sand, rotting compost and the garden.

It was earlier in the year with a sense of despair I wondered if I would be growing any vegetables at all this year. We were in a temporary home in Yorkshire and there was not much garden at all, just a few rose bushes and our own pots mainly filled with herbs.

Yet something shifted and my husband decided to make us some planters with some wood he had so we decided to grow rainbow chard that not only tastes wonderful and looks good at the same time. I had left over seeds from our time in France and as nothing would be lost I decided to sow them in various pots I had left over.

Suddenly the empty yard took on a friendlier look and the feeling that now the summer would not be wasted altogether. 

Sometime later on opening a tin I found some potatoes that had chitted. I had completely forgotten about them. As somebody who hates waste I felt they needed to be grown, but where? My husband remembered about somebody who had grown potatoes in bags and as there was some sand in the garage we used two old coal bags and planted the chitting potatoes in there.

I also was making compost with leftovers and so into each bag of rotting compost more potatoes were added. Now on top of everything else in the yard we had even more interest.

We had grown some potatoes in the compost heap in France, not on purpose but it had worked. We'd had a good plot of land there so had all sorts of things growing in conventional ways too. I had read the article on growing "Food for Free" and now we were doing the same thing. 

As you can see from the photo (above) they started to grow and flower. These are the ones grown in sand. As well as our sand experiment my husband also planted one potato in a mole hill and one in leaf mould. Was anything going to come from them?

The summer went on and we had a few onions from the ones bought two years ago in France, mange tout, spinach, rainbow chard, tomatoes and courgettes. I even managed a rhubarb crumble from the rhubarb plant we had alongside the tomatoes. I had a few flowers to break up the greyness, a bench and another one made from old railway sleepers someone gave us.

But what about the potatoes? The ones grown in sand were the most productive, giving us the best crop but the taste was just not there, they did not have a lot when boiled.


The potatoes grown in our other bags produced but not so much and the same with the mole hill. We got two potatoes from the hard ground below the beautifully mined soil and the one in leaf mould had the hardest job because of the vicinity and the length of time given.

All the potatoes were planted later in the season than normal and if it had been thought out beforehand they would have been given longer and placed in better areas. But we were new to growing in the yard and so next time the sacks will be placed in more sunshine etc.

But we have proved that you do not have to give up hope of having your own veg when needed and enjoy a summer of growth.

The leaf mould potato though small tasted divine and so we will definitely be experimenting again next year.

As an addition I did cook the potatoes grown in sand last night, instead of boiling them as I had done before I roasted them in the oven with rosemary and garlic and ate them with an open mind so they were more enjoyable this time.


This March (2015) I found the new potatoes you see pictured in my backyard.


They were delicious and grown in leftover soil that was breaking down over the winter. I had been in the backyard just tidying up and amazed to find such a great crop. I can't help wondering if these are the first new potatoes of the year? 

Further resources

Mulching potatoes with straw

Suburban micro growing

Permaculture in Pots: How to Grow Food in Small Urban Spaces for just £9.70 from our Green Shopping site


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