Growing potatoes in bags. Do or don’t?

BIRU-WP-20150904T182109GMT-0100.jpgThe last of the potatoes have now been harvested. Here’s variety ‘Electra’, ready for storage in a cool, dark place.

I must say, I’ve been really pleased with the potato ‘grow sack’ experiment, on all varieties. The benefits have been:

  • Perfect, unblemished, pest-free, blight-free, delicious  potatoes! All of a good usable size and shape.
  • No heavy work ‘earthing up’. Just place the chitted tubers on 2 inches of top soil/compost, cover them over with more, and top it up each time the leaves push through. I also added some organic potato fertiliser in the mix.
  • One of the benefits of using fine soil is that the skins on the potatoes grow much thinner.
  • Potatoes are easily removed without any muddy digging or soil disruption. Just tip the lot out onto a plastic sheet and pick out the potatoes, ready to store!
  • No spade damage from digging.
  • No missed potatoes, or bits of potato, left in the soil, which can cause havoc when they grow up through your next crop. There’s always at least one!
  • The quality topsoil/compost mix is light and clean to handle. It can be reinvigorated with some worm compost. I’ve put it back in the grow bags to store for later use.
  • The bags I used are strong and have handles, so were easy to move around the garden to best suit them (they also made excellent windbreaks for other infant plants). It also helped while building the garden. As potatoes need to be planted early in the year, I could move them about as I built the various beds around them. I could put them on any surface. Grass, soil, gravel, or up against the shed.
  • Grow bags are cheap compared with other containers, and can be packed away until needed. I got mine on offer, £5 for a pack of two. There is the added cost of topsoil/compost.

The only ‘questionables’ have been:

  • Getting the maximum yield per plant. I probably overcrowded them, putting the max of 5 tubers into each bag. 3 per bag would perhaps have produced more potatoes per plant. The plants, however, were healthy and vigorous, and we have more than enough potatoes stored for the coming months. Every single one is perfectly useable, so no wastage. And no risk of storage issues from fungal damage. Plus, I’d never have had the space for 40 potato plants in my small garden if I’d planted them in conventional rows.
  • The bags dry out quickly so they really need a daily soak  through the summer months. Maybe if I’d watered more there would have been a higher yield?
  • Aesthetics. I’m not keen on plastic in the garden, and I wish I’d found some ‘less vibrant’ ones instead of going for the bargain orange ones. I wrapped some willow screening around mine in the end, which also, by chance, helped keep the roots out of the hot sun.

So the overall verdict? Yes! Do!

Potato sacks planted up in early SpringBIRU-WP-20150412T144730GMT-0100.jpg

Leave a two-inch gap from the top of the grow-bag to aid  watering, and to prevent soil tipping out if you need to move them later.IMG_0720Inserting 4 canes round the edges at this point would be a good idea if you are in a windy area. String can then be wound round to help support the stalks when they get big.potato flowers

Et voila!image

 

 

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