Monday, September 10, 2012

Perfect Potato Grow Bag Harvest!

At last I found the courage!

After problems with keeping the potato grow bag moist, an ant attack, pill bugs, and a sudden bout of regrowth, I decided, thanks to the comment of a wonderful reader by the name of Cacheon, that it was time to get out there and see what came of my potato plants.

Would my harvest be diseased?  Would it be rotting?

                                                                               ...would I even have a harvest?

Yep.  I was scared, but I realized that I couldn't just sit around waiting for some sort of miraculous hint as to when it would be safe to harvest.

So I went outside with a trash bag to dump the soil out onto, and got ready for the inevitable moment of truth.

harvest preparation

At first, I was seized with absolute fear.  I saw nothing but dirt in the gigantic pile.  Healthy dirt, yes, but just...

I knew it.  I had failed.  I circled the heap, staring intently, feeling a deep sense of loss.

But then...

lone potato poking out of dirt pile

I saw one perfect potato poking out through the pile of dirt.

I dropped to my knees and reached into the soil to retrieve it.  As I did, the earth began to fall away from the top of the pile, and I began to see more potatoes!!!

Giggling in relief, no doubt sounding like a madwoman, I continued to furiously sift through all of the soil I had dumped out of the potato grow bag.

At long last, I had dug up every last potato.

Good Harvest!

My harvest was complete, and I was overjoyed.  Several perfectly round potatoes were staring up at me.  Only one had a slight flaw in shape.

You'll notice, however, that the potato sizes are not the same.  I had a few that were very small, so I knew that those would only work in dishes like soups and casseroles... things that didn't require a potato to be peeled.

Indeed, there were even a few still connected to the roots that were way too small to use.

little white baby potato on roots
That tiny, round white thing is a baby potato.

Naturally, I decided to re-bury the roots.  Will anything come of this?


But I'll never know if I don't try, right?

No matter what the outcome of this re-burial is, I'll be happy.  I have my potatoes, and the only thing that matters now is finding out what will or won't happen.  'It's all icing on the cake', as the saying goes.

What did I learn from this harvest, you ask?

I learned that keeping the soil evenly moist in a potato grow bag  is important.  

The top four inches of soil were completely devoid of potatoes.  This layer of soil was almost constantly dry.  If it had been continually moist, I may have had potatoes growing at that layer, as well.

Why do I think this?

Well, the itty bitty white baby potatoes were at the top - and they were quite obviously new growth.  This would coincide with these last few weeks, in which I I threw everything into keeping the soil moist to make the bag inhospitable to the ants that had begun chewing away at the plants.

Pill bugs aren't a danger to potato plants.  

They eat the dead stuff within the soil, and are indicative of good, healthy dirt.  Not one potato had signs of pest problems.

In a grow bag made from a reusable shopping bag, don't go overboard with the number of potato pieces planted.

Only two of the plants produced potatoes.  I believe this is due to the size of the bag, and how much soil the plants were able to take nutrients from.  Planting the potato pieces in two separate bags may have enabled me to harvest even more potatoes than I did.

No fertilizer is required.

I only used grass clippings and pulled up weeds (minus the seed pods, of course!).  I placed them in the grow bag while still green, so that they could produce food for the plants as they broke down.  This also ensured that the potato plants had plenty of mulch.

This green DIY project is something that I'll definitely continue next year, using what I've learned from this harvest.  The potato grow bag was a great addition to my edible garden, and it was relatively easy to care for.

Very little space is required, so it can even be done on the balcony of an apartment building, although I'd recommend using some sort of tray beneath the bag - water that flows through the drainage holes can be pretty messy.

The next time one of your reusable grocery bags decides to rip, don't throw it out!  Reuse it!  It'll make the perfect potato grow bag.

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