Potatoes are a staple food in almost every part of the world. With the increasing consumption of potatoes, you should consider growing your potatoes. What if you live in the city, or a place where you may not be able to grow potatoes? Can you grow potatoes in, say, a bag? What do you need to know about potatoes? This article discusses how to grow potatoes in a bag.
Growing Potatoes in a Bag
Potatoes are root vegetables. Like other tuber crops, potatoes need a large volume of soil to grow. If you are living in a city or an area with unsuitable land for a garden, you might think it’s not possible to grow potatoes. This article tells you how you can do it!
Of course, you can grow potatoes in a garden, but you can also grow them in bags, buckets, or large pots. Here are some advantages:
- Potatoes grown in bags are easier to harvest
- Anyone (child or adult) can grow potatoes in bags.
- You can move potato crops in bags from one location to another.
- There are no soil-borne diseases in new soil or compost used in potato bags.
- There are fewer weeds to compete with your potatoes for nutrients in the bags.
What You Need to Grow Potatoes in Bags
The cool thing about growing potatoes in bags is that every supply item (except fertilizer) is reusable. When you buy everything needed to grow potatoes in bags, you do not need to buy it again for the next growing season. What do you need to grow potatoes?
Take note of the word “seed potatoes,” not “potato seeds.” Potatoes, though cultivated for their tubers, produce fruits with around 300 seeds. These seeds in the potato fruit (known as True Potato Seeds or TPS) are not “seed potatoes.”
Seed potatoes are tubers of potato crops that are meant to be replanted. Seed potatoes are different from regular potatoes you purchase in stores because sometimes store-bought potatoes have been treated to inhibit growth (so that they do not sprout in stores).
You should use seed potatoes because:
- Seed potatoes are free from viruses.
- Seed potatoes are guaranteed to grow fast.
- With seed potatoes, you know the variety you are growing.
There are many different potato varieties. The potato variety you should grow depends on how you want to use the potato. Early potatoes (grouped into first early and second early potatoes) are harvested quickly, and they can be used in salads or boiling. Harvest maincrop potatoes eight or more weeks after early potatoes. Maincrop potatoes can be used for baking, roasting, and mashing.
Some first early potato varieties you can harvest in June are:
- Lady Christl
- Red Duke of York
Some second early potato varieties you can harvest in late June or July are:
- Maris Peer
Some maincrop varieties you can harvest from late July to September are:
- Maris Piper
You can purchase seed potatoes in a local shop, or you can order them online.
Grow bags are specially designed to hold a large volume of soil in which plants are grown without getting damaged. Benefits of grow bags are:
- Most grow bags have small pores through which excess water is drained out
- Grow bags are essential in growing potatoes because the height of the bag can be adjusted to match the height of soil in it.
- Grow bags allow zero light to get into the soil (except through the top), so algae and weeds will not grow inside the soil.
You can purchase grow bags in gardening stores or order them online. If you do not have a grow bag, you can use a large container or bin.
Fresh Compost or Rich Soil
Every vegetable needs nutrients to grow. Using fresh compost or fertile soil gives your potatoes nutrients. Fresh compost is important because:
- Fresh compost has no soil-borne disease
- Your potatoes will have all the nutrients they need in the entire growing season
- You can add the spent soil to your garden after the potato growing season
You can add fertilizer to your soil, but it is not necessary. If you want to mix compost and soil, mix two parts soil with three parts compost.
Have you acquired everything you need to grow potatoes in a bag? Now you are ready to learn how to grow potatoes in bags.
Growing Potatoes in a Bag: A Step-By-Step Process
Fear not because it is easy, just like ABC.
Step 1: Chitting the Potatoes
Even though this process is not compulsory, it is vital. Chitting potatoes is a practice of storing the seed potatoes in a cool place with sufficient air and light and waiting for the potatoes to sprout before you plant them.
Why is it necessary to chit potatoes? Here are some reasons:
- Potato tubers can rot if they are planted without sprouts.
- Chitting potatoes helps your potatoes to grow faster and healthier.
The average chitting period is one month. If your seed potatoes already have sprouted, you do not have to chit them.
Step 2: Plant Your Potatoes
Hold it!!! What is today’s date? Even though potatoes are a hardy crop, you should not plant them in winter. You should plant them after last frost. If you want to start the growing season earlier, plant the potatoes indoors (in a place with sufficient light and warmth).
To plant your potatoes,
- Fill 4 or 5 inches of your grow bags with soil mix.
- Place your seed potatoes on the soil mix, then cover them with 3 or 4 inches of soil mix.
- Roll or Fold the grow bags to the height of the soil mix
- Water the seed potatoes
If the seed potatoes are large, you can cut them into different parts (with a sprout). The number of seed potatoes to plant in a bag depends on the size of the bag.
Step 3: Watering and Topping the Soil Mix
Potatoes do not need saturated soil. Instead of watering lightly regularly, you should water heavily occasionally. You should also add more soil as the crops grow.
Potatoes, like other tuber crops, grow more tubers when their stolon (part of potato stems that grow below the soil surface to form tubers) is covered with more soil. The way potatoes grow allows you to have more potatoes if you add more soil. For every 8 inches potato plant height, add 4 inches of soil mix.
What if you plant the potatoes very deep in the soil so that you do not have to add more soil? Good question. You should not bury the potatoes so deep because potatoes, like every other plant, need sunlight to grow. If you bury the seed potatoes too deep in the soil, they will grow slower and become more susceptible to diseases.
Step 4: Watch Out for Pests
Even though the seed potatoes you purchased are hardy, pests can harm them. Common pests to watch out for are:
- Potato aphid
- Beet leafhoppers
- Potato tuber moth
- Green peach aphids
- Potato cyst nematode
Potato cyst nematode will not attack your potatoes if you use new compost or soil mix. You should pick off pests from your potatoes.
Step 5: Harvesting
Since you are growing your potato plants in bags, harvesting the potatoes is very easy. According to the variety you are growing, they will be ready for harvest sometime between June and September.
When your above-ground potato plant has withered, pour out the contents of your grow bag into a wheelbarrow or on a large plastic tarp. Using a hand trowel, dig out, and collect all the potatoes. How exciting!
Step 6: Storing Your Potatoes
It would be best if you consumed early varieties as soon as you harvest them because they decompose quickly. To store maincrop varieties, keep them in a well-ventilated dark room. Do not expose your potatoes to sunlight because they will produce a toxin called solanine (glycoalkaloid) and turn green. Solanine can be harmful to humans.
With a simple bag and the right soil, potatoes can be grown anywhere. Remember, you should start out with seed potatoes instead of grocery store potatoes. Also, watch out for pests that can harm your potatoes. And finally, when storing your potatoes, don’t expose them to light. Enjoy your potatoes!
What variety of potato will you grow? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.