I am having the darndest time with the easy plants this year. The beans, the peas, the broccoli, the berries, the onions, the beets, the lettuce, the squash, the artichokes…all thriving, but the crops you just can’t mess up? Well, they’re messed up. The garlic went tits up due to white rot and my potatoes are all but dead.
You may recall my enthusiastic experiment growing potatoes in burlap sacks. I was so hopeful that this was going to work. Potatoes do well in various condos and containers, and burlap is super cheap. I thought I’d free up a lot of room in the main garden and have a super easy potato harvest to boot.
What I have is a total potato fail.
Problem #1: Burlap rots really, really quickly. Any bump or nudge of the potato bags causes all the soil to spill out the bottom of the bag which has basically rotted away. This disturbs the roots and weakens the plants. In addition, potato vines were attempting to push through the sides of the bag and were managing to make some progress. Now, like the rest of the plant, they’ve basically just given up.
Problem #2: Impossible to water. You want to know what lets water run out really quickly? A loose weave burlap sack. If you’re looking for high-drainage, this is the container for you. Next time I’ll grow a cactus in one. If you actually need to keep a root zone moist, even in coolish weather, you’re committing to more-or-less daily watering. The only method I’ve found to actually get water to absorb into the soil is overhead sprinkling, which had lead to all kinds of fungal problems. These weak plants haven’t been able to fight off anything, and black spot is running rampant.
Problem #3: Wow that took a lot of soil. Like, really a lot. A few cubic yards were shoveled into the many bags we filled. If the results had been superlative I’d be happy to invest in another few cubic yards of good garden soil and go through this process again, but with dead potato plants to show for it, I can say without hesitation I will never try this technique again.
Conclusion: The time, energy (those bags were a workout to plant) and the expense of the soil, the seed potatoes and the bone meal made this technique a bit of a hassle from the get-go. But I was so hopeful that the hassle would pay off in sacks of delicious potatoes and extra room in the garden.
Moving forward: When the great potato fail became undeniable two weeks ago, I did what you are never, ever supposed to do. I picked up some organic taters at the YuppieHippie Market. What the hell, they can’t die more than my really expensive seed potatoes have. We threw together a few large bins and I scratched a bit of bone meal and some compost into a patch of neglected, sad soil in the ornamental (read: mostly ignored) half of our yard. I threw the market taters in the ground and crossed my fingers.
Right now, it’s about all I can do. With some luck I’ll get a small harvest from the in-ground sowing.
Did anyone else out there embark on this potato-in-a-burlap-sack experiment with me? If so, I truly hope your experience has been more fruitful than mine. What have you found to be the best way to grow potatoes? Container? Open field? Straw bale? I need some new potato ideas.