Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Planting potatoes

We don't have garden beds in yet,but I wanted to plant some potatoes. This presented a quandary since potatoes need to be planted fairly early in the season. The solution? Grow bags.

We don't use Amazon anymore for ethical reasons. However for Christmas my brother gave us a $100 gift card, which was a sweet gesture. After some discussion, we decided to use this gift card to order twenty 20-gallon grow bags made by a company called Adorma. (I won't link anything to Amazon. You can look them up.)

These turned out to be tough, spacious containers with sewn-in handles and a flat bottom. Quite nice.

The next issue: Where to put them? Whatever the location, it had to be protect-able against deer. After some discussion, we selected a narrow strip of land between a storage shed in the yard, and the pasture fence. This area is wide enough to accommodate the grow bags, and can easily be netted against deer. It is also close to a water tap.

But we didn't want to put the grow bags directly on the ground. That might rot the bottoms. Instead, we laid out some pallets. We figured four grow bags would fit on a pallet, so we laid down five pallets.

The next minor problem to solve: How to easily fill the bags? They tend to collapse inward whenever they're opened. Then Don had an excellent idea: We had an old garbage can that was broken down and ready to toss. Instead, he cut off the bottom and made a "funnel" to fit inside the bag as well as prop open the sides. (That man can be so brilliant.)

It was a perfect fit.

Don marked a line at four inches to indicate how much soil to put in each bag to begin with.

I had three sources for potatoes to plant. The first source, believe it or not, were potatoes from the garden at our old house, harvested in October of 2020. I had kept a few in a newspaper-lined bowl in a dark place, and they still looked viable even after 18 months. Some were reds and some were Russets.

The second source were ordinary grocery-store potatoes. Usually these potatoes are treated with a grown inhibitor to prevent the eyes from sprouting, but evidently this batch hadn't gotten the memo. They were sprouting all over the place. Okay fine, let's see how they grow.

The third source were proper seed potatoes purchased at a nursery. As it turns out, I didn't have near enough of these.

Next step: a load of dirt. Since the grow bags are being placed inside the yard, Don dumped the dirt over the fence onto a tarp.

It was easiest to fit the bags on the garbage can upside-down at first...

...then flip.

Ready to fill.

Mr. Darcy was, of course, a tremendous help. His reasoning was: "If you're digging in the dirt, than I can dig in the dirt." Hard to fault him for that logic.

First two bags, ready to plant. I figured since the space was so narrow, it was better to fill and plant as I go.

Since the bags were heavy when filled with four inches of dirt, I put each bag in a tub and sort of scooted it over the pallets in the tub, then tipped the bag out. (Work smarter, not harder. That's my motto these days.)

For most of the bags, I planted four pieces of potato (or four full potatoes, depending) per bag. In theory the size of the piece doesn't matter, as long as it has at least one eye.

To bury the potatoes, I lugged over extra dirt in the tub, then scooped/poured it into each bag.

To keep track of what kind I planted, I wrote the info on stakes.

 

First I planted all the potatoes from my old garden, and then planted four grow bags with the store-bought potatoes. The remainder of the grow bags were dedicated to proper seed potatoes.

However I didn't purchase nearly as many seed potatoes as I needed to fill all those bags, so I ended up cutting them into much smaller pieces than anticipated. Each piece has at least one eye, so in theory (there's that theory again!) they should grow fine. Time will tell.

Before planting, however, the cut potatoes have to air-dry for a couple days to toughen up the cut sides, so I took a break from planting until they were ready to go.

After a couple days, they were ready to plant.

The tedious filling and planting in each bag continued until all the bags were done.

That's all I need to do for the time being. As the potatoes grow, I'll cover them with just enough dirt to cover the leaves, then repeat as needed until the bag is full of dirt. After that, I'll let the potatoes grow and mature until the first frost.

This is the first time I've ever grown anything in grow bags, and I'm excited to see how this works.

7 comments:

  1. I will watch your experiment with interest. Being able to just dump out the grow bags to get to the potatoes would be a huge win.

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  2. I've found grow bags to be useful in these larger sizes when in a pinch for space or speed in planting. They need more monitoring for moisture as they dry out quickly. But, they do hold up quite well. I use mind on direct soil and the only deterioration was due to a gopher chewing through, no rot or breakdown otherwise, I am now on my third season of use.
    KinCA

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    Replies
    1. Additionally... WOW on the spuds from 2020. That is majorly impressive. Curious to see who produces the best.

      KinCA

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  3. Have you ever canned potatoes and if so how did they turn out

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  4. You could use the cut trash can to plant potatoes as well!

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  5. I've planted quite a few store-bought potatoes, and I always end up getting a crop. If they're sprouting, they'll grow. And fresh potatoes always seem to taste better when they come out of your garden.

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  6. Old Homesteader in MaineMay 10, 2022 at 6:50 AM

    Grew up on a homestead and except for military service lived on a homestead most of my life. That adds up to well over 40 years. In my experience the theory "one eye, any size" is correct. I've even grown potatoes from peels as an experiment. Got my first blue ribbon for potatoes in 4-H back in 1960.
    However I have noticed that when using peels, really small pieces, or really small potatoes as seed, I get much smaller plants and smaller poundage production per row.

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