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Best Ways to Grow Potatoes for more Yields

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Growing potatoes

Do you want to learn how to grow potatoes?

I’ve been growing potatoes for years now and I’ve had the time and space to dabble in different methods of growing them. Everyone will have a preferred method, but after trying a variety of ways I wanted to talk about my experience with each one. In this post I compare these four different growing methods: in deep containers (pallet), in burlap bags, in the ground, and using the hilled up soil technique.

First I’ll give you some tips for how to grow potatoes & then show you 5 different methods for how to grow potatoes

How to grow potatoes

Ideal pH: 5.5-6.5. Potatoes grow better in well-drained, loamy soil rich in organic matter. I’ve grown potatoes in poor soil but it does reduce yields. If your soil is heavy and clay like, double-digging really helps and add compost or manure  to increase drainage. Do not lime areas planned for potatoes. Be sure to water lots, especially when green.

Some people prefer to chop potatoes before planting as it creates more plants. Others will say that it’s not worth exposing them and increasing potential diseases. I personally do not cut the potatoes before planting. If you do cut them make sure they have a couple of good ‘eyes’.

Growing potatoesDeep Container Method: via the Pallet Project

I was first sold by this deep container method with the promise of something like 100lbs by using a large deep container. The idea is that the taller the potato plant grows, the more soil is added until you’ve doubled or tripled the height. With the increased soil depth, the volume of growing space increases and thus the potatoes yield. That’s a general rule of thumb for growing potatoes.

Does it work?

It’s true that the deeper the soil is the more potatoes you’ll get. I can vouch for that. However for some reason every time I’ve tried to grow potatoes in deep containers its failed me. I was super excited for this, and yet, my yields were terrible (compared to the yield I should have had) . I believe the main reason was lack of light. While the potato tubers themselves should be grown away from light, the leaves need it to grow and thrive to get tall enough to keep mulching. I used soil, straw and wood chips to mulch them as they grew. However the green parts were so short that mulching was almost pointless. They grew very slowly, probably because of poor soil quality too, and didn’t get close to the top like they should have, only about half way up before the greens stopped growing, and thus a crappy yield.

Grow potatoes in a pallet container

Would I try this method again?

Maybe. The soil would fall out the sides of the pallets so it wasn’t the most ideal container. I’ve yet to try other deeper container methods to know if this is a definite fail. There are many people who swear by growing potatoes in containers but so far I’ve had no such luck.

Burlap Bag Method

Did you know you can grow potatoes in burlap bags? If you didn’t, you know now. What I liked best about this method is that you can fold the burlap bags all the way down, then roll it up as the plant grows/as you need or as you need to add more soil/mulch. I noticed that there was more light that could get to the plants compared to the pallet container method.

Growing potatoes in burlap bags

Does it work?

Yes, but to be honest the yield wasn’t amazing. I think the main challenge with the burlap bags is consistent water retention. The water would simply leak out of the burlap bag holes quicker than the soil could absorb it. Like any container growing, the soil gets dry quickly compared to a garden bed and potatoes need lots of water during the green growing stage.

Would I try this method again?

I think I might try this one more time, maybe with larger bags, just to be sure it doesn’t yield more.

How to grow potatoes

The ‘In The Ground Method’

I’ve grown potatoes quite a few times using the ‘in the ground leave them be method’, especially when I was new to gardening. There is no adding soil or mulch to the plants, and other than watering, you just let them grow.

Growing potatoes in a keyhole permaculture garden bed

Does it work?

Yes, we ended up with a good yield, but as you can see below, the plants got very tall. The depth of growing space is thus greatly reduced. The ‘in the ground method’ still yielded higher than the container or the burlap bag methods (for me) and I accredit it to the plants being healthier and larger from lots of sunlight and better water retention.

How to grow more potatoes

The ‘Hilled Up Soil’ Technique

This is hands down my favourite way to grow potatoes as it’s resulted in a higher yield every time compared to the other growing methods. It uses the same principle of the container method in that as the plants grow, you keep adding soil so that there’s increased depth to grow more tubers.

I loved that I could just rake up  ‘or hill up’ more soil & straw as the plants got bigger. It was much easier in my opinion than trying to add soil to the pallet container or rolling up the burlap bags.

Before adding more soil & mulch

Growing potatoes 'hilled up' technique

Freshly hilled up soil and straw leaving the tops of the plants for more growth

Hilling up potatoes for more yields

Does it work?

Yes it does!!! However I will say that the potato plants ended up being way too tall. I kept hilling up the soil but it got to a point that the soil was falling down too much (past the 3.5 feet mark). I ended up hacking them down because they were still green by mid-August and I needed the plants to focus on tuber growth. There might of been too much nitrogen in the soil. 

Red potato flowers in bloom

 Conclusion

So which is the best method for growing potatoes? 

I would say for me, the ‘hilled up’ method is my favourite way to grow potatoes. I would be happy if I could somehow get my container potato plants to be as large and luscious as the hilled up ones I’ve grown. Perhaps time will tell if it can be done.

What has been your experience been with the different potato growing methods? What has worked best for you?

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Comments

  1. I agree, I tried all the above methods and the hilling gives the biggest yield. I cut off the flowers so they don’t go to seed. I see yours have flowers and wondered if you cut them after the photos were taken?

  2. Built a 2’x2’x12″ box, 2″ of compost on the bottom, topped off with crushed leaves,and let it winter over.. so far so good

  3. I’ve grown in-ground and in-barrel. In-ground was better. The problem I have is storing the potatoes. They rot. This year I thought I’d do the large plastic flower pot with another pot inside. Don’t know if I can explain this. You take a large plastic pot and cut out the sides, leaving a framework. Then put it inside another pot, layer dirt and potatoes. As potatoes grow, add more dirt, straw, compost, etc. When you want to harvest some potatoes, you pull the inside pot up and take off some of the potatoes, leaving the rest to grow. Hope it works.

  4. The bag method works for sweet potatoes. When setting them up place them next to each other-touching. That way when you need to water it won’t run to the sides. At harvest you dump the bag and the sweet potatoes will not get damaged by the shovel. I have used a 20 gallon grow bags. They are black to keep out light of the root zone and to absorb the heat from the sun.
    I also prefer the hill method for my other potato crops.
    Hope this helps.
    Happy Gardening!
    Charlene

    • That’s so great to know Charlene! I haven’t tried growing sweet potatoes yet, maybe this year 🙂
      Happy gardening to you as well

  5. I heard if u stack up four tires, filling each one with dirt and potato pieces, stack them, fill middle with dirt as u go. And when they grow taters, just knock the tires over and pull em out

    • I’ve heard of people doing that, always worried about the rubber in the tires leaching things into the soil. Great use of space though!

  6. Many years ago, my mother laid cut potato pieces on the ground and covered all with straw…..I think she added more straw as the plants emerged, much like hilling up the plants in soil……the nice thing about this plan is that the spuds were very clean when harvested

    • Great tip 🙂
      I often mulch them with straw later once the dirt falls down too much from hilling, I find the straw stays easier but sometimes there’s too much light going through to the spuds and making them green (so long as it’s thickly covered it works great though!).

  7. I found out that potatoes, like tomatoes, have taller (indeterminate) & limited/shorter (determinate)varieties. The determinates will not keep growing more & more as you add dirt. Yukon Golds are det. Of course I learned this after I tried that method with them ! 🙁 Oh, well 🙂

    • Definitely! The early season potatoes aren’t good for the deeper container methods as they don’t grow tall. I learned the hard way too. You always remember those lessons though 😉

  8. Any thoughts on using a repurposed bag, such as an animal feed bag, rather then burlap? From what I’ve read you need to poke drainage holes in the bottom, so I’d guess side leakage isn’t an issue. I only have cats and dogs, and I’m a bit leary of growing in those bags, but I haven’t had a good enough harvest from in-the-ground potatoes to justify the space they take! I’m playing with various planters this year, but don’t know what to try next if this flops.

    • I haven’t thought about using a feed bag, our chicken feed comes in a thick paper bag so I’m assuming you’re talking about a canvas one? I imagine any container could work, the only thing is that sometimes containers have a chemical residue depending on what container is was 🙂
      Best of luck!

  9. I have tried growing potatoes in bags 2 years in a row without success. I will go back to the good old “growing in the ground method” this year. Glad to see that I am not the only one having trouble with the bag method.

    • It’s a nice idea to grow in containers but I’ve yet to make it a success. Thanks for sharing your experience too 🙂

  10. I feel better hearing that containers didn’t work for you either. So many people swear by this method but I just can’t seem to get it right. I’m trying a new idea this year, its in the ground but with bags that are open at the bottom so i can roll up and fill as the get taller but still have the benefit of the ground. Hold thumbs….

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Many of the links to products on this site are affiliate links. These are products that I've used or recommend based from homesteading experience. I do make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) from these sales.Family Food Garden is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
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