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Why grow potatoes in shopping bags?

Here are a few reasons:

1. No hard digging
Traditionally, potatoes are grown in trenches, which are then earthed up. Especially in heavy clay soil, this can be backbreaking.

2. Optimising growing space
The bags take up a lot less room than the traditional rows of spuds. Until the plants break the surface, they can be placed cheek-by-jowl, then moved apart so the plants do not compete for light.

3. Easy harvesting
Once the potatoes are ready to harvest, you simply empty the whole bag out onto a tarpaulin and pick out the potatoes. There is no need for a second spell of heavy digging, no chance of spearing potatoes with a fork and no bed of potato plants growing next year, from the tubers you missed.

4. Cost
Heavy-duty shopping bags are cheaper than "proper" potato bags and probably more durable than most.

5. Versatility
Should you wish, you could start growing your potatoes early in a greenhouse or polytunnel, then move them outdoors once the weather allows. You can also put them back under cover if late frosts are forecast.

6. Better yields
I grew potatoes in 15 bags in 2020, and also in a 6 x 4 metre bed on a neighbouring allotment. The bags took less than half the space, but yielded about 60% more potatoes.


Preparing the bags

I bought these heavy-duty shopping bags from B&Q for £1 each, but they needed drainage holes. If you are standing them on gravel or well-drained soil, then you can put the holes in the base. If not, I have found the holes in the base can get clogged up, so holes around the sides work better.

Click thumbnails for larger images


Materials & Tools

Heavy-duty shopping bags
Soldering or pyrography iron


Step 1

Open out the bag.

Step 2

Melt holes near the base of the bag with a hot soldering iron. Do this outdoors or in a well-ventilated space.

Step 3

Make two holes on each side of the bag as shown in the photo.


Growing potatoes in bags


Step 1

First, chit the potatoes. Place the potatoes in an egg box and stand them in a warm, light place, but not in direct sunlight. A north-facing windowsill is an ideal spot. They should produce "chits" as shown.


Step 2

Sieve your soil or compost to remove any stones, twigs or large clods of clay. If you are using good-quality fresh compost you may not need to sieve it.


Step 3

Fill the bags to a depth of about 5cm / 2" with sieved soil or compost.

Step 4

Push your potatoes gently into the soil with the chits facing upward.

Step 5

Cover with another 5-8cm / 2-3" of sieved soil or compost. Water well.

Step 6

You can fill the bags close to the top now, or wait for the first shoots to appear first, then earth them up.



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