Growing Potatoes in Grow Bags | What You Need to Know
Growing potatoes was one my favorite crops from this past summer. They require very little maintenance once they’re established and if you use good compost or healthy soil the yield is incredible. I planted five 25 gallon grow bags (3 Yukon and 2 Purple Fingerling) of potatoes at the beginning of the season and we’re well into the winter and we’re still eating potatoes from my garden that I harvested almost 6 months ago.
If you’re interested in plating your own potatoes you can buy tubers from a grower or can even plant potatoes you’ve bought from the grocery store.
In order to plant potatoes they must first “chit.” Chitting is the initial growth that shows a potato is ready to be planted. Very small stalks will start to bud from the eyes of the potato.
The purple fingerling potato sprouted beautiful little purple chits that reflected its inner color. I was actually pretty excited about this one. If you want to see all the purple food I grew last summer you can read my post Grow Purple Food, It will Make You Happy.
Those are red potatoes that I forgot about in the back of my pantry. The chits got very happy in their warm, dark corner and really took off. If your potatoes look like this you can definitely still plant them!
Let me start off by making a very bold claim (don’t worry, I’ll back this up)…. this is the best way to grow potatoes. First of all, I really like grow bags because they’re the cheapest way I’ve found to garden in a raised bed. They’re breathable, durable and if you’re not sure gardening or homesteading is for you they’re affordable to test out. Likewise, if you have a small backyard or live in a condo or apartment, grow bags come in all sizes and can definitely fit on a balcony.
Reason #1 why I like grow bags: They give you plenty of space to mound up.
Planting potatoes is simple, but before you can forget about them it will require some work for a few weeks while they get established. Potatoes need to be mounded up as they grow. I started with just 2-3 inches of soil and compost mix at the bottom of the bag. Then added another 3-4 inches of the same mix on top. Give it a good watering.
Since potatoes grow in the soil, you need to continue to add soil to the bag as it grows. When the foliage gets to be about 6 inches tall, it’s time to add more soil and bury the leaves just so that the crown is showing. Every time you add soil you should water.
Reason #2 why I like grow bags: they retain a surprising amount of moisture.
I’ve tried to grow herbs in clay and ceramic pots and in my experience no matter how much water I add, I can’t get the soil to stay damp. So far I haven’t had that issue with the grow bags.
Reasons #3 and #4 why I like grow bags: When it comes time to harvest you will get 100% of your crop and you will not puncture any potatoes.
It’s been anywhere from 90-120 days of growing and watering, and that ground is compressed by now. You’ll know when the potatoes are ready to harvest when the leaves flop over and die. You can harvest them before that, but they’ll be smaller than their full potential.
You can’t pick a potato off the foliage, you have to dig them out. This requires a spading fork. Often times during harvest you’re going to puncture at least a few potatoes trying to get them out of the ground, which isn’t the worst thing, but you’ll definitely need to eat that potato for dinner. Also, there’s always a chance that you’re not going to get the entire crop. If you use a grow bag you can…. drumroll…. DUMP THE BAG OUT. It’s that simple. I dumped one bag at a time out on to a tarp, pulled out the potatoes, amended the soil and put it back in the grow bag to grow a late crop of potatoes for the fall.
This was one bag of potatoes and I harvested them early because this was my first time growing and I’m inpatient. From one grow bag and 4 Yukon seed potatoes, I harvested about 7 lbs of potatoes. They certainly would have gotten larger if I left them in there.
I snapped this picture on Thanksgiving before these Yukons made it to the table. They’ve lasted months after harvest!