I was listening to The Martian over the weekend. This made me want to grow potatoes. I assure you that this link is completely logical. Read the book - it's really good.
So... potatoes. Why? Eventually, my wife and I would like to grow a majority of the food for our family! Potatoes are a good source of nutrients and they offer a lot of bang for your garden-y buck because they are pretty high-calorie/low space and with good storage potential. Also, I've never grown them before and it seems like fun!
Having no experience with potatoes, the next questions are "What kinds of potatoes" and "How to grow them." Sticking with our desire to support smaller suppliers rather than bigger agribusinesses, we till have plenty of choices for heirloom potato varieties! It looks like the differences in varieties can be whether they are early, mid, or late season, their size, their disease/weather resistance, and, of course, their taste and color!
Picking a Variety:
I want all of them! I'm planning to limit myself to 1-2 early variety, 1-2 mid-season variety, and 1-2 late season variety. Hopefully I can get varieties in red, white, and blue and at least one fingerling type as well. So, maybe I don't need all of them. I can settle for most!
Dreaming about when winter is over and I can plant them:
The ways of planting potatoes that I was thinking about included the basic "stick it in the ground" method, a container method, or a "mulching" method.
In the normal "stick it in the ground" method, you dig some trenches and then put your potatoes in and cover them up. As the potatoes get about 10 inches of growth above soil, you then dig some of the dirt between the rows to cover the stems halfway up, making lines of hills and trenches. This way is easy to plant, and pretty straightforward.
Another popular way of planting potatoes is the "mulching" method. In this method, you don't plant the potatoes deep in the ground, you just put them in shallow trenches and cover them with several inches of mulch (usually straw). As the potatoes grow, you continue to add mulch. This method is also pretty easy for the planting, and it apparently also makes it easy to harvest the 'taters because you don't have to dig as hard to get the roots out.
If you're curious about the differences between these two methods, I ran into an article comparing the traditional method and the mulching method on permaculture.com.uk. In summary, sometimes the mulching method produced fewer potatoes, but because it was so easy a lot of people still like to use it anyways.
From looking around the internet, it seems like the container method of growing potatoes often produces less positive results (lower yields, and more problems in general). It seems like a lot of these problems are caused by the containers drying out much more easily than ground plantings do. HOWEVER, in the container method at the end of the season, you get to kick the container over and have POTATOES ROLLING EVERYWHERE for the harvesting! (That's how I imagine it at least...), so I'd like to try it just for fun. (Here's an example of what I want it to look like! )
Potato-mania, here I come!! Updates to follow......
(A lot of my planting information was from Rodale's Organic Life, "7 Ways to Grow Potatoes")