Monthly Archives: August 2014

Growing Potatoes in Containers Garbage Can Harvest

Let me start by saying that it is things like this that really make me hate gardening sometimes. I had big hopes for growing potatoes in containers this year, I went out and purchased a huge bag of peat moss to grow them in since I knew they like a bit of acidity and a nice, loose medium to grow in, I made sure they had enough sun, water, nutrients, etc and in the end, I pretty much got nothing.

That being said, I will try again next year, and can add one more item to the list of what not to do in the future. I just found this particularly frustrating, I think it’s the same as the rare times I buy a lottery ticket, then get disappointed when I don’t win, because I am already spending the money in my head. It’s just that this time the money was potatoes and the spending was all of the delicious ways I could prepare them.

Enough whining from me for now, let’s look at the harvest!

I harvested the container on August 19 in my usual fashion; I just dumped the container out onto a tarp and sifted through with my hands to find all of the potatoes. This time I wish I had worn gloves though, as the seed potatoes were a disgusting mass of watery mush and even though it was contained inside the skin, that skin broke open easily and got all over my hands. That always seems to happen and it always grosses me out, one year I will remember gloves.

Growing Potatoes in Containers Ready for Harvest

This is what the plants looked like before I dumped out the soil.

There wasn’t really much to find, and every potato that I did find was actually in the Mel’s Mix (from the Square Foot Gardening Method) at the bottom of the barrel, not a single potato, not even one of the tiny ones was found in the peat moss. I found this odd, since I had read in numerous places that peat is great for growing potatoes in. From my barrel which had 8 or so plants in it, I got 23 potatoes, 9 medium-large ones, and 14 small-tiny ones.

Growing Potatoes in Containters Garbage Can Harvest

Here’s what I got, not much more than either of the bags.

What seemed to happen with it, and I should have taken a picture of it, was that once it was wet, the peat just clumped together, not unlike it does when you’re taking it out of one of those bricks you can buy it in. I think that growing in some peat moss would work great, as long as you have something else added to it as to not to let the clumps form. Whether that is potting mix, compost, vermiculite, sand, straw, or whatever you decide, it needs something else in there with it. It should work better, but I think I might just mix up some Mel’s Mix for it next year instead.

On the plus side, I did finally get some Gladiolas to bloom, we’ve tried growing them before and they never worked, then no one dug up the corms and we lost them to winter kill. Since my Instagram widget isn’t working at the moment (between writing this and editing it, the widget was updated and fixed) I’ll post the picture here as a positive way to end the post. It’s moments where I can share pictures like that with you all that makes me love gardening and the work I put into it… That and the amazingly good food that comes from it.

That colour is not what I expected from the corms I bought on eBay, but I sure do love it!

That colour is not what I expected from the corms I bought on eBay, but I sure do love it!

Growing Potatoes in Containers Potato Bag Harvest

These potatoes were harvested on July 30, but unfortunately I never got around to writing this post until now, in the middle of August.

It has been a busy spring and summer for me all around this year, along with building the greenhouse, I have been picking up some extra work, expanding the garden areas and because of this, I have missed some crucial opportunities not only in the garden, but socially as well. One of the things I missed in the garden was putting the last of the peat moss into the potato bags, so the harvest came a little earlier than I thought it would.

The bags still had about three more inches that I could have rolled up and filled by the time the potatoes started to die back, but I could never find the time to actually get out there and do it. Those times that I did have time, I completely forgot about it and it never got done. This is something I am terrible at, but in the last week or so I have been putting tasks into my phone’s calendar to buzz at me to remind me of little things I would otherwise forget, it’s working pretty well so far. If you have the same problem, give it a try, if you remember to put the tasks into the calendar, it’s hard to forget when it’s time to get them done.

Potato bags

The potatoes on the left had their branches kept intact and buried with the stems, the one sin the bag on the right had their branches removed before burying the stems.

If you recall from the other posts that I made about the container potatoes, I was doing a little experiment with the potatoes in these bags. In one bag, I cut off all of the branches below where I buried them up to, and in the other I left the branches as they were. The picture above shows the two bags, on the right is the bag with the branches cut off, and on the left is the bag where the branches were buried. As you can see, viewed from the top, there wasn’t much difference in either one.

To harvest the bags, I used a trick that I adapted from mixing up Mel’s Mix for my square foot garden beds. Instead of mixing the soil on a tarp like he did, I just dumped out the bags one at a time to avoid mixing up which potatoes came from where onto the tarp and moved the soil around taking out the plants and potatoes until none were left. Once finished, it makes it easy to dump the soil back into a container leaving clean up a snap. I highly recommend this trick, and I am sure I’m not the first to think of it.

The Results

Though I planted four seed potatoes in each bag, the bag with the branches cut off only had three successfully grow. That means that for this experiment, I will be taking the average potato per plant as the comparative numbers, instead of just how many potatoes there were in each bag as I would have if an equal number of plants had grown.

Potato Bags Harvest July 30

The harvest from both potato bags on July 30, 2014.

As you can see from the picture, the bag with the branches cut off actually produced one more potato on one less plant. This leaves us with an average of 4.3 potatoes per plant. The bag ended up with 6 large to medium sized potatoes out of the 13 that came out of it.

The bag with the branches left on however, only produced 12 potatoes for 4 plants, this averages out to 3 potatoes per plant. Though it has 8 medium to large sized potatoes, which is 2 more than the non-branched bag had.

I was disappointed with the harvest at first, until I spoke with a friend of mine who has been gardening with his parents since he was able to walk, and he said it seemed like a normal harvest. They usually plant four pieces of seed potato per hill, and get about 10-15 potatoes from each one. This turned my thoughts on the potato bags around, if you can get as much as a hill of potatoes (maybe more if I was on the ball filling them better) then I am happy with it, and they are a lot easier on the back to harvest than potatoes grown in the ground.

About the Experiment

In the end, this was not really a fair test, scientifically speaking. Using a different amount of plants in one bag vs. the other and taking the average isn’t really a good way to perform the test. It was also a very small scale test, and even though I used the same types of bags, seed potatoes from the same box, soil medium from the same sources, and kept them in the same area, that area wasn’t sterile, and small factors could have made a big difference. I also should have weighed the potatoes from each bag for another set of statistics to look over.

That being said, I think we can look at the results and have a good start of some information that we can use to grow better potatoes. It seems, from this experiment, that you can get more potatoes (albeit mostly small ones) from plants that the branches have been cut off of before the stems are buried. If you want larger potatoes, but fewer of them, keep the branches on when you hill them.

I may, or may not try this test again next season to see if it works out the same, I will decide that come spring, but if you want to try it, or if you have experience with growing the potatoes with and without branches in the hill, let me know how it went for you in the comments below, I’d love to hear what others have found out in their own experiences.