I live in a small apartment with a small balcony.
Maybe it’s only fitting that I can now claim to have grown some of the smallest potatoes I’ve ever seen. So small, in fact, I almost didn’t find them at all.
I didn’t set out to plant potatoes.
Last spring was my first spring (in the southern hemisphere) living in a new apartment with a south-facing balcony. Not ideal for an aspiring urban food grower.
When you pick what to grow in your garden you might start thinking about the types of foods you’d most like to eat, or that are delicate to ship, or expensive to buy. In many ways, it ultimately comes down to what will thrive in your particular micro environment. I had experimented with lots – kale, arugula, spinach, chillies, strawberries, coriander, beets and more.
Potatoes weren’t on my list.
But when I noticed some of my potatoes in the cupboard growing sprouts, I thought to myself, well, why not? I cut them into chits and let them callous over. I planted them in a large pot outside and covered them with a thin layer of soil. I mounded rich soil around the green shoots as they grew. And grew and grew.
The potato plants grew until they became huge and unruly and took over one part of my small balcony. Hopes were high.
In spite of the leafy growth though, there came no signs of tubers.
I spoke to someone who told me it was the wrong season- too hot- and that the sprawling stalks were a signal that nothing was growing underground. It was the last straw.
I could be using that space for cooperative plants, like arugula, chili peppers or basil, instead of wild, leggy, potato plants with no signs of potatoes, I thought.
So I ripped them out, and started using the soil from the bucket for other crops in other pots. This was months ago.
Tonight, a surprise.
I needed extra soil for a sage plant I was repotting. With my spoon (who needs a spade with a garden this small), I dug into the last of the leftover soil from the former potato pot.
I unearthed one, then two small potatoes.
Gifts from my garden, undiscovered until now.
My balcony harvest can’t sustain a family, let alone one person. Nevertheless, it’s the small joys from moments like this that I never want to overlook.