Instructables
We've grown potatoes successfully in discarded tires with mulch, in lieu of hilling with dirt, but this year we tried growing them in homemade, specially designed, bags! The expensive commercial "Potato Bins" look to be made from simple landscape fabric (weed block film). So, that's what I used to design my Tater Totes. I've had good success so far and the taters are still growing.


 
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Step 1: Why bother with a Tater Tote?

Picture of Why bother with a Tater Tote?
- Potatoes are traditionally "hilled up" with dirt to prevent sun scald (poisonous green skins) from forming on the spuds. The dirt is only used as cover and is not necessary for the spuds to form.

- Potatoes are produced along the stem of the plant and not on the roots. Supposedly the longer the stem, the more potatoes produced (theoretically).

- Digging the taters out can be damaging and some are missed altogether.

So, if the potatoes are contained, they can be harvested without missing any spuds, and the mulch gives sun protection and a nice clean medium, as opposed to dirt, at harvest time.

Step 2: What you will need:

SKILL LEVEL: Beginner; straight cuts with scissors and straight line stitching on sewing machine.

TIME: About 30 minutes to cut and sew the Totes

MATERIALS:
- Landscape fabric
- Nylon sewing thread

EQUIPMENT:
- Scissors
- Measuring tape
- Sewing machine
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aporte3 months ago

Hey I just saw your post and am wanting to try this but my hubby says that he does nto want potatoe sin the garden because of potato bugs. Did you get any bugs like that with this method? I thinkI have him half way convinced to grow potatoes this year ;)

WVSundown (author)  aporte3 months ago

Potato bugs don't seem to care what type container you grow your taters in, they will eventually find them. Companion planting does a great job of deterring the Colorado potato bug. I plant marigolds, nasturtiums, and bush beans with, and around, my potatoes and rarely have a bug problem. I hope your hubby will be relieved of concern and you can get your taters growing!

aporte WVSundown3 months ago

Also, can these be used to grow potatoes in a greenhouse / indoors rather than outside?

WVSundown (author)  aporte3 months ago

I'm sure they could be used inside as well as outside

jcrosley4 months ago

Great tutorial! Made 4 of em in about an hour! Have a tater box a friend gave me but needed some more ideas for the rest of my starts! Had to get them in some dirt a couple weeks ago cuz they were already sprouting. I have them in grocery bags w/ slits at the bottom in a large plastic bin with some soil. Going to get them in their new bags on Sunday (Happy Easter!!!) Hope they make the transition ok. Thanks for the amazing idea!

WVSundown (author)  jcrosley4 months ago

Thank you for the kind words! Sounds like you'll have plenty of taters this season! Good luck and post pics if you can.

Thanks for an great idea! Made 9 this weekend. 8 for taters and a bigger one for onions!
WVSundown (author)  anguevuberwald4 months ago

That's great! Post some pics if you can.

nalemany5 months ago

I have a question. How many potato eyes, i.e. plants do you put in a bag?

WVSundown (author)  nalemany5 months ago

I add a few (3 to 4) chunks of potatoes that have one or more eyes on each piece. Sometimes all the eyes will sprout; sometimes only a few will.

WVBonBonQueen6 months ago
So am!
I am actually looking forward to having a garden again this year.
I ordered my Heirloom seeds earlier this year, and have them in a jar waiting for the weather to be ready for them.
I am going to do most of my garden on the porch, in buckets, to keep the "critters" out of it, hopefully anyway.
I have about 20 acres to have a garden on, but... the critters take over and I get pretty discouraged about it. LOL
So... this year we are gardening on the porch, except for the potatoes and they will be near the porch too, so DH doesn't get weed wacker happy and mow them down. LOL
How much garden do you have?
WVSundown (author)  WVBonBonQueen6 months ago

I have a small lot under a shady oak grove on a northern slope, so I plant in the only ray of sunshine found in the yard. It's around 400 sq ft plot with wild critters foraging at night. I use hay bales in raised beds, arched trellises, crates, and grow bags to get the most bang from my shiny spot. Good luck with your porch fortress garden!

WVSundown (author) 7 months ago
Sure feed sacks will work! I've seen them filled with compost and soil, then planted every 10" or so all around the sack! Go for it, and happy gardening!!

I figured it would work but wanted another opinion on it, before trying it.

Our feed sacks are now made from plastic and so is the material you suggested using, so... it was just a thought.

I do know there is writing on it, but since feed is being stored it them I didn't think it would hurt the plants since it was already used for feed.

Thanks for the insight and I look forward to seeing more from you and hope to report good outcome from my endeavor with my taters. LOL

WVSundown (author)  WVBonBonQueen7 months ago
Looking forward to seeing your tater count! ;-)
WVBonBonQueen7 months ago

I wonder if this would work using 50# feed sacks? We have a lot of them every year, as we have two horses to feed and we buy them alfalfa cubes instead of hay. We have at least 40 per year, that we just usually throw away. Not counting the regular feed we buy every month too. I may have to try using those instead of buy the recommended material.

What do you think of using these bags?

juanangel1 year ago
On my first try I was able to harvest close to two pound from three plants. I plant them inside a washing machine inner drum. Great choice since it has plenty of openings for drainage. Plus it is wide for the three or more plants. I just planted them and forgot about it until harvesting. Next time I will not fill it to the top. I will plant from the bottom up to see the results. I used compost but this time I will try a mix of leaves and compost.
WVSundown (author)  juanangel1 year ago
Great idea! Let us know how you do this year, too!
maemae972 years ago
I am going to try the reusable grocery bags to grow fingerlings. I have a lot of the recyled fabric bags and thought I would give them a try. Has anyone ever used these before?
WVSundown (author)  maemae972 years ago
Sorry to take so long to reply . . . your message got lost in some others. I've researched using the fabric grocery store bags and found the only concern may be the ink used to dye the bags, or silkscreen the bag logos, might contain lead in the paint/dye. I don't know how much of the possible amount of lead would be absorbed by the plants, but would think the same would be true of re-using the feed sacks with imprinted labels.

Regardless, if you're wanting to go organic, try to find out about the lead in the paint/dye. I personally feel the risk is minimal and compared to the chemicals used on commercially grown crops we buy at the supermarket, I'm willing to risk using the shopping bags myself. I'd go for it, they're the perfect size for planting!

Good luck with your gardening!
suezq4 years ago
I love your tater totes and have tremendous leaf envy over what I see in the pictures. I have no trees yet that produce leaves and have to mow my neighbors lawn just to get grass clippings. I am too shy to knock on someone's door in the fall and beg their leaves off of them. It makes me so sad to see all those lovely leaves in bags at the curb for weeks on end knowing they are only going to our local dump. sigh... the reason I'm writing is to find out why you roll the sack down? (don't laugh, I'm a late bloomin' gardner). I love potatoes and last summer I stuffed a brown paper sack into an old mesh sack that my oranges came in. I added some dirt, stuck a sprouted tater in the bottom, filled the rest with dirt, and hung it on the fence. It looked real pretty growing there until the plant got so big it fell over. I just kept watering it not knowing when or what I'd get out of it. Come October I got sick of looking at it all withered and hanging there so I dumped it out in my compost box and low and behold I had about 12 medium sized red potatos! I didn't know about the green skin thing and thought that some of mine were just "green". You know, like not ripe. I took a bite out of one anyway and promptly spit it out. lol. Back on track..so the first potato seed is actually planted in the ground and then the rest grow in the straw and leaves with no dirt?
kajons suezq2 years ago
Get over your shyness. MOST people will be more than happy to let you take their bagged leaves or straw. Make sure you clean area and they will let you repeat or maybe even call you when they have a load. They got to be good people if they rake their yards. I used to rake a friends yard for the straw. (It would take 3 of us at least 1 FULL day making many trips) I also know a guy who gets paid to rake and he sells it.
There is a website called Freecycle http://www.freecycle.org/ Just post a request asking for folks to save their leaves for you. That way you get JUST leaves instead of mixed bags that you might pick up on the side of the road. Specify an area that you'd be willing to travel to pick up the bags. This way you don't have to worry about being shy-- everything is handled by email. You might also ask if anyone has "bunny berries" while you're at it -- good fertilizer makes good 'taters.
WVSundown (author)  suezq4 years ago
suezq, The reason to initially roll the Tote down is to create a shallow growing area for the potato to sprout. Once it sprouts and starts getting taller, fill in around the plants with mulch. As it grows taller, add more mulch, and roll up the sides of the Tote a little to contain the mulch.

The seed potato needs soil to grow the plant stems, the stems produce the new potatoes and just need protection from the sun while they're forming. You may have a potato or two form underneath the Tote in the dirt, so be sure to check!

I did notice that most all the new potatoes formed closer to the ground level, which RULES OUT "the taller the plant the more potatoes" theory!! But the Tater Tote process did seem to improve the plant growth in general.

Hope you can muster the courage to collect those leaf bags this fall!! Or maybe post a sign at your curb "Dump Bagged Leaves Here."

Good luck with your taters!!
Lee-in-Iowa2 years ago
Thanks! I'm going to try this with leftover chicken and dog food bags (cutting some drainage holes, of course).

Two ideas: 1. Drop a piece of brick or a rock into the bottom to help counterbalance the bags as the potato plants get taller. (I am a dedicated scavenger and have a small pile of partial bricks left from a patio project of recycled pavers.)

and 2. Look out for SNAKES! I used the straw-as-hilling method in my potato patch and at harvest time, the straw was full of BABY SNAKES. Wear some VERY GOOD GLOVES when you go to harvest your bag of potatoes!
WVSundown (author)  Lee-in-Iowa2 years ago
I've run into some nasty little critters mixed in the hay, but not a snake yet...eeew!! Thanks for the info!
If it had been just one.... It was a whole nest of babies, brown with white pinstripes, and they were furious to be disturbed. Every one of the little devils was striking at me while I was frantically trying to get them out of there without hurting them...using a pitchfork.
WVSundown (author)  Lee-in-Iowa2 years ago
Yeah I would have used a pitchfork, too, possibly in a different manner than you, hahaha. Seriously, snakes are good garden buddies, but a whole nest of babies are no fun at all. I got into a nest of baby copperheads once . . . I stayed indoors for a week afterward.
Lee-in-Iowa2 years ago
Someone asked whether this would work for sweet potatoes, and the answer is actually "Yes", but you would want to fill the bag completely with your soil mix and put your "slips" or starts in at the top. For those of us who try to grow sweet potatoes in Northern climates and richer soils, growing them in a container helps two ways--we can start them indoors while our weather is still cold in the spring AND we can corral them in that container so they don't wander off and make spindly little 'taters instead of a nice cluster of fat ones.
WVSundown (author)  Lee-in-Iowa2 years ago
Good idea with the sweet potatoes!
Thanks again.
nanaki2 years ago
Neato! Thanks for this. My soil is horrible, and organic potatoes are so expensive . Being a "scrounger", I'm going to try this with a 4'-0" wide canvas tarp I don't need anymore. It only has a little latex paint on it. It seems like tougher stuff than weed-fabric, but I wonder how the lighter color of the tarp will work as opposed to the dark weed-fabric. Perhaps an experiment is in order.
WVSundown (author)  nanaki2 years ago
I've known folks who took a new fresh bag of potting soil (on its side), jabbed a few holes on the side next to the ground and cut an 'X' on the side exposed to the sun, and planted veggies and flowers very successfully. I imagine a tarp would work quite well used in the same manner. You could place a few plants in a tarp roll of soil! Let us know how it works for you, and thanks for posting.
grannyjones2 years ago
Add endive to the list.
mulch only,
Blanched endive is the best.
WVSundown (author)  grannyjones2 years ago
Aaaah yes, that's the one I couldn't remember!! Thanks you!!
Jenn134 years ago
Wow!  Nice Instructable!   I have read that potatoes will keep getting taller and continue to produce more on the stems.  Can you keep the tote at 36" tall instead of cutting it to 18" and keep growing up? 

WVSundown (author)  Jenn134 years ago
Thanks, I guess you could make the Tote as tall as you want, but remember the potato plant will get top heavy and may pull the Tote over, possibly pulling up and/or exposing the plant roots. If you stake the Totes, or have them positioned in a "block" to help hold each other up, you might get by with taller Totes.
If I used soil instead of mulch, which is considerably heavier, then that would fix the toppling issue, right? In my experience, soil piled up becomes really much like a blob of concrete as long as nobody fiddles with it, especially when it is contained. So, do you think raising the height of the bags by a foot or so and using soil instead of mulch would work out?

I know that soil is harder to dig around in looking for spuds, but I don't want to take the risk of partial harvest which could hurt the plant, so I would harvest all my taters at the same time. In this case, I would really be pulling plants up, thus, using mulch for me wouldn't have much of an advantage over using soil.
WVSundown (author)  zutcom3 years ago
You could use the Totes with any medium you like with each having it's own specific pros and cons. Try a taller Tote with dirt to see how it works out, then report back here to share the experience. We all learn from each other's successes and mistakes! Good luck!
Bev
Thanks for the tips!
Brightthing4 years ago
Hello, I am a novice, and this site is a wonderful find.  Your instructable is clear and concise.  Thank you.  Can you tell me if I can use the same concept to grow sweet potatoes.  If so, can I harvest the leaves (I understand they are edible) and the potato continue to grow?  I have enjoyed reading all the comments, and your responses.  They have been very informative and enlightening.  Again, thank you.
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