How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Bag

comments (18) March 17th, 2012

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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Planting potatoes in a trash bag gives new meaning to the idea of “a sack of potatoes.”Click To Enlarge

Planting potatoes in a trash bag gives new meaning to the idea of “a sack of potatoes.”

Photo: Jodi Torpey

I’d been gardening for many years before I tried growing potatoes because I didn't have space in my garden. But even if you’re short of garden space, you can grow potatoes by planting in a container like a 30-gallon trash bag. I’ve also seen potatoes grown in burlap bags, bushel baskets, and even a pair of old jeans.

Here's how to get started:

Plan on planting potatoes about 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost in your area.

To plant a potato crop you’ll need a 30-gallon trash bag; a loose soil mix like compost and potting soil; seed potatoes or store-bought organic potatoes.

  1. Prepare potatoes by letting them sprout several days before planting. Cut large seed potatoes into smaller pieces that have several sprouts in each piece.
  2. Place the trash bag in a sunny place in your garden, patio or other growing spot.
  3. Roll down the sides of the trash bag.
  4. Cut holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage.
  5. Fill the bottom of the bag with soil mix.
  6. Plant potatoes about 2-3” deep in little hills with sprouts facing up.
  7. Cover potatoes with soil mix and water.
  8. Mulch with dry leaves or straw.
  9. Keep plants watered, but not wet.
  10. When the leafy shoots are about 6-7” tall, roll the trash bag up a bit and add soil mix to cover all but the top few leaves.
  11. As the plants grow, repeat this process, keeping the potatoes buried and mulched; keep soil watered, but not soggy.
  12. When the leaves on the plants turn yellow and the foliage starts to dry, stop watering so the potato skins can dry.
  13. To harvest potatoes, carefully cut the side of the trash bag and remove potatoes.


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Comments (18)

TheRowan writes: I have been growing potatoes in grow bags, containers and raised beds for several years now. I have not had any problem crowding the young seed potatoes in these growing venues. If the seed potato is small enough I plant as is, if larger I cut in half, no smaller. I have often had potatoes left over from year to year and will replant those that have sprouted. I have four containers currently and this will hold my husband and I over for the winter. I have grown sweet potatoes in the past, but have not do so to date. My potatoes greens grow as tall as my tomato plants and in the beginning many people could not believe they were potatoes. I had to use tomato stakes and twine to tie them up.
Posted: 10:48 pm on May 22nd
LillianInIowa writes: Montmorillon_novice , Like you, I got tempted by regular store-bought potatoes that sprouted. And I ignored the garden books that said not to, and...planted them. Sure enough, the resulting crop was COVERED with scab disease (round brown scaly splotches). And once that's in your soil, you can't plant potatoes there again for something like 20 years.

I still sometimes use sprouted food potatoes, but in pots or bags--and then I dump that particular soil in the flower beds, not the veggie garden.
Posted: 2:55 pm on May 22nd
LillianInIowa writes: Tested this last summer and have some additional suggestions:

• Potatoes are heavy feeders, so you really need at least EIGHT inches of soil in the bag before you cover your seed potatoes with two or three more inches of soil.

• Yes, compost with worms makes a great mix to add or use for these potatoes.

• Most potatoes, in a temperate climate, form the majority of their crop just barely above the seed potato. That business of rolling the bag up and up and up turned out to be nonsense for me.

• No, do NOT crowd the seed potatoes in the bags. Ten is ludicrous (sorry). I put only one in my re-cycled dog food and chicken feed bags (20-30 lbs). Even putting two in cut my yield size to teensy little marble-sized potatoes. For your 30-gallon bags, I'd say your maximum seed potatoes should be TWO, not TEN.

Happy potato growing!
Posted: 2:52 pm on May 22nd
Montmorillon_novice writes: I have lots of lovely compost, full of worms, should I remove the worms before using the compost with the potatoes? I am using old potatoes that have started sprouting, will this be OK or should I buy seed potatoes?
Posted: 5:09 am on March 23rd
ed2065 writes: Sweet potato leaves are excellent stir fried with garlic. I grow sweet potatoes in self watering containers on my balcony. Seems like growing potatoes in a bag like this would use a lot of potting soil. Has anyone tried some other (read cheaper) growing medium?
Posted: 4:45 pm on March 15th
44feathers writes: I want to try this and will try it is jan 2013 i noticed most of the post are from last year How did it work out.Is it true you can eat the leaves?The sweet potatoes that make a nice plant in yards does it grow potatoes?Pat~

Posted: 10:44 pm on January 7th
busybee28 writes: I might just be easily confused, but is it 10 seed potatoes, or 10 pieces of the cut up potato? I look at a thirty gallon trash bag and I'm not sure how 10 cut up potatoes could be placed 6 inches apart with each piece. I'm trying this for the first time. I could use trial and error, but I'd like to get the best yield that I can.
Posted: 7:23 pm on April 20th
dailyweeds writes: Or in Starbucks bags:
Posted: 12:38 am on April 11th
Busymama62 writes: Regarding Sweet Potatoes. You can not grow them the same way as other potatoes. You can grow them in a bin. I have an 4ft x 8ft bin that is approx 2ft deep. I order my sweet potato slips from New Hope Seeds. Basically you plant them and let them vine around. This year I am going to put a trellis in the middle of the bin to try and control the vineing out some. Oh by the way you can eat sweet potato leaves. Not the vine part but yes the leaves.
Posted: 5:21 pm on March 26th
Cinders13 writes: I haven't tried this, but we plant ours in hanging strips of conveyor belting that has the scoop buckets on it. Came out of a feed mill that burnt. I also use these to plant flowers in. This year we planted 40 buckets of red potatoes.
Posted: 9:56 am on March 22nd
WesternGardener writes: Dear GrowMoore:

Sorry to hear you're feeling frustrated...I hope this information will help. In the Potato Growers guide from the Potato Garden, the recommendation is to "plant strong seed pieces 6 to 8 inches apart." Just open a trash bag and do a rough measure for the number of seed potatoes--maybe 10 or so? I don't think it will be a problem if they're a little crowded. In fact, you may get a larger yield.

Good luck--and please keep us updated through the season.
Posted: 9:53 am on March 21st
LucyLawley writes: I re-use my containers for the next crop of potatoes, saving money and producing less waste.

Posted: 3:10 am on March 21st
GrowMoore writes: Please, can someone tell me how many seed potatoes (chunks with eyes) do I plant per bag? I have searched and searched dozens of instructions people have presented and none of them mentions how many to plant per bag/container. I'm using biodegradable, BPA-free 30 gallon bags. Thanks!

Frustrated grower in NC,
Posted: 5:31 pm on March 20th
WesternGardener writes: I've never grown sweet potatoes, but I think they require a longer growing season.

Why not try growing sweet potatoes in a trash bag as a gardening experiment and let us know how it grows!
Posted: 5:51 pm on March 18th
WesternGardener writes: I'm sorry that I didn't keep exact numbers on how many potatoes I planted or the yield. However, I planted the seed potatoes about 6-8 inches apart. This growing method yielded enough potatoes for several big batches of the best mashed potatoes I've ever had.
Posted: 5:43 pm on March 18th
Kimpaige writes: Will this also work with sweet potatoes? Also is mid-March too late to try this in central Florida? I think I may try this - It looks very doable!
Posted: 12:32 pm on March 18th
okimadoki writes: How many potatoes will you need and how much will this yield? Thanks
Posted: 11:45 am on March 18th
lois137 writes: I will try this.
Posted: 9:18 am on March 18th
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