Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Potatoes on steroids

Or so it seems. I’m having to add a new layer to the potato box every 4 days. And this even before they had their first dose of nettle liquid plant food that has been fermenting in a barrel for them and the tomatoes …

Potato bin

April 10th – 2 layers and ready for the next

Potato barrel

April 14th – 3 layers and more than ready for the next

Potato box

April 18th – 4 layers and ready for the next

I only have 6 layers prepared. At this rate I’ll need more. And a ladder …

The nettle liquid plant food is very simple to make. I stuffed as many young nettles into a plastic barrel as would fit to within 15cm of the top, then filled it with water until the nettles were just covered. I put a lid on the barrel because once fermentation begins, the brew is a fly magnet. I left it 2 weeks, and now use the liquid in a 10:1 dilution (roughly) with water every 2 weeks or so. Straining out the remaining nettle mass for the compost heap is being left until the forecast rain starts because of the flies. That’s one to do with gloves on too. The smell is tenacious and will cling to skin even after several washings. (The instructions came from 101 Uses for Stinging Nettles by Piers Warren.)

Once the comfrey is going well, I will be trying a nettle and comfrey brew, and adding urine and wood ash. The potatoes don’t look like they’ll need it, but the tomatoes will likely appreciate it.

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  1. Trumbuctu May 12, 2011

    Wow!! They look wonderful “:O) Must try this August again and see if i’m luckier then the first time. I´ll try using the nettle liquid. Every year we make some of it.

    Wonderful potatoes in a lovely box ?


  2. Quinta do Vale May 13, 2011

    Layer 6 was added on April 25th …

    Potatoes growing in box

    Potatoes growing in box

    … and this is what they look like as of today. I stopped adding layers at layer 6 and am now letting the haulms grow and flower. Growth hasn’t slowed. So far everything looks healthy with no sign of any disease.

    Potatoes growing in box

  3. Ana June 16, 2011

    This is such a great idea for people with little space.
    I can’t wait to know the results.
    I’m so happy I’ve found this blog

  4. Quinta do Vale June 17, 2011

    Mixed results, Ana. We had such wet weather through May that the question of potato blight became not so much if, as when. Update here.

  5. Paula March 19, 2012

    Hi Wendy,

    This year i´m trying the potato bean again and I have a question: as you were adding more layers and filling each one with more land how did you manage not to break them?

    All the best

  6. Quinta do Vale March 19, 2012

    Hi Paula! I put the soil into the box in handfuls between the potato plants and then just spread it around, and gently held each plant together as I worked the soil in around its base. There were a few broken leaves now and again. And a LOT of extra soil was needed.

    I would like to try the box again, even if it was quite a lot of work (probably no less that digging a patch of ground for potatoes) but am not sure whether I will this year or not. If we’re going to have a very bad drought, I want to make sure I can keep my newly-planted perennials alive.

    Good luck!

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