So you want to grow potatoes, those extra-nutritious purple ones? Or those delicious heritage potatoes your father grew? Or even the new high-yield variety you were reading about? The problem is that you have no space in your tiny garden to grow them, or the soil is unsuitable so you reluctantly decide to forget the idea. Think again. You can grow potatoes in a bag.
It’s cheap and easy to grow potatoes in a bag. Garden shops sell bags specially designed for this but look around and see what you have on hand. Paper bags will fall apart but old shopping bags made of cloth or plastic will do nicely. Large buckets and old rubbish bins aren’t bags but they make great containers for growing potatoes. So all you need now is a sunny place outdoors where you can place the bag(s) for the growing season.
Here’s how to grow potatoes in a bag.
1. Get the Potatoes Ready
Source your potatoes, especially if you want a special variety. It is recommended that you buy seed potatoes but, having said that, I’ve grow successful crops from table potatoes or potatoes I grew in a previous season. Just be aware that they could be diseased, and in that case, won’t crop well. Large potatoes should be cut into smaller pieces, about 2 cm or 5inches, with several eyes on each.
Now you need to “chit” the potatoes, which means placing them on a dry surface in bright light but out of direct sunlight. The eyes will develop shoots and the potatoes will then be ready for planting.
2. Plant the Potatoes
You’ll need a bag of fertilized potting mix. Look for organic fertilizer or add your own to unfertilized potting mix. Add about 15cm (6in) to the bottom of the bag and place your potatoes on it. The number of potatoes depends on the size of the bag. Some gardeners advise planting only two or three seed potatoes in the commercial potato bags but others recommend five or six. Use your own judgement, ensuring that there is growing space for the number you use. Cover the potatoes with about 5cm (2in) of potting mix. Do not water unless the mix seems dry, as very wet growing medium may rot the potatoes. Roll the sides of the bag down so that sun can reach the soil.
3. Caring for the crop
You have now done most of the work. When the new green tops come through and are about 10cm (4in) high add more potting mix to reach up to but not cover the leaves. Continue adding mix as needed until it reaches about 5cm (2in) from the top of the bag. Then let the plants continue to grow without adding any more soil. Water as required.
How easy is that? Potatoes on their way and no need for garden space.
Note: You may like to add a sprinkle Neem in the form of granules with each application of potting mix, or spray the potato tops with Neem oil. This will help to keep your crop free of damaging insects, especially psyllids. I’m not sure if Neem granules are available in countries other than New Zealand but Neem spray once a month should keep any pests at bay. Use it more often (fortnightly) if necessary.
Growing potatoes in bags is an easy form of no dig gardening. It’s weed free, takes up no garden space and it’s a fun project for children. Why not try it?
Join our newsletter list and get our exclusive Tomato Cheatsheet CLICK HERE