It’s been quite a while since I updated about the potato condo I built. Other projects became more urgent, and I had a bit of brainstorming to do on how to make it best fit my needs. After having it on the back burner for an inexcusable amount of time, I think I’ve finally got it.
The first thing I did was paint it with a homemade “stain.” I shy away from a lot of chemicals, especially while pregnant, and I felt like being a little lazy in the research department, so I decided to use what I had on-hand that I already knew would be safe. That was oil paint and Mod Podge. You do not ever want to use a water-based paint on planting containers, because it will come off as soon as you water the plant. Also note that I only painted the outside of the container.
In addition to the color and gloss (you can also use the matte style, if that’s more your aesthetic), you will need a foam brush, an implement for scooping and mixing, and something to mix in. I used a plastic spoon and bowl that we had left over from a get-together.
I didn’t want to completely cover the natural grain of the wood, but just give it a little bit of a tint. If you’re going for the same look, you’ll want the paint to be very diluted. The concoction you’re applying should be almost completely white, with just a little bit of color to it. The white will dry clear. You can always apply several coats if it’s not quite enough of a hue on the first pass.
It’s also a good idea to do a test run of your stain on some scrap wood, as the color of the paint can change when it’s this diluted. I did not do this, and I paid the price. My goal was to get the potato condo to a deep, warm color. For my first pass, I chose a deep crimson, figuring that combining it with the natural color of the wood would do what I wanted it to. I was mistaken. Mixed with the Mod Podge, it came out looking like a hot pink. That wasn’t at all what I was going for.
Of course, I am far too stubborn to live with a mistake like that, so I took another pass at it using a chocolate brown, hoping that would even out the color. It took a few passes, but it worked! I ended up very happy with the way that it looked.
The next step was making the design friendly for indoor use. The many potato condos I was able to find on Pinterest and elsewhere online were for space-saving in a small garden. This meant they didn’t have to worry about water draining out onto a floor. However, I intended to keep mine in the basement, where we’d had mold issues in the past, and we’re now planning on refinishing. Still, I needed to make sure that the potatoes I planted had proper drainage.
One suggested course of action was to put a large garbage bag inside the container as a lining. However, this would only solve the problem until I had to cut into the bottom of it to harvest the first few potatoes. After that, it would spill and be a moot point. My next solution was to put a waterproof tray underneath. My husband recommended just going out and buying a large plastic tub, but I a) didn’t think we’d be able to find a good size and b) preferred a DIY solution using scrap materials. I built a square frame out of leftovers from the pallets I had used, and fastened the garbage bag to that instead.
Note: if you attach the garbage bag to the frame using staples, make sure to staple on the outside of the frame to prevent leakage.
At this point, you’re ready to start planting. However, I have to wait a little. As I said, we’re planning on refinishing the basement, and we’re starting with the floor. In order to prepare for that process, we have to move everything out of the basement. The potato condo is pretty darn heavy on its own, let alone filled with dirt, which could spill out and hurt any plants inside. At the time I write this, there are still nearly two feet of snow on our yard, so there isn’t even anywhere convenient to put the container while working on the floor. Hopefully it will all be melted soon, and we can push forward with everything we want to get done this spring!