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Growing Potatoes in Burlap: A Review

This is my first year with most things dirt and garden and growing. Ugly Garden officially started last year, but she was, shall we say unsophisticated? The focus was on ‘can we do this?’ rather than ‘how much food can we produce?’. This year we moved a little closer to the latter. There were diagrams and plans. We promptly ran out of room for everything we wanted to grow. Enter: Potatoes in burlap.

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Cheap supplies. Small footprint. Easy harvest and cleanup. Depending on who you read, it also encourages better airflow in the roots, keeping your spuds disease free. If it works. When you are googling all the ways to do something, the horror stories usually aren’t what pop to the top of the search results. Somewhere between when I planted these back in late March and well before I harvested a single potato I read Erica’s Total Potato Fail over at Northwest Edible Life. Concerned. Definitely, concerned.

Erica’s fail wasn’t make believe in some far off mystery garden in the ether. It was in my growing zone! Heck, she could have bought her burlap and her seed potatoes from the same place I did! I am screwed! It was too late to do anything about it. Sacks were planted. Even if they weren’t, I was without viable potato growing alternative. I prepared for my own first abject failure. This was pre-lettuce table. I needed to ride this out to it’s inevitably disappointing conclusion.

And then I grew potatoes.

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Not hoards of potatoes. But, modest potatoes all this same. That’s 1/3 of our russet harvest, minus the two biggest that The Husband couldn’t wait to eat.

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Another third. This time our lovely red potatoes, all eaten now, which fried up with the perfect combination of crispy outer to texture-y good inner. Mountain Rose was the variety. We will grow them again next year.

Things worked out a little differently for me. I’m not declaring burlap a total fail. Although, I’m guessing as to why.

Don’t Move Them! As Erica points out, burlap breaks down. Fast. The plus side there is you can compost your materials after the growing season. Downside? If you try to move these bags post-planting, they are going to rip apart in your hands. If they don’t disintegrate entirely, contents will shift and move and generally be unhappy. Find their permanent home before you add the dirt. I did a little initially adjusting within the first week. After that, they stayed put.

Water Worries Aside. As in, I didn’t have them. Maybe this was because I’d read about the sacks not holding water, and knew there was nothing I could do about it. That sense of futility kept me watering once daily, focusing on getting just the dirt, not the sack, and washing my hands of the whole affair. I didn’t sweat it. It worked out fine.

Small Hills and No Dirt. This takes a whole buncha dirt. That’s my technical definition. A whole buncha. From my additional googling, almost every method of potato growing does. At moments, I ran out of fill dirt. Oh, well. I used straw, homemade compost, reused potting soil, basically whatever I could get my hands on. Some of my sacks were smaller than they probably should have been. Such is life.

Conclusion. Am I happy I grew potatoes? Resounding Yes! Will I grow them in burlap next year? No, probably not. The key to my success (such as it was) was really reduced expectations. If I had high hopes as to yield or other years to compare it to, I probably would not have been as tickled. As it was, growing in burlap is a cheap way to try your hand at potato growing, with minimal space requirements, especially compared to the alternatives (condos, tires, and hills). This is the benefit of someone else’s total bust. Lowered expectations.

How do you grow your potatoes? Tell me about your total garden fails, taters or otherwise. Your genius ideas that ended up falling a little flat or knocking your socks off.

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Comments

Jenny
Reply

I live in a townhome surrounded on all sided by giant maple and pines, so alas, even if I was allowed to start a garden, there is no sun by which to grow it. I’ve read certain veggies do well in partial shady habitats, but have been a little gun-shy in trying them… because not only would they be lacking sun, but they’d be in containers. I am very curious to try blueberries, but just haven’t yet. As someone without a garden who desparately wants one, I love your gardening stories (failures and otherwise!). Great job with the potatoes. Even if your harvest wasn’t hugely impressive, it’s better than nothing!

dogsordollars
Reply

So nice to hear that you enjoy the trials and tribulations of Ugly Garden!

You can do lots in containers, even without much sun. Lots of greens do well. Not sure about blueberries. Being a new gardener is such a gamble.

Shannon
Reply

It looks like your potatoes turned out great! If you’re not going to grow them in burlap next year, are you going to do them right in the ground? Where does one get burlap? I’m curious where you got your seed potatoes for the russets. I’d really like to grow and store russets but never seem to see them in the seed catalogues. My personal potato growing story is on my blog, to which I have provided the link. Look in the archives under July. It’s called You Can’t Trust a Potato.

dogsordollars
Reply

You can’t trust a potato! I love it. And its true. I don’t know what my plan is for next year. I’d like to do tires, but in the ground is probably more feasible. My russet variety was rio grande. They were great!

Crystal Wayward
Reply

I am tempted to try that. As I have chronicled a lot lately, most of my garden was a fail this year, due to drought and my own laziness. On the potato front, we did well with a very modest hill around a tree stump last year. We got like 30 pounds of sweet potatoes. I have wanted to try the tire method with regular potatoes, but the Boyfriend thinks it would be too unsightly.

dogsordollars
Reply

30lbs of sweet potatoes is awesome!

Erica / Northwest Edible Life
Reply

big rubbermaid tubs + lots of Garden & Bloom soil building compst = awesome potato harvest. Also, French Fingerlings. Seriously, I’m amazed. Beyond doubt the best yield per sq foot ever. I’ll give you a few spuds next spring if you want.

dogsordollars
Reply

I may take you up on that. Course now I have to come by Rubbermaid tubs, and I’m pretty sure I got rid of some of those a couple years ago. With drainage holes or without?

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