Bags Aren’t Just For Chips: The Potato Sack Experiment

Every year I run out of room. So this year I am moving my biggest space-hogs out of the raised beds and into containers I can stash around paths and patios. I’m starting with potatoes, which I am attempting to grow in huge bags.
I received my seed potatoes from Territorial several weeks ago and have been chitting them on the counter in the kitchen. Last year’s potatoes were so much fun and such a success that we sprung for the virus free tubers and got quite an assortment: Yukon Gold, Sangre, Purple Viking, Rio Grande (these four were part of a variety pack), French Fingerling, Russian Banana and German Butterball.

We had about a half-dozen of these grain bags from the malt Homebrew Husband buys for his beer. The plan was to use them, but it quickly became apparent that we’d need more bags. We supplemented with used burlap sacks. We bought them (10 bags for $5 at Sky Nursery) but I think if you asked around at coffee shops you could score them for free.

We started by rolling the sides of the sacks down and filling the bags with about 6 inches of soil. We weren’t super precise about this. It was pretty late at night already and we were trying to get ‘er done.

Then we added a half-cup of bone meal to the soil. At the time that seemed totally reasonable for the volume of soil we had in the bag but now I’m a little worried that we used way too much. Any bone meal experts out there want to weigh in on this? 

We shook everything up really well. I looked like I was shake-and-baking the worlds heaviest chicken during this part. It was quite the workout. When the bone meal was thoroughly blended into the soil, we added between 3 and 6 potatoes to each bag depending on the size of the potato – the fingerlings were smaller.

And covered the potatoes with 2-3 inches of additional soil.

That was it. It was simple, but tiring to fill all those sacks. We used (when I say “we” here, I mean Nick) the wheelbarrow to move all the sacks to a nice sunny patch of lawn we are happy to kill off.

When the potatoes grow I’ll “hill up” the vines inside the sack with loose compost and straw to encourage as much tuber formation as possible. My goal is to get at least 12″ of “hill” material on top of the vines.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

What do you grow in containers, sacks, or grow-bags?

Yuppie-Hippie Artifice
Taking Control in the Garden

Comments

  1. Great idea! I've been thinking of growing my potatoes in big containers this season, but sacks make perfect sense, and will be WAAYYYY more economical. Thanks!

  2. Homebrew stores (like The Cellar up in Greenwood) will usually give away malt bags like the one Erica is holding. They are smaller and a little handier than the burlap sacks and won't decompose on you as quickly. You can find your local store and give them a call to see if they have any on hand.

  3. Looks good. There are as many ways to grow potatoes as there are varieties. Should work well.

    May be worth researching your varieties to see which are early varieties. Those only set fruit on the bottom so hilling much if at all does no good. I learned that the hard way a few years ago. It's all on my potato bin page on my blog. Good luck and enjoy!

  4. I'm going to try this too. It looks much easier than Sunset magazines idea. Thanks!

  5. How funny, I was thinking about doing the same thing. I have these plastic 25lb bags that rice comes in, not sure if they will break down in the sun through.

    And I have heard that hilling up really high doesn't work UNLESS you use potatoes that grow laterally. What varieties those are, I have not been able to find. Having said that, I'm growing potatoes from actual SEEDS this year so that oughta be fun :)

  6. Neat idea! I was toying with the idea of using old stacked tires, but bags are easier to come by and seem cleaner.

    What's hilling?

  7. Here's some additional info on growing potatoes in general from Irish Eyes: http://www.irisheyesgardenseeds.com/growers10.php

    It looks like some varieties (Yukon Gold?) don't make many tubers between the mother and the soil line even if hilled up. But I'm finding conflicting info about this. So my yield on those might suck, or maybe it'll be fine. Ah gardening!

    Whatever the outcome, I promise to report back. :)

  8. Looks like a lot of fun and I bet it will be pretty successful. To save your back and arms a bit, you might try blending the soil and bone meal (or whatever other amendments you use) in a wheelbarrow first and then filling the bags.

  9. I'm growing some of my potatoes in boxes this year, adding more soil (hilling up) as the potatoes grow…Irish Eyes Garden Seeds has a collection of potatoes selected for this (Desiree, Yellow Finn, Russet Burbank and All Blue)…

  10. Great idea! I have never grown in sacks before, but it looks like a great idea. I imagine that the sun will warm the soil more than the soil in the ground too.

  11. wow, this looks great. if I lived in an apartment, I'd be all over this idea. look forward to seeing more of your blog!

  12. I grew some one year in a hardware cloth tube using only hay. It was so nice to get such nice, clean potatoes, and I got plenty! I tried them in a pot last year, but no luck. They just rotted.

  13. Funny I found this post today. I just planted all my potatoes in feed sacks yesterday. Lord knows I have enough feed sacks with all the animals around here.

    I do however have them in my raised bed at the back. I cut the bottoms off so they are actually like a tube, and rolled them down until they are about 6-8 inches high. Then I put 4 bamboo sticks at each corner and stuck them into the ground. It made like a little box. As they grow, I will unroll the sack and add more compost/dirt. Once they are full, it'll look like I have 3 feed bags sitting at the back of the bed growing potatoes.

    One note – I did this last year and filled up the potato towers with straw. I had read somewhere that they would grow in the straw. They didn't, at least not for me. I had great success in the bottom area of the bag where the dirt/compost was, and no success in the straw. This year I'm going with the compost/dirt mix all the way to the top of the bag. Everytime the plants are 6-8 inches, I'll be adding more until they are only about 2" above the soil line.

    Best of luck! It would be interesting to compare notes at harvest time.

  14. Great idea – I'm really interested to see how this turns out.

  15. We have grown our potatoes in tyre stacks. I pile two old tyres upon each other, plant the potatoes within soil and straw on top. As the green shoots keep appearing I pile another tyre on top and more straw until there is four or five tyres in total. This method provides darkness, a secure up-growing situation for space saving and the black absorbes heat and radiates to surrounding plants also for added warmth in a micro climate effect. It also finds a use for tyres.

  16. How did this work for you? Is there a follow up post. I meant to try this this year, but didn’t follow through!

  17. Great tutorial. I see the use of bone meal. Have you considered or did you experiment with using urine instead of bone meal for added nitrogen? I’ve never bought bone meal, but it’d be nice to see if the free nitrogen has the same effect in bagged potatoes. I used urine (liquid gold) for potatoes sowed directly into the soil last year and it worked great. Thanks again for the post!

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