Green potato polyculture in winter shade

In the True seed producers thread, I hoped to discover if Adirondack Red could make seed. In the end and with @julia.dakin 's encouragement, I decided to just grow out the tubers I’ve got.

Here’s where things get more interesting. Our cats recently destroyed (by knocking over) an indoor plant that my wife has had for seven years. I had planted some corn (teosinte-crossed and non), beans (Cherokee black and borlotto), and Cherokee candy roaster in there. This was an experiment and to get a head start on next season’s shaded polyculture corn growing.

As an aside, I was really impressed by the burgeoning root system on the teosinte-crossed corn. I was able to clearly see it before depositing the remains of our plant in the compost.

This incident led understandably to an indoor planting moratorium :sweat_smile:. I had planned on doing a lot more, and found myself suddenly needing to apply self-regulation and to accept feedback.

I wanted to plant the potatoes and have a go at getting seed, as they were grown locally and we really like the variety. We have never grown potatoes. Potatoes are, to the best of my novice’s understanding, frost-tender but shade-tolerant. I will admit to putting one out in the garden in a rodent-dug hole - - because why not? I’ve got more than I can reasonably plant, it might survive, and if the rodents don’t like potato, maybe it’ll help encroach on their garden living situation enough to encourage them to leave.

(As another aside, that potato vanished without a trace. The market turnip that accompanied it was mostly and visibly devoured.)

So I have these potatoes which are actually growing really well just inside a paper bag, but I assume that even if they can make seed, they’re unlikely to do so while operating on battery-only.

I guess. I should maybe leave a few to find out.

I filled a pot with compost and put two tubers in it. I know you’re not “supposed to” use pure compost as a growing medium, but we’ve been experimenting :smiling_imp:. I hate to buy trucked in soil from parts unknown, I don’t have much native soil just lying around, and on our place digging requires a lot of justification. Besides, it’s possible I’ll end up trying to breed a potato landrace that thrives in unfinished compost.

To these potatoes I added a number of budding ginger rhizomes from the grocery and seven winter rye seeds.

Then I put the planter in our unfinished unheated mudroom, where felines are not allowed:

The ginger of course stands an even slimmer chance than the potato of surviving and making seed.

Since this time, all the rye has germinated and continued growing. The ginger buds, if alive, haven’t managed to grow enough to break the surface. Perhaps a week ago I put some hopniss in there to keep the taters company and assist the rye in teaching them to be big strong taters that can handle a freeze. I’ve also added a number of seeds of things that are cold and shade tolerant or that I wish were cold and shade tolerant, and that I think would do well with the potatoes in that particular compost. Including a stem that broke off one of the other taters. Will it grow another potato? A cursory internet search suggests no.

I’ve also added a little more rye and four or so seeds from the tater grex.

Here they are again, about two and a half weeks after the initial planting:

You can see the potato stems have grown wider and longer and are starting to green up and leaf out. The rye shows signs of stress but is hanging on.

The compost that went in the planter was damp if not soaked. I haven’t watered it but I added a fresh layer of damp compost over the hopniss, radish, pepper, bitter melon, etc. This meant effectively a small hilling for the taters and rye. That was probably less than a week ago.

I’ve not grown potatoes before but they seem like the happiest thing in there. I found signs of aborted growth along the stems early on but not much new since then. I don’t have an easy way to check temp in that room but it is not much warmer than outside and we’ve had a lot of freezes. Recently it’s pretty balmy for January though. A couple times after cold nights I’ve gone out in the morning and seen some kind of liquid that has oozed from the stems. I don’t know if this is normal for potatoes or a sign of stress.

Anyway, if any experienced tater growers can help me discern signs of tater contentment and sadness, I’d appreciate it. I’m trying to toe the line between being completely hands-off with these plants and coddling them a bit in hopes of getting seed for the coming growing season. I also remember reading or hearing cautionary advice from @Lauren about trying to push a plant population along too many dimensions in a single season. So mistake or not, as long as I don’t find myself obsessing over this project, I’m probably willing to look out for these plants a little more than usual.


Potato plants struggle to produce berries even in the best of conditions, are often pretty light sensitive about it, so if you get berries to mature in indoor in January that would be a little miracle :slight_smile: but hopefully they will produce more tubers, that you can plant those in June, and maybe have better luck.

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Yes, the broken off stems will grow, but in my experience the resulting potatoes will be small.

Gotcha. Won’t hold my breath :slightly_smiling_face:


I’m a little fuzzy on what your goal is with this.
I’m new to growing potatoes and from TPS but I’m a research-aholic. So the following is all “as far as I know”.

Potatoes turn to mush when they freeze-thaw. Potatoes like to be stored with fairly high humidity and 38-40F temp.

If they aren’t getting enough light the plant is going to be really leggy and unhappy. We’re only getting 9.5 hours daytime. If the plant isn’t in a greenhouse then it’s going to struggle.

If you do grow some small or micro tubers they will have dormancy. So you will need to store them until they break dormancy and maybe plant them in summer and plant them outside.

If you have potatoes that are starting to sprout you’d be better off putting them in a bowl in a windowsill or fairly lighted place. This keeps the sprouts small and minimal. The Kenosha potato project Facebook group has alot of good posts on this. This keeps them good enough until you can plant them out at the proper time.

Also be aware that store potatoes are not screened for disease and you may be introducing stuff to your place that you wouldn’t have had to deal with. This is part of the cost of buying seed potatoes.

If you want TPS you’d be much better off to just get some. Cultivariable is great, I’ve got several things from there. In the Kenosha group there is a seed swap every December. There is TPS available from Goingtoseed that’s been put together.

I also see you’re in Indiana. I’m in eastern Ohio. I’m going to be growing alot of TPS this year and I’m not interested in red or blue flesh potatoes. If that’s something you’d be interested in. Any that I grow will not be continuing here. I’d be happy to seed swap etc with people for tubers from seed grown plants. I know there will be plenty that won’t be what I’m looking for.
And because of the seed sources these should all be seed capable plants/genetics.

You’ve made me realize I should have been clearer in my post title! Yes, the impetus for this little experiment was seeing if these tubers could produce seed. I also have equally or more important goals. If I was only or primarily interested in getting true potato seed, as you say it would make more sense to order it.

@H.B @julia.dakin Ryder is fairly close to me. Actually, where he is seems to get fewer of the intense dry spells that we do. I don’t know the actual set up but planting any potatoes in June is probably a bad idea.

I’m about 60 miles away, east not south and measured by the crow. I still grow some potatoes but not from seeds. I buy “seed potatoes” to plant in spring and have them in the ground before the last frost. This works fairly well for a harvest of nice tubers, but I don’t get seeds, potatoes rarely even bloom here anymore.

Along time ago you could plant in early April, I don’t know why but the target date was always Good Friday, don’t ask me why, but that was more than a month before last frost date, and I actually still sort of hold to that. Anyway, the grew fine and always bloomed a lot, I don’t know if they made seeds or not, never paid attention back then. As the blooms faded and vines started declining it was time to dig the potatoes. Peas and onions were planted then too. We always dug a few potatoes when the first peas were ready. Mom and Granny called them new potatoes and cooked them with the peas and some little onions in a buttery sauce, they were quite good. But that was wasteful, so we only did it once or twice and the rest of the potatoes were left to grow bigger.

The early potato crop was fairly small, and all eaten up pretty quickly. Then it was time to plant late potatoes. This was a much bigger planting, and they were dug around the first frost or a bit before or after and hauled down to the cellar to eat over winter. Next spring, some of the late potatoes were cut into sections with two or three “eyes” and planted, on Good Friday. :smile:

All the rest of the prior season late potatoes were planted in July or even later back then, and it worked just fine. I don’t know why the early potatoes of the same season were not used as seed for the late ones, that’s just how it was, you used the prior season’s potatoes to plant.

Now days it doesn’t work at all. Late planted potatoes are not going to produce a worthwhile crop. Its way more trouble than it’s worth, to me at least, to plant potatoes in summer. It might be doable, with lots of mulch, some shade and plenty of water on hand.

AH, I just had a though. What if I planted them in very late summer or early fall?? As long as a hard freeze held off and it often does now days, it might work.


My advice was all around pretty bad not matter where in the world Ryder is…-- I think I wrote it at like 3 am. Oh well… know when you’re beat I guess.

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@julia.dakin Well, you better get some rest, cause I want to grow potatoes again someday. I can probably fix a spot with midday shade and have some rain barrels on hand but that’s the easy part, I’m counting on you for the heavy lifting.

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I let Alpha team (as I have christened them) have a couple hour sit outside today in freezing weather.

Everyone accounted for. New grassy growth is from rye and the others I think from radish. But I don’t have much experience with or know much about these or the other things in here, so to my thinking it could also be potato, bitter melon, or spicy pepper. I have grown peppers once before and other nightshades from seed, and the cotyledons were narrow and pointy. Radish would certainly make the most sense given the temps in that room


Adirondack Red is male fertile and capable of forming berries, but it isn’t an easy one. Not much pollen.


Awesome, thank you!


Many things died, failed to germinate, or failed to grow well.

The potatoes made more tubers but no berries.

Lately my winners have been a little bit warmer than normal but I had potatoes that I grew in bags last year I dumped the soil out on the in the garden and I seen potatoes on top and the ones on top died when it froze but I’ve got all kinds of them coming up now in areas where I dump the potato dirt