How to Grow Potatoes in a Bag: Does it Really Work?

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Fresh, earthy potatoes are an easy crop to grow, and just a few plants will produce pounds of potatoes in a single season. However, the traditional method of planting potatoes in hills is not ideal for the small-space gardener since the plants need a lot of space to spread out. Thankfully, you can plant potatoes in a bag and get a bountiful harvest in just a few square feet.

Why should you plant potatoes in a bag?

Potatoes are incredibly versatile and super inexpensive to grow. Since potatoes are a root crop and produce tubers that you harvest from under the ground, hill planting is the most common growing method. This method piles the soil to keep the plants covered and encourage production. However, it requires a large open area, so many urban gardeners turn away from potatoes due to lack of space. Plus, it takes a lot of work to get all of the potatoes out of the soil, and it is possible that you will miss some when you harvest.

Potato bags take the idea of layering to a whole new level and maximize the roots and tubers that your potato plants can produce. You have total control over the soil and location, and harvesting is incredibly simple. Follow these steps to cultivate your very own potato bag today.

Step 1: Select the bag

Though specialty potato bags are sold online and in garden stores, a simple burlap sack works just as well. Virtually any large sack or container will serve the same purpose and help you grow hundreds of tasty potatoes.

Step 2: Pick the location

Potatoes need full sun, so choose a location that receives at least eight hours of bright sun each day. Keep in mind that it will be challenging to move your bag as you fill it with soil and the potatoes grow so you should place it where it can stay for the whole season. It will also need regular water so you may want to situate it near a hose or your water spout.

Step 3: Prepare the soil

Since tubers grow directly into the soil, it is vital to choose high-quality soil and compost for your potato bag. Dump one part compost mix and one part soil in a wheelbarrow, moisten slightly and mix thoroughly. You will use some of this mixture for the initial planting, but it is important to save the rest to cover your potatoes as they grow.  

Roll the top of the bag down to form a cuff and fill the bottom with about four inches of the soil mix.

Step 4: Prepare potatoes

It is a good idea to “chit” your seed potatoes before sticking them in the bag. Chitting means leaving potatoes in a light, cool place in an open egg box or another container with the “eyes” facing up for about four weeks to give them time to sprout. This will help your potatoes grow quicker once you plant them outdoors.

Step 5: Plant potatoes

Cut seed potatoes into chunks about the size of a lime and place them, cut side down, into the soil at the bottom of the bag. You should use about three pieces, depending on the size of the bag. Cover with three more inches of the soil mix.

Step 6: Fill the bag

As the plants grow, cover the sprouted potato greens with prepared soil. Keep the bag moist and unroll the cuff of the bag as the soil level rises. Water will evaporate quickly so you may need to water every day in the hottest months of the summer. Add more soil to keep the tubers covered as the foliage continues to grow.

Step 8: Watch for beetles

Colorado potato beetles love to munch on potato leaves and cause damage to your plants. Keep an eye out under the leaves of the plants for their clusters of yellow eggs. Rub these off if you notice them. Full grown beetles can be plucked off by hand and dropped in a bucket of soapy water.

Step 7: Harvest

Once the soil reaches the top of the bag, let plants flower and die back. This usually takes around three or four months, depending on the variety of potatoes. When the foliage begins to wilt and turns yellow, wait about two weeks and then harvest. Dump the entire contents of the bag into a wheelbarrow and sort through the soil to harvest your buried treasure. You can also collect young tubers as the plants grow by gently probing beneath the surface of the soil with your fingers.

Are you inspired to plant potatoes in a bag? Let us know in the comments below!

-Taylor Ramsey

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