Introduction: Growing Paper Bag Potatoes
Hi! In this instructable I'm going to show you how to grow potatoes in a paper bag.
I came up with this method because the soil in my yard is very hard and full of clay and rocks which is not very good for growing potatoes. An internet search suggested growing them in plastic soil bags but I always ended up with stunted and/or rotting potatoes because the plants quickly become root bound and the plastic traps too much moisture. The paper bag allows the soil to breathe and degrades over time so the roots can escape if they need too.
I wasn't planning on turning my experiment into an instructable but since it worked out so well and there's a potato contest I decided to give it a shot.
To grow paper bag potatoes you'll need:
- Seed Potatoes (Try to stick with smaller varieties of potatoes)
- Large Paper Bags (How many of these you need depends on how many seed potatoes you're planting. Four potatoes per bag worked good for me)
- Garden soil (about one regular sized bag of soil per two paper bags)
- Compost (since I used my own compost I'm not sure on exact measurements but you need about half as much compost as you have garden soil)
- A Box (The box needs to be big enough to fit over you paper bags filled with soil. If you have a lot of bags you'll probably need multiple boxes. The box isn't required but it will make your plants produce more potatoes)
- A Sharp Knife
Step 1: Prepare Your Soil
In a large tub or on the ground if your careful, mix together the soil and compost at about two parts garden soil to one part compost. My soil was already fairly wet when I mixed it but if yours is dry, add some water to make it a little damp.
Step 2: Filling the Bags
For each bag, start by filling it about quarter of the way up with your soil mixture and then gently set two of your seed potatoes on the soil with any sprouts they have pointing towards one of the sides of the bag. Now fill the bag up to about halfway and set two more potatoes in there with their sprouts pointing the same direction as the first two. Finally, fill the bag with more soil until it's about three-quarters full and then fold the tops to seal the bag.
Step 3: Planting the Paper Bags
Chose a place that gets a lot of sun to grow your potatoes. Before plopping the bags down where you want them to grow, dig into the ground a little bit to soften it. Set the bags down with the side the potato sprouts are pointing facing up, and the tops of the bags pressed against each other to keep them sealed. Now, pack some of the loose dirt around the bottom of the bags.
That's about it for a week or so. I was getting a lot of rain at this time so I didn't have to water but if your's start to look dry give your paper bags a good soaking with water. After a about a week I took a sharp knife and carefully cut a bunch of slits on the top of the bags so the potato plants could grow throw them.
I added dates to some of the pictures so you can get an idea of a timeline for these these plants. They do take a while but mine took a little extra time getting started because I planted them while it was still chilly out.
Step 4: Potato Sprouts and Boxing the Plants
After a little over a month, my potatoes started to poke up through the soil and then the plants started growing very fast. Once the plants were about 10 or so inches tall I cut the bottom out of a box and slipped it over the plants and paper bags, filled it with more soil, and topped it off with some pine straw to help the soil retain moisture (pine straw was all I had at the time but regular straw would work just as good or better).
The box and extra dirt will cause the plants to produce more because any where the plants touch dirt they will grow more potatoes. Over the next couple months I occasionally added more dirt and straw to keep the box full. Be sure to water them often if they need it but don't keep them soaking wet. The plants will should let you know if they need water when their leaves start to wilt. It was a pretty wet spring here so I only ended up watering mine a handful of times.
Step 5: Harvesting the Taters
After about three months, It was getting warmer out and the plants started to die back from the heat which meant it was time to start harvesting them. By this time the paper bag had mostly disintegrated and the box was starting to wear out. I used a knife to cut along one of the corners of the box, opened it a little bit, and dug around for some potatoes. I grabbed as many as a needed and taped the box back together so the plants could finish growing some of the smaller potatoes and I could harvest the rest later. I got two nice sized harvests of potatoes and a mole got the third.
Paper bag potatoes are an easy and cheap way to grow potatoes for anyone who has bad soil or limited room. This method worked really good for me and I will be planting more potatoes this way next spring. I hope you liked my instructable!
(I also added a picture of my dog, Tater, for good luck!)
Participated in the
Potato Speed Challenge