Thursday, June 22, 2023

Potato update

As you may recall, I planted potatoes in grow bags (again) this year. I tried this technique last year, but between a bad location and bad clay soil, it was a complete flop. This year I relocated the grow bags to a better location and used better soil.

The idea with indeterminate potatoes is to bury them in layers, because more potatoes will form from the stem. When I first planted them in grow bags in April, I put in about four inches of soil in bottom of the bags, laid down the seed potatoes, and buried them in about four more inches of soil. This meant the grow bags were about half-full. I also gave a modest sprinkle of fertilizer at this stage.

After that, it was a matter of waiting until the potatoes had grown enough that I could finish filling the bags with soil while still allowing enough leaves poking out to let the plans photosynthesize.

I did this over a period of a few days in late May/early June. It took a bit of practice before I got the hang of how best to get the dirt in among the potato plants without burying them irrevocably (the secret, I found, is to take a shovel-full of dirt and shake it over the plants, rather than dumping it).

This allowed me the chance to try to un-bury leaves as well. New tubers form from the stems, not the leaves, so I didn't want to bury the leaves unnecessarily. I accidentally broke a few leaves off during this process, but I figured it was early enough in the season to give the potatoes time to recover.

As of this writing (June 22), the potatoes are so lush and beautiful that I will often just pause and admire them (Don and Older Daughter never miss the opportunity to tease me about that). They're doing even better in these grow bags than in the garden in our old place. 

I'm thrilled at the thought of what's happening at the root level. How many tubers will we be able to harvest per bag? That remains to be seen, but I'm optimistic.

In fact, assuming this experiment is a success, I'll continue using grow bags for indeterminate potatoes even after we get the raised-bed garden built (which, by the way, is a project I'll post about shortly). So far I'm impressed with them!


  1. What kind of potatoes are indeterminate?

    1. Potatoes can roughly be divvied into two categories: determinate and indeterminate. Mostly this involves patterns of growth, and therefore determines the best planting methods.

      Determinate potatoes have tubers that grow in one layer. These varieties don’t require mounding of soil, and they produce earlier – in about 70 to 90 days. However they don’t produce as high a yield, and don’t store as well. Examples of determinate potato varieties include Yukon Gold, Norland, Fingerling, and Superior.

      Indeterminate potatoes grow in multiple layers. Mounding soil around the plants produces more layers, which leads to much higher yields. These are the varieties best suited to potato towers or other vertical growing arrangements. Indeterminate potatoes take longer to mature, around 110 to 135 days, and they store better. Examples of indeterminate varieties are Snowden, Russet Burbank, and Bancock Russet.

      My personal preference is indeterminate potatoes, but both are terrific.

      - Patrice

  2. I am trying using bags for sweet potatoes this year. We did get them in late so if nothing happens this year we will try again next year. I usually give something at least 2 years before i give up on it.

  3. When I was a small child, Daddy would mound potatoes (not too deep)and hay or straw, then stack sticks around it like a teepee, then cover that with some dirt at the bottom to secure it and more hay or straw on top. He left a place on the side of the teepee so he could get potatoes out through the winter. He made several of these right beside the garden. When the potatoes were cleaned out we kids had ready made teepees to play in!

  4. I have missed your garden writings. That has been one of my favorite portions of your blog.

    1. I agree. Gardening advice here is good.

  5. Potatoes like the soil on the acidic side, I picked up a tip on the net about adding in some brown pine needles to the soil to accomplish this. Really improved the soil for the plants and yield.