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Inelegant But Cheap & Practical Potato Bag Garden -- Updated!

Updated on August 7, 2015
I vastly prefer growing potatos in begs than to plant them in the garden bed. Much easier to harvest, and the potato bug problem went away too. People buy special bags to do this, but I use plastic bags from topsoil, or burlap sacks when I have them.
I vastly prefer growing potatos in begs than to plant them in the garden bed. Much easier to harvest, and the potato bug problem went away too. People buy special bags to do this, but I use plastic bags from topsoil, or burlap sacks when I have them.

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!)

Potatoes from last year's harvest, which I saved over the winter to replant this spring.
Potatoes from last year's harvest, which I saved over the winter to replant this spring.

Cut up or whole?

Some folks cut seed potatoes up into smaller pieces but for bag growing, I put three or four small potatoes in one layer. A large potato with eyes at both ends gets its own layer.
Some folks cut seed potatoes up into smaller pieces but for bag growing, I put three or four small potatoes in one layer. A large potato with eyes at both ends gets its own layer.

Earthing up

Bag potatoes are gown in layers. You roll down the sides of the bag & add dirt & seed potatoes, then dirt. When the sprouts come up through the dirt, add another layer of potatoes and more dirt.
Bag potatoes are gown in layers. You roll down the sides of the bag & add dirt & seed potatoes, then dirt. When the sprouts come up through the dirt, add another layer of potatoes and more dirt.
On top of the smaller potatoes, I added some soil and then a single large potato, then more dirt. Two layers in but the only evidence now is the green vine coming off at the right side of the sack.
On top of the smaller potatoes, I added some soil and then a single large potato, then more dirt. Two layers in but the only evidence now is the green vine coming off at the right side of the sack.

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

Use fencing or wood or concerete blocks or whatever you can scrounge up to support the bags, especially as they fill up. Rain  and temperature changes and the push of the emerging vines can make bags slump over.
Use fencing or wood or concerete blocks or whatever you can scrounge up to support the bags, especially as they fill up. Rain and temperature changes and the push of the emerging vines can make bags slump over.

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

Healthy potato plants send out lots of vines. Gently direct them to the sides & back of the plot, or make a hammock of chicken wire or plastic mesh fencing for vines to go through & then up, up, up.
Healthy potato plants send out lots of vines. Gently direct them to the sides & back of the plot, or make a hammock of chicken wire or plastic mesh fencing for vines to go through & then up, up, up.

Not quite ready

This basic white potato does have eyes but they are still at the surface of the peel. For best growth, the seed potato should sit in a sunny spot until the eyes become stubs or vines.
This basic white potato does have eyes but they are still at the surface of the peel. For best growth, the seed potato should sit in a sunny spot until the eyes become stubs or vines.

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

This funky potato bag garden is "hidden" behind our garden shed in a sunny corner next to the fence.
This funky potato bag garden is "hidden" behind our garden shed in a sunny corner next to the fence.

Time to earth up -- or leaf up!

The potato plants are leafing out nicely.
The potato plants are leafing out nicely.
It's time to unroll the sides of the bags to deepen them, then add more potting soil or semi-composted leaves to "earth up." This gives the plant more room to create baby potatoes which will grow into full-size tubers.
It's time to unroll the sides of the bags to deepen them, then add more potting soil or semi-composted leaves to "earth up." This gives the plant more room to create baby potatoes which will grow into full-size tubers.

Thank you for reading this!

If you love real-talk photo essays and how-to demonstrations, take a look at the people I follow here. I read posts from people all over the world who are enjoying and learning as they develop ideas about companion planting, permaculture, soil and water conservation, and green living.

Earthing up! July 9

Potato vines are going crazy, so the upcycled growing bags need more soil in them.
Potato vines are going crazy, so the upcycled growing bags need more soil in them.
Actually, I should have said "soil and leaf compost" which I add in alternating layers. It's cheaper than all soil and I have a lot of leaves in the compost bin.
Actually, I should have said "soil and leaf compost" which I add in alternating layers. It's cheaper than all soil and I have a lot of leaves in the compost bin.
I started several types of the seed potatoes I saved from last year, and some vines were slow to get started but they are making their way out and up.
I started several types of the seed potatoes I saved from last year, and some vines were slow to get started but they are making their way out and up.
It took about a couple minutes per bag to unroll the rim, then tuck compost and soil around each potato vine, giving the future tubers more room to grow.
It took about a couple minutes per bag to unroll the rim, then tuck compost and soil around each potato vine, giving the future tubers more room to grow.

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    • MG Seltzer profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Seltzer 

      3 years ago from South Portland, Maine

      Hi -- as a longtime concrete gardener, I can relate! This tiny bit of shady, poorly-drained yard is the most green space I've had for a while. You know, I've used pieces of terracotta in regular pots, but since I've gone with a peat-based soil mix, the soil doesn't get too wet in the potato bags. I do have to make sure that I've punched holes all around the bottom of the bag, as over the summer, the bags tend to slump or lean, and if the holes I punched with a screwdriver are now uphill, I'm in trouble.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 

      3 years ago from Wales, UK

      Love this idea. Have been thinking about doing it for a while as we have a mostly concrete garden :-(

      Do you put drainage material in the bottom, such as polystyrene or broken pieces of terracotta pots?

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 

      3 years ago from Hertfordshire, England

      I like this - I only have things growing in a greenhouse, but this looks worth a try. Thank you. Voted with a thumbs up.

    • MG Seltzer profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Seltzer 

      3 years ago from South Portland, Maine

      Potato bag prowers unite! :)

    • MG Seltzer profile imageAUTHOR

      MG Seltzer 

      3 years ago from South Portland, Maine

      Potato bag prowers unite! :)

    • oliversmum profile image

      oliversmum 

      3 years ago from australia

      MG Selzer Hi. Thanks for all this great information and photographs. We are past the heavy digging of a garden, so doing it this way will make it a whole lot easier. Thumbs up. :) :)

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