The inflation buster!! No Dig, Home Grown Vegetables, starting with the Potato
The topic of conversation/worry in so many circles.....The price of groceries, the price of everything. I want to share something that everyone needs to discover. Here it is. Put on your investor hat. You can return your initial investment 10X in 60 days growing the humble potato in your vegetable garden, containers, even a straw bale. That's correct, 10X and that is being extremely conservative. Here's a walk through.
First, source some seed potatoes. My local Intermountain Farmers store carries all kinds of potato varieties. My choice/favorites are 'Norland Red' a great tasting red, and of course, my favorite 'Yukon Gold', an 85-90 day potato that tends to yield more in my space. Norland is what is referred to as an 'early maturing' variety (60 days to maturity), Yukon is a mid maturity. There are many varieties across three categories (early, mid, late, maturity), it's a matter of personal taste. Want purple potatoes? try, 'Purple Majesty', and early purple. Choices everywhere. A side note and shameless plug for Intermountain Farmers (IFA), they didn't raise their price on seed potatoes like everyone else in this opportunistic world. Still, $0.99 cents per pound for certified seed potatoes.
This photo is 1 pound of potatoes, these happen to be Yukon Gold, they also are seed saved from last year, they're not the seed potatoes I bought, but I wanted to just throw in, seed saving is yet another way to lower costs in your garden. Seed saving potatoes can usually be for about three years before you need to refresh and bring in some new seed potato stock.
Next, cut them in half. Be sure to leave some of the potato eyes, these are the growth points, on each half. It's not hard, they are typically covered with 'eyes'. Each half is going to be one plant so our four potatoes will yield eight plants. The last step prior to planting is, put the halves in an open paper bag and let them sit a couple of days. The exposed flesh from the cut will get a protective film? skin? over it, this will keep down rot after you plant.
Planting is an easy task, especially with no dig gardening. Dig a small hole, three, four inches deep, 12- 18 inches apart, place the flat side down and cover. You can do this up to four weeks prior to the last average frost date in your area, water them in. In no dig, compost gardening, that's it. No fertilizers, chemicals, just add water when needed. As for mounding, lots of questions about mounding potatoes, it's not a big deal. If some of your potatoes are exposed, take a bucket of compost, walk down the row, check the container and cover. A couple of inches will do the trick, it's really, really, easy.
Now we're planted. Let's figure what we've done.
Cost. For sake of illustration lets say we used 1 pound of seed potatoes, rather than saved seed.
1 pound- $.99 cents.
Water- We live in the desert so water is crucial. Again for illustration, in the hottest parts of the summer, using drip irrigation, 1 gallon of water per day, per plant. That's eight gallons per day for 60 days. 480 gallons of water. Water rates in this area are $2.53 per 1000 gallons of water. Dividing that out I get $1.27 cents for water.
Total cost to grow is $2.26 cents for the eight potato plants.
Yield. On average, according to Colorado State University Extension, potato yields are 2 pounds, per plant. (I find my yields a bit higher, but let's be conservative). So for eight plants our yield 16 pounds of potatoes, or right at $.14 cents per pound for 'deep' organic, chemical free, healthy, potatoes.
Just before writing this out, I went over to the local chain grocer and priced out conventionally grown Yukon Gold potatoes. $1.49 per pound. For 16 pounds of those potatoes, that's $23.84. I saved $22. 57 on my grocery bill. A 10X return on investment, as promised, earlier in my rant. To be fair, buying in bulk, the ten pound bag is $5.99 but still the savings is there, about 4X. The agronomically interesting part of this and why I grow early and mid maturity potatoes. In our area we have 187 frost free days and in no dig gardening, you can take 1 pound of that potato yield, cut them in half, plant them again in the same spot, and double your yield to 32 pounds from the same spot. No added compost, the soil biology is active and present, just add water. Consider this scenario ten times, fifty, a hundred.
This outcome applies to every vegetable and fruit that I've ever grown in every package (garden, container, bag, etc.), I ever used. Broccoli, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, berries (especially berries), etc. Think about 'grow your own food'. It's a lot easier than you think! you'll eat better, and save a lot of money.