Tater Totes: Potato Grow Bags

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Semi-retired design-drafter, enjoying my garden, a lil writing, and making stuff from recycled ma...

Intro: Tater Totes: Potato Grow Bags

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.


Step 1: 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

Step 3: Tater Tote Construction:

The landscape fabric I had on hand was a partial roll 36" wide. I cut the remaining fabric on the roll down the middle, making each half 18" wide strips. I cut the strips into 48" long pieces.

Fold the fabric in half and sew the short ends together with nylon sewing thread at least 1/2" from the edge. For more stability, I folded the finished seam to one side and sewed it down, too (see display photo).

Sew darts about 3" long at each corner along the bottom. Pull opening apart between darts to fold fabric in opposite direction to sew two more darts at the bottom, being careful to leave an opening (see diagrams below).

When you are finished with the sewing portion, you should have a square hole in the bottom of your Tater Tote ready for planting (see last photo below)!

These Totes finished out at around 14-15" in diameter and about 16-18" tall, but you can make them any size you want or your materials allow.

Step 4: Planting Taters in Totes:

Place a biodegradable mulch material (newspaper, cardboard) on the ground for weed control where you would like to plant your Tater Totes.

Measure the diameter of your Totes and use this dimension from center to center between your Totes. Cut out holes through the paper to expose the ground where your Totes will be positioned over.

Roll the sides of your Tater Totes down until they form a shallow bag. Place the Totes over the holes in the paper. Dig very shallow holes in the ground to plant your seed potato and lightly cover with soil and compost.

Place a rock or two in the bottom of the Totes to weigh them down. Place a layer of mulch in the bottom of the Totes to cover the spuds. Mulch can be anything you have plenty of like: shredded leaves or paper, hay, straw, sawdust, etc.

Step 5: Add the Mulch:

As the potato leaves grow, unroll the sides of the Tater Totes a little at a time to allow more mulch to be placed around plants. Planting a group of Tater Totes at one time allows the plants to help support each other.

Step 6: Spud Harvesting:

The potato plants will continue to grow well beyond the height of the Tater Totes and become top heavy and may fall over. At that time you may want to check around near the bottom of the bag for potatoes.

If you're careful, you may be able to harvest spuds without damaging the plants, allowing the smaller potatoes to continue growing.

Happy harvest!!

Step 7: The Final Tater Tote Numbers:

I will place updated information about the final numbers like: height, pounds of harvested potatoes, and notes on this Step.

THIS YEAR (2009):

- I lightly fertilized the soil before planting with composted manure with sawdust and green sand mix, and only fertilized once afterward with liquid fish emulsion before the rains came and stayed for 6 weeks. By then the plants were so huge I saw no need to fertilize.

- 9 out of 10 red potato plants survived the constant rain. I attribute that to the porous Tote fabric which allowed good air circulation, and water drainage.

- The one plant that died showed signs of severe rot (blight?) and an infestation of slugs, both caused by the wet weather. The rot was located within a layer of hay mulch I used when I ran short of the shredded leaves. My best guess is that it was not the hay, as much as mixed mulches, that caused the rot. The shredded leaf mulch is heavier and compacted the hay layer, possibly trapping moisture in that area.

- I used bush beans and nasturtiums as companion plants and had no bug problems at all. There were plenty of earthworms living in the Tote mulch.

The final tally is in:
I harvested approximately 1-3/8 pounds (0.63 kg) of red potatoes per Tater Tote.

I harvested twice from 4 of the Totes and kept the plants intact for a second harvest, but chopped them back to within 18" of the Tote because they shaded the sun from other plants.

At least 2 potatoes were found in the dirt UNDER each Tote!

NEXT YEAR:

- I will definitely reuse these Tater Totes and make a bunch more.
- I will not mulch between the bags to allow more air flow and water drainage.
- I will cut back (trim) the potato plants after they reach 2' over the top of the bag.
- I will plant them in blocks of 9 (3 plants x 3 plants) for easier care, and they can more evenly support each other.
- I will plant at least one traditional hill of potatoes as a control for comparison purposes (I don't believe traditionally grown potatoes would have survived the wet weather this season).

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2 People Made This Project!

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140 Discussions

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WVSundown

1 year ago

egull2, I have never heard of the Demo Bags. They look great and the price is very reasonable too! I'll have to see if I can find them here! Good luck with your tater crop and thanks so much for the heads up and sharing your pics!

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Pa1963

2 years ago

I've read, in the Mother Earth News I think, that tires can leach such things as heavy metals and oil based nasties into your growing medium, so that might be something to consider.

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I used a combination of composted leaves and straw. I liked the composted leaves best and think the tater did, too! Use whatever you have handy.

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JimF5

3 years ago on Introduction

I grew potatoes last season with great success. I did quite a bit of studying before I started. We did use grow bags that I purchased and found in my study that you dont want to add lime to your mix as potatoes like a more acid soil. And also I was told use a more full season potato like Kennebec which I did. I only tried it as a trail with one 7 Gal grow bag with 3 sets in it and when we dumped it out we found 10 pounds of multi sized taters some very large. All were perfect with no blems of any kind. Also I learned that potato beetles will not bother as much. I will be planting many bags this way this year.

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WVSundownJimF5

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

That's a great potato production!! Tater bugs get confused if you plant marigolds and nasturtiums so they'll help keep them away from your tater crop.

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JstCamie

3 years ago on Introduction

This looks like a great idea. I like how you start with a small layer, with the bag rolled down and as they grow, and you hill them, you unroll the bag. I am going to try this. Plus, storage of these after will be much easier.

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aporte

4 years ago on Introduction

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 ;)

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WVSundownaporte

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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!

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aporteWVSundown

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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

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jcrosley

4 years ago on Introduction

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!

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WVSundownjcrosley

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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

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anguevuberwald

4 years ago

Thanks for an great idea! Made 9 this weekend. 8 for taters and a bigger one for onions!

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WVSundownnalemany

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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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?

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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!