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Growing potatoes in bags in the greenhouse: Update


Photo: Potato plant

Photo: Potato plant

We planted some Swift potatoes in a bag in the greenhouse on January 20th – Swift are First Earlies so we were hoping for new potatoes in 7-8 weeks. They took ages to peep through, in fact I was just about to dump them after a couple of months when I saw the first tiny shoots.

In April I planted some more Swift seed potatoes in another bag in the greenhouse. They were quick to get going and soon their luxurious foliage was much more lush than the January plants. We moved the bags out of the greenhouse at the beginning of June.

Feeling a bit like a farmer checking to see whether a cow is in calf, I slipped my hand into each bag and could feel potatoes. Waiting for them to flower, I kept up the watering (morning and evening). In the end I got fed up (perhaps these were a variety that don’t flower?) and decided to harvest them last Sunday – the January spuds had been in for 5 months!

We tipped the bags into the wheel barrow. The January bag gave us a measly 400g of potatoes. The April bag gave us 1.9 kilos ranging in size from dolls house to a couple of punchy baking size. We could have put the little ones back to grow on a bit but I was eager to load up the bags with some more seed potatoes.

Needless to say I won’t bother with planting spuds in January again. But I will continue planting potatoes in bags. With such a small harvest, why bother? There are several reasons why I’ll continue. The spuds were tasty, with no eelworms or slug damage. Using this method we can try a range of varieties – I have Lady Balfour (a Potato Blight resistant variety) and Rooster potatoes in bags dotted about the garden. If you live in a flat with a balcony growing potatoes in bags would be worthwhile.

The compost is quite expensive so I took Paula’s tip and used last Autumn’s leaves as a growing medium with a two inch layer of compost at the bottom. She knew an organic gardener who grew wonderful potatoes using leaves in the containers. When we harvested the spuds the leaves had broken down well and were dug into the kitchen garden borders.

I also took Mandi’s advice and put a layer of gravel (later on I’ve used small pieces of rubble that I dug out of the extended borders) at the bottom of the bags as potatoes need a lot of water but don’t like their roots sitting in water. She also advised feeding them a lot so I added bonemeal every time that I earthed up. You can buy potato fertiliser which Mandi is using this year so I’ll be interested to see her results.

I am just using leaves in the three bags of Rooster potatoes which are romping along in the sunny front garden.

Living with the Potato King we also have forty Desiree and Maris Piper potato plants growing in the kitchen garden. These are already in flower. I wrapped each seed potato in newspaper to repel eelworms and can’t wait to see whether this trick has worked.

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  1. I have grown potatoes for the first time ever this year.
    I had Charlotte in two bags and got 3.2 and 3.5kg from those.
    I have just harvested the Kestral and got 3.5kg from that bag and today checked on a bag of Rooster as I didn’t like the look of the leaves. I had 2.8kg in that bag but I know now I harvested that bag too early.
    Now I know the leaves are meant to go a bit yellow I will leave the other three bags for a while yet.
    I am delighted. I used pelleted poultry manure when planting and when earthing up. So far they have all tasted great, even my 13 year old is keen to eat them in stead of chips 🙂

  2. Noel Eaves

    Hi,I have just finished 2 bags of 1st earlys, Home Guard, and Rocket.Home Guard very Soapy,not much flavour.Have not tried Rocket yet.Yield from both sets was poor,with potatoes only down the bottom of both bags.Do not think I will bother next year,with all the compost to buy, and also tomatoe fertilizer.
    I still have 3 bags of British Queens just finished
    flowering and some Main crop Roosters still yet to put in bags.I will see what I get from them.
    Happy Growing.

  3. Grumpy-Grandad

    I tried potatoes in growing bags for the first time this year. The results were dissapointing. The spuds were good, just the yield very poor.One good thing; No slug damage
    I also grew a few of the chitted potatoes directly into the soil in our garden. The results were not much better and many of the spuds had been attacked by slugs. Must try harder!

  4. Nothing to do with growing spuds in bags, but on the subject of return for investment, I found Anyas to be head and shoulders above the rest. Unfeasibly large crops from each seed potato. Highly recommended – but only worth growing as a salad potato or if you like spuds steamed in their skins, they’re too fiddly to peel. Wonderful flavour though.

  5. mandi

    I read your post this morning and decided to join in the experiment and dig out a couple of my bags.
    They have flowered but the plants are still quite green and bushy. I would normally leave them till they were well dead yellow and yuk before seeing what the crop was like, but as we planted in april about the same time I thought to be a fair test I should dig some now.
    I dug the first one which were vivaldi seed potatoes I planted 4 in this bag.
    Result was 1287grms of potatoes seemed to have produced 4 large potatoes ( about the size of 2 small eggs put together) and then loads of small ones about the size of 50p’s
    The second bag I dug up were charlotte seed potatoes I planted 4 again in this bag.
    the result was 1652grms of potatoes, there were about 6 medium sized potatoes and the rest were average new potato size ( the sort you would boil whole and look nice in a plate with butter on).
    Not exactly bumper crops but better than last years attempt. I still don’t know how they get 50 kg out of a bag like they boast as I did everything they said with the gravel the potato food plenty of water etc etc but will keep trying.:)

  6. Nanette

    I’ve been wanting to grow potatoes in bags, can you tell me if you just sit your bags directly on the ground, or do you have them up of the ground? I was hoping to see some pictures of your spuds in bags.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Roslyn

      Thank you so much for that tip. I had no idea that it could be hazardous!

      Hi Nanette

      The bags sit directly on the ground in a sunny place.

  7. Roslyn

    I see you mentioned bonemeal again. We have had warnings in Canada to make sure we wear a mask and gloves as the bones that were ground may have been from animals that have BSE or Mad Cow disease and we can get it by inhaling or ingesting the dust. Cheerful ain’t I?

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