Baked, roasted, mashed, fried – I don’t discriminate, I love potatoes! So why did it take me so long to add them to my garden? I haven’t a clue, but I’m SO glad I started a couple of years ago!
I decided to grow in potato bags since I didn’t have the room for hills or mounds in my garden. The bags have worked really well for my garden space. Here’s why:
- I can put them wherever I want and move as needed.
- I can just dump the bag into a wheelbarrow at the end of the season and have the kids pluck out the potatoes.
- The bags are easy to wash and store at the end of the season.
If you’d like to give potato bags a try, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way.
Choose a Bag or Container
You can grow potatoes in a burlap bag or a even a cardboard box. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a few different containers and see which works best! This would be a really fun experiment to try with kids.
I went with this Gardman set of 2 bags with handles and little flaps so you can reach your hand into the soil to check for potatoes. I’ve been happy with the product, though I don’t know if the flaps are really that necessary. I tried to access the potatoes once and had trouble pulling anything out because the soil was compacted by that time in the season. Also, the soil came tumbling out of the bag as I dug around. I do like the handles on the bags so I can move them around the garden if needed.
Gardman 7505 Potato Tub 2-Pack, Green, 16″ Wide x 20″ High (Amazon Associate link)
Pick your Potato
Don’t be wooed by the numerous varieties you can grow – start with a potato you know your family will like. I went with the small, new potato which we like roasted on the grill. Do be sure you choose potatoes that have a few shoots already growing.
If you live in souhern New Hampshire, I recommend checking out Lull Farm in Hollis which has a terrific selection of potatoes. I also suggest writing down which variety you end up planting so you’ll remember the next year. I always forget to do this and regret it later!
Plant the potatoes after the danger of frost has passed. I usually start in mid-May.
If you have a large potato with many eyes, you can cut it up into pieces so each piece has one or two eyes intact (about the size of a lime). Set the cut potatoes in an opened egg carton for 2-3 days so they can dry a bit before planting.
If you’re using a bag, fold the top of the bag dow so there is a 4″ cuff all the way around. Prepare your container or bag with 3-4″ of compost on the bottom and moisten. I used the Coast of Maine composted manure for my potatoes last year and had great success. Place the potatoes on the surface, evenly spaced, then cover with another 3″ of soil.
Once the plants have grown to about 8″ tall, it’s time to add 4 more inches of soil and unfold the top of the bag. It’s okay to cover some of the plant’s leaves with soil. Let the plant continue to grow, and once it’s grown another 8″, repeat the process of adding more soil. Repeat this process until the bag is full of soil.
The soil can dry out quickly using the bags, so be sure to check it often and water. The soil should be moist but not soggy.
I wait until early September and dump the bag into a wheel barrow and let the kids treasure hunt. They had so much fun digging through the soil looking for potatoes then washing them – it kept them entertained for at least two hours (score!).
Once they dug out all of the potatoes (in their pajamas), I dumped the soil in an area of the garden where I’m going to plant raspberries this season. Since there is a risk of insects larvae in the soil, I was hesitant to add the soil to my raised beds.
The kids washed the potatoes and I stored them in a cool, dry place in the basement. I tried saving some of the potatoes for this year’s planting, but they got soft and mushy so I threw them away. I knew we should have just eaten them!
Happy potato farming!
More potato resources:
Growing Potatoes, UNH Cooperative Extension
Potato Beetle, UNH Cooperative Extension