Growing Potatoes In Bags

The potato, that wonderful vegetable, so versatile in the ways it can be prepared for dining, has proven difficult to grow on the steep slope that is the Fairegarden. When it was discovered that potatoes could be successfully grown in large bags, as was the claim, we jumped on board to give it a whirl. Here are our findings:

April 5, 2012

The bags chosen were fifteen gallon size, made from felt. The potting mix was organic Fafard mix. The potatoes chosen were Rose Finn Apple and Butte, ordered from Gardener’s Supply. The directions were followed carefully, placing the bags in a sunny spot near the hose spigot for easy watering. Potting mix was placed in the bags, the potatoes were cut in half and planted, more soil was added. Regular watering was done.

May 14, 2012

As the foliage grew taller, more potting mix was added twice until each bag was full to the top. The potato plants flowered well.

June 14, 2012

We were away for a week for the family beach vacation in mid-June and upon our return the plants were very droopy and dry. It had gotten abnormally hot and there had been no rainfall. Water was added and the potato plants perked up.

July 26, 2012 Rose Finn Apple on the left, Butte on the right

Finally the tops had yellowed and died down. It was time for the big reveal. The bags were very easily turned upside down on a drop cloth. There was no digging, as advertised. The Rose Finn had produced only a few marble sized potatoes. I give them a grade of D-minus. There were potatoes at least, or it would have received a failing mark. The Butte did better, but not as many potatoes were produced as claimed. I give them a C.

Overall, I am very happy with the bags, and have planted radishes and carrots in one and zinnias in another, which are doing well so far. Kale has been planted in the former potato bag and germinated in one day in the reused soil. The other bag was too full of holes to be used again. I may cut it up for some future project.

July 26, 2012 Red Russian Kale

I will not be planting potatoes in the bags again. The local farmer’s markets are selling beautiful, good sized potatoes for a good price. It may be better to grow winter greens in the bags, planted in the fall. But there will be no more potatoes in bags here. Onward.


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13 Responses to Growing Potatoes In Bags

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You are an adventurer. I wonder if the soil didn’t have enough nutrients to create good potatoes. At any rate I think the Farmers Market is your best bet.

    Thanks Lisa. My family would say I am quite averse to risk taking, but I will try anything in the garden. Is that what could have been missing, fertilizer? The mix I used said it was for veggies, I assumed it had all the right stuff.

  2. Frances I had the complete opposite results. I bought the bags from Gardeners Supply and they were not a normal felt. We planted them much like you did and they grew and flowered. I just dug up one bag up after 60 days and had 30 nice size potatoes. I am waiting a bit longer for the next bag to harvest. I am also reusing them to grow kale, carrots etc. I have 2 other bags and am growing sweet potatoes and eggplant that are doing fabulous and I grow peppers in other smaller bags. I wonder if results are from the type of bag which seemed a bit bigger than yours. This is my second year using grow bags and I love them as a supplement to the veg beds. I will be posting about the yield of potatoes tomorrow.

    Thanks for this input, Donna. I am not sure what the problem is here, but I have also had poor results planting potatoes in the ground, too, even after doing everything *right* in preparation. I blamed the watering, or lack of it, before, but these bags were well watered except for the one week we were away. Surely that one week did not cause this crop failure. I will be buying potatoes from the farmer’s market, but the greens seem to be doing well so far. It may be that I need to grow crops that I can see! HA

  3. Hmmmm. Maybe not potatoes but I like the idea of a mini-raised bed for a little crop of greens or carrots. My sunniest spot is my patio. It might be fun to try something there. Thanks for an interesting idea, Frances.

    Thanks Georgia. I like the bags because they can be moved around too. Greens should do well in them.

  4. I love experiments, that’s how we learn. I grew potatos many years ago and it was fun for my children to watch how they formed on the roots. I never grew them again because as you said they were not a good size and I could easily buy them for a reasonable price at the market.


    Hi Eileen, thanks for your input. It is very good for children to learn how our food grows, kudos to you! I love experimenting in the garden, too. Those lessons stick with us better than just reading about it.

  5. Rose says:

    As I was reading this, I was thinking it seemed like a lot of work–and perhaps expense–for a few potatoes. Thanks for doing the research for us and sharing the results, Frances. I’m glad you found a way to re-purpose those bags, though–buying zinnias at the Farmer’s Market just isn’t the same.

    Thanks Rose. The expense was steep, considering the harvest. But we will reuse the bags, even cutting up the holey ones to line other pots, they won’t go to waste here. Not much does! Zinnias from the market, no, potatoes from the market, yes.

  6. Gail says:

    My potato experiment was a bust and yielded the tiniest potatoes I’ve ever seen! They were cute. I won’t grow them again, but it was a fun experiment. The felt bags are great looking; a lot better than the former trash can I used. xoxogail

    I know!!!! Those were the smallest potatoes I had ever seen, too, but I have to admit they were mighty tasty. It was a pain to wash each one, too. I still like the looks of the felt way better than the plastic.

  7. I haven’t tried growing potatoes in bags, but did try containers (oversized 15 gallon plastic pots) a few years ago, with similar results. I found my yields weren’t as good as they are in the raised beds, where we grow them now. I’m not sure if it was an issue with too much soil temperature/moisture fluctuation in the containers, versus being in the ground. I love Rose Finn Apple, it’s one of my favorites, but yields aren’t consistent. If you do decide to try growing your own again, German Butterball has been a consistent high yielding variety for us, and I just love the texture and flavor too!

    Hi CV, thanks for adding in here. German Butterball is what I was planting in the ground, very tasty but poor yields. The bagged potatoes were even poorer yields. I am on the Farmer’s Market wagon now for potatoes.

  8. Lola says:

    My Dear Frances, I too have tried growing potatoes in a bag. I too used a good potting soil, also used slow release food. This is the 3rd yr of trying [benefit of doubt]. To my disappointment they have not done good for me each yr. So this will be the last yr. I found they did much better in the ground [ggs planted them for me]. I, like you, may use it to plant other plants in. Just planted some beets, hope they do well. I plant most in big pots due to my inability to get down. I love to watch things grow. Oh, thought you might like this tidbit, a limb broke off a tomato plant, I just put it in a bucket of water & it rooted. Will put it in the ground. I have picked a tomato off it. Go figure.

    I am sorry you have had poor results with potatoes, too, Lola. Maybe we need to use garden dirt instead of fancy potting soil, like the next commentor suggests. It might be worth a try. Beets seem a good crop for the bags. I have some seeds, I think.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Hello there,
    I’m an amateur at veggie gardening, but it has been my experience that potatoes grow best in depleted soil. It seems that the “good” potting soil has too much nitrogen, creating lush foliage but small tubers. I’ve learned this through my experience with herb gardening in that sometimes smaller growth produces better results. Lavender, oregano, rosemary, and thyme all taste best when grown in poor soil. I believe potatoes are the same that way.

    Hi Jenn, thanks so much for that information! I knew about the herbs liking lean soil, the soil here is pretty dang lean, and rocky. I thought that veggies needed rich loam, so that could be the cause of the failure this time. I might give it another go with garden dirt.

  10. Pingback: How to Grow Potatoes in Containers | How To Landscape Your Garden

  11. My Kids Mom says:

    That was my result of trying to grow onions. I put in onion sets, each the size of a pencil’s eraser and then I harvested onions the size of my thumb. Now I buy onions at the market. Experiments are good, but we gardeners have to know when to quit. (And to try something new!)

    Hi Jill, thanks for adding in here. My efforts at growing onions were the same, not in bags but in the ground. I even started special varieties from seeds. They were so tiny. Farmer’s Markets will get my business in the growing season. It is good to try, as you say.

  12. What a great idea to grow plants in bags! Sorry that the Potatoes didn’t work out, but it sounds like some of the other veggies/flowers are working out. Thanks for the info!

    Thanks Plant Postings. It seemed like a good idea in the middle of winter when I saw all sort of stuff about in on Pinterest. It turned out to be disappointing, but I do like the bags and growing other things in them. We’ll see how the carrots come out.

  13. Cindy, MCOK says:

    I’ll be most interested to hear how the carrots do! It seems like that would be a great way to grow them. I have some 30 gallon pots, though, that would give them enough depth to do their thing. The only challenge would be keeping them watered properly!

    It does seem perfect in theory for carrots, the felt bag, doesn’t it, Cindy? I have been diligent in watering, but have no control over the temperature, if that has any affect on it. We shall see!

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