So I’m minding my own business, tending to my garden, loading down my compost, when I notice some sprouts pop up in my lawn waste compost pile — I have one from the kitchen and one from the lawn. Because the lawn waste tends to include branches and heavier objects, all of which take longer than my kitchen waste to decompose! But I’m used to seeing sprouts around the compost pile. As I think I’ve mentioned before, tomatoes grow great when left to their own device, as do cucumber, watermelon, zucchini, etc.
Well, you get the picture. So when these particular sprouts started filling out, I thought, whoa. Those aren’t tomatoes, those are potatoes!
Potatoes in the compost pile? Running quickly through my memory banks (this doesn’t take long at my age — with two small children, nothing seems to stick!) I remembered that yes, I did throw some excess potatoes into the pile. Some of my Yukons had gone heavy into sprout before I had a chance to get them in the ground. Normally I would plant every single one, but this seller out of Maine sent a huge box with over 75 potatoes and after sharing with my friend Mandie and filling two rows in my own garden, I thought: How many potatoes can one family eat?
Besides, the potatoes leftover were starting to look a little peaked, if you know what I mean. So I tossed them and voila! I have potatoes growing in my compost pile. Not only potatoes, but that’s not a long blade of grass you see growing next to them, no-no — that’s corn. Yep, the real deal. Corn in the compost. Who would have thunk it. Not with this plant. And how exactly, did it self-seed?
Must have been a cobb thrown out after the fall bounty. Anyhow, I decided this would make a great experiment. I’ll leave them in and see how well Mother Nature grows potatoes compared to myself, though interestingly enough, I did learn something from the venerable old woman. What does a potato flower look like?
Like this. I found it blossoming on my compost potato. Isn’t it beautiful? And Yukon Golds aren’t the only potatoes that sprout with abandon. While wandering down the rows of my garden, weeding as my energy allowed, I found this little gal growing alongside my garlic.
As you may have guessed, this was indeed the sight of my fall planting of sweet potatoes.
And speaking of sweet potatoes, the first of my slips have gone into the ground. Delicate things, they need to be watered regularly and kept moist — especially in the heat of Florida. But once they become established, they’re fairly easy to grow. These were grown from the traditional method of sprouting the potato, then setting it in water to create roots.
I’ve also allowed the shoots to grow very large on the potato, until the roots have developed — not only under the cut potato, but all the way up to and attached themselves to the growing shoots — and then gently removed the entire shoot sprout and root from the potato and planted it directly into the ground. Both methods work. Just remember to keep them moist or they will fry.