POTATO CONDO - second best idea I heard of in 2008, right up there with the Diva Cup. After doing some research, and last summer happening to find some wire mesh on the side of the road in the Berkeley Hills with my friend Jon, I finally put together my potato condo today.
The basic concept is to create a vertical garden instead of using square footage on the ground. The advantage is that the dirt can be re-used somewhere else, heading off the development of potato-specific diseases, you can harvest potatoes very easily, and once the vines are done, you just knock that condo over, shake and disconnect the seam and (with some very strong friends) sift the dirt away from the potatoes.
Now, most directions for a potato condo involve wood and attaching slats to the sides, adding dirt as the vines grow and removing slats from the bottom to free the potatoes. Some instructions are for stacking old tires. That just seems like a lot of extra work to me.
Somewhere, in my research, I saw these great instructions for using wire mesh for the potato condo by creating a tube by bending the edges over each other, then cutting hand-size holes around the tube to stick in the potatoes.
Good, in theory. In practice, my experience has been to realize I need a much better pair of wire snippers. My hands got sore. Also, wearing long sleeves might be advisable since I ended up with so many scratches on my arms that I look like I came out of the losing end of bathing a herd of cats. Also, I need to use smaller mesh - this mesh is stiff and holds up well but actual chicken wire would probably be easier to cut and hold the dirt in.
The biggest problem has been keeping the dirt IN the potato condo. It just wants to go out. It's not wet enough and I'm afraid it's going to dry out too fast. Next time - I'll water down the dirt in the bag or in the pots so that it is nice and sopping wet before I heave it into the potato condo.
Also, in retrospect, I should have made it bigger around and shorter - I think my potato condo is Jenn-size. Don't just do it - do it BIG!