Containing Potatoes

comments (20) July 6th, 2010

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Talk about recycling ~ Make your own potato bags!
Photo by Ross Goodman under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Laundry baskets are handy potato containers.
Photo by kisforkate under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Hill potatoes by stacking old tires as the plants grow.
Photo by Tony Buser under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Talk about recycling ~ Make your own potato bags!
Photo by Ross Goodman under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Talk about recycling ~ Make your own potato bags!


Photo by Ross Goodman under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Home gardeners enjoy growing potatoes. They're easy, nutritious, and fun to harvest. We all know that hilling up potatoes with soil, straw or some other organic material as they grow will result in higher tuber yields for our dinner table. Over the years, I've heard of all kinds of different ways that gardeners contain their hilled potatoes.

Here on the suburban farm, we've almost always used the chicken-wire-in-a-hoop system. But this year we thought we'd experiment a bit. One late winter day, we stood gawking at a disgustingly gorgeous raised bed unit stocked at out local Costco (big box store). It had a large, round, garden bed that served as the center of the unit. Then four beds angled off of it like sun rays.

It was made of heart redwood and came complete with decorative end posts that held up shining brass finishing caps. It was a glorious thing. I fantasized about placing it strategically on my front lawn. My crops would never be prouder and the neighbors would drool with envy.

One look at the price tag and I was over it.

One of the most interesting features was the fact that built into one of the sun ray beds was an area where separate boards could easily slide on - a section at a time. I could only presume this was the potato bed. I loved this idea and thought to bring the idea home to one of our own beds.

The only difference was that we hadn't created a structure that would allow boards to slide on that easily. No, we figured we could just nail on a section of boards each time the potato plants grew a few feet. As it turns out, this idea worked out much better if husband-extraordinaire did the wood-adding. Consequently, the sections didn't get added as often as they should have. I'm not pointing a finger here; just stating the facts. The potato plants dangled woefully and threatened to topple over on more than one occasion before they received any support. As of this moment, the jury is still out on whether this affected the potato yield.

Any Creative Potato Containers Out There?

I've managed to stay abnormally calm through the potato container experiment because those potatoes were started in a brand new bed this year. Over in the old potato bed, I had volunteer potatoes come up, too. When I noticed the little potato plants poking out of the bed from last year, just to be on the safe side, I surrounded them with four thick steaks and some green, plastic netting with small square holes. I've decided that the add-wood-sections-as they-grow technique just isn't for us.

So how about you? What is your favorite way to contain your potatoes? Laundry basket? Bamboo fencing? Stacked old tires? Let us know what's working for you!

posted in: potatoes, potato containers, hilling potatoes

Comments (20)

Jeanie59 writes: I plant sweet potatoes in a container that I got from the dollar store. The kind you would store Christmas stuff in. It cost 12.00 dollars and it works for me. I filled it with old horse manure, top soil and rabbit manure. I got potatoes a few big ones but more smaller ones. I would like to get them all big, what am I doing wrong? This year I bought straw and peat moss, don't know what they will do but I'll try the straw. What about peat moss, will that work? More fertilizer? I watered every day. The vines kept growing even in September, did I pull them too early? They were the Beauregard type potato. I read somewhere to keep the soil as it would be good for this years crop. Is that okay? I'm going to use it anyway, will treat with lime though. Thanks for all your tips, they are great.
Posted: 6:29 pm on April 8th
hectorkim54 writes: Wonderful
Posted: 2:05 am on November 1st
smithjohn12 writes: Awesome
Posted: 1:46 am on October 4th
justinreid writes: Very Nice
Posted: 11:44 pm on August 23rd
dallasholt writes: Brilliant idea
Posted: 2:54 am on August 13th
danfowler88 writes: Keep it up
Posted: 12:22 am on August 3rd
danfowler88 writes: Keep it up
Posted: 12:22 am on August 3rd
daveabbott writes: very nice keep it up
Posted: 5:06 am on July 13th
dexterharris writes: Its good procedure.
Posted: 12:12 am on March 10th
canetarry writes: giving the right information.
Posted: 12:26 am on October 28th
carmelo11 writes: now born in new Potatoes
Posted: 5:54 am on October 23rd
jasskr0 writes: This is wonderful
Posted: 4:58 am on April 3rd
jomastyre1 writes: This is very informative
Posted: 7:47 am on March 24th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: farmcurious: That's a fantastic tip!!
alethor: You could be right about the draining, but I've also lost potatoes due to a fungal disease - so that could have been a problem, too. While you can't always win that battle because some of those diseases just knock them out.

But next time I would try not watering them over head if possible. This can encourage fungal growth also the water hitting the soil and back up onto the plants can encourage spores to splash back up onto the leaves.

That said, sometimes we just get unlucky.
Posted: 5:30 pm on July 6th
farmcurious writes: Great ideas!

I used the big giant burlap coffee bags that coffee houses get their fresh beans in - my local coffeeshop will give me as many as I need for free in exchange for some fresh potatoes.

I start out with the bags rolled down and add straw and unroll the bag as the plants grow. By harvest time, the bottom of the bag rots out and the potatoes can be found at the bottom. They're so easy to harvest this way - and I just take the burlap bag full of half-composted straw and worms and use it as mulch under my tomato plants for rotation!

I have pics if anyone's interested in seeing!
Posted: 5:19 pm on July 6th
alethor writes: I have tried for the first time this year to grow potatoes in bags. I bought the bags from a garden website and they have 4 holes on the bottom. I placed the bags near the sprinklers. I was not sucessfull. I got only 3 potatoes and all the rest died. I think they were not be able to drain the water. Any suggestions?
Posted: 1:41 pm on July 6th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: dvautier: I just saw your photo of you grow bags - I really need to try them next year (I'm soooo old school sometimes, LOL). BTW, the bags in the photo here aren't mine.
Posted: 11:46 am on July 6th
dvautier writes: Hi Chris,

These are great ideas! I tried something different this year. I made potato grow bags from landscaping fabric. They don't have handles like in the photos though. I'll have to keep that in mind for next year. I just keep adding soil. Can't wait to see the results.

Posted: 11:29 am on July 6th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Myseasons: Actually, you're correct. Crops in the nightshade family are best rotated - which is why we make the new bed. However, we haven't had any potato diseases and we seem to get away with letting them grow there for a couple of seasons.

The first time we tried it, the same thing happened - we had volunteers and just rode it out. The potatoes were just fine. That said, I still prefer to rotate things because you never know when something will surprise you.

Also, I usually leave the compost and soil right where it is and simply plant other things there - like herbs. This year, I once again am letting the volunteers that came up from last years plants grow because I'm not sure how much we'll get from the new bed.
Posted: 11:14 am on July 6th
myseasons writes: What are you allowed to do with all the compost you have used in the potato plant container?
We are warned not to plant potatoes twice in the same place twice so where can we scatter it so we don't plant a potato relative in the same place.... or is all that worry for nothing?
Posted: 10:25 am on July 6th
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