Inelegant But Cheap & Practical Potato Bag Garden -- Updated!
There are good reasons why potato bags are popular
A potato patch in the ground takes up a lot of space, once the vines begin growing in every direction. A potato crop can attract beetles and other unwanted insects and vermin to the rest of your garden. And soil-borne issues like rot, grubs, and blight can move from one potato plant to the next easily. Also, a spot with adequate sun in the spring can become too shady as the top leaves fill in on trees near your garden, or as the sun's path changes and shadows deepen.
Potato bags can be moved, if necessary, to a sunnier spot. Each plant has its own soil, so the risk of spreading disease or varmints is lessened. And the bags can be arranged to use otherwise wasted space in the garden, so you aren't stepping over the vines.
Each potato eye is a potential vine
Start with seed potatoes or use that half bag of russets which grew eyes
Potatoes come large and small, firmer and softer, in red & yellow & white & orange & even blue. Seed stock can be ordered online and it will be sent to you when the soil and air temperatures are optimal.
If you are interested in self-reliance and heirloom crops, then you can save seed potatoes from varieties which you or a friend grew successfully last year -- potato swapping is always fun. And while some potatoes at the grocery store have been sprayed with chemicals which keep them from sprouting, others (especially the organic kind) have not. One sprouty potato from under your cupboard can turn into six or seven potatoes over one season.
Potato bag growing eliminates digging
And that's why I prefer using a bag! Not only is digging hot and tiresome work, but the vines wither away and detach from the tubers underground, leaving little clumps of spuds here and there. I don't enjoy being Nancy Drew sith a garden fork, probing the soil tentatively as I solveThe Mystery of the Wandering Red Potato. In a potato bag, the crop is all together. It's just a matter of sifting through the soil and collecting your reward.
Sweet potatoes or yams, by the way, don't grow from pieces of potato with eyes in them, as regular potatoes do. Sweets are grown from slips, which are stemmy leafy sprouts emerging from whole potatoes with one end submerged in water, in the light of a sunny window in springtime.
Small potatoes (big vines!)
Cut up or whole?
No naked potatoes! Keep 'em covered
It is all right for seed potatoes to have green eyes, stems, or a green tinge to the potato flesh itself. This is the natural growing agent helping new potatoes develop. You won't be eating the seed potato.
But you don't want the eating potatoes to turn green on you. They are like Dracula and hate the sun. Or maybe they love the sun because it helps them mutliply themselves. But you will hate the sun if it turns your spuds green, because green potatoes are not only unattractive but unhealthy to eat. That chemical, so good for growing, is not good for you and will accumulate in your liver and other organs.
So check the bags and make sure that the growing vines or shifts in soil haven't pushed the surface of the potato up above the soil level. Add new soil as needed until the new crop has safely disappeared from view ago.
Fight bag sag
Peat moss bags & roofing nails
I've grown potatos in sturdy bags of various sizes. Perlite or vermiculite bags can grow four or five potatoes from one small to medium seed potato. A larger bag which once held mulch or potting soil can hold three or four layers of seed potatoes and produce 30 or 40 potatoes, maybe more.
I only need one tool to raise potatoes in bags, and that is a roofing nail. I use it to punch drainage holes in the bottoms and sides of the bags so the soil stays moist but not wet. I don't want my fingerlings to rot in mucky mud.
Vertical gardening or a forest of vines
Not quite ready
Ugly or rustic?
Lots of us like funky old tools at a flea market. We feel good when we recycle and keep the landfill from getting any fuller. In rural areas, you see evidence of food being grown -- a bean patch by the side door, an old tire painted white and used to hold bright flowers.
But even the best-managed potato bag garden is funny-looking, and if you are not absolutely on top of everything, maybe a sack tips over a bit or a few weeds snuck in among the flowering vines. People tolerate the rustic look to a point, but if your potato bag garden looks ugly to them, it won't be a pretty situation.
So it's good to put the potato sack garden in a more secluded spot if you can. You could also run a few feet of wood slat fencing around your growing tubers, or put up a plastic privacy panel.
When choosing the best spot, keep in mind that potatoes can tolerate some shade but they do need a few hours of direct sunlight each day.
I see beauty but the neighbors might not
Time to earth up -- or leaf up!
Thank you for reading this!
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