Potatoes: Third time’s a charm?

I’m just going to put this out there. I suck at growing potatoes. It doesn’t feel good to admit this. Most gardeners and books will tell you it’s so easy. Just fill up a garbage can a little at a time with your potato starts and before you know it,  you’ll have a can-full of potatoes! Uh, yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve spread the tarp out on the lawn, dumped the garbage can onto the blue plastic with anticipation, and had my hopes dashed upon finding a pound of baby potatoes, at best. That’s it?!

To my credit, I never gave up. No, I tried again. I’ll try potato towers this time. Yeah, I thought, that’ll do the trick! I didn’t really have the straw it suggested or the containers, but I’d make do with what I had. Oh, and they grew. The plants got huge as I filled up the containers, a little at a time. This time, I thought, I’ve done it. When the plants died off, a sign that it’s time to harvest, I unhooked the towers expecting potatoes to come raining down. But, what came raining down, was dirt, some dead plant material, and just under two pounds of potatoes. Again, I whined, that’s it?!

So, I’m back at it. The third time’s the charm, right? It better be or I’m going to leave this potato business to my favorite farmers’ market potato guys at Olsen’s. I’m going with burlap this time. Similar method, different container. Following these guidelines, I planted five burlap sacks with Yukon Golds and Purple Majestic potato starts. I know there are a lot of variables that could have affected my potato harvest. It could have been water that did it, overwatering/soggy soil (rot) or dried out soil (a common problem in container gardening, especially in warm, sunny spots). It also could have been the depth of the soil or the way I was covering the emerging plants with soil. Maybe it could have been overcrowding. Just looking at the plant placement in my potato tower picture above makes me cringe – what kind of spacing is that? They’re practically falling out of the tower! Whatever the reason, I’m back on the saddle with my fingers crossed, hoping that this summer, I’ll be reaping the harvest I’ve always hoped for.

What do you do to harvest potatoes at home?

13 thoughts on “Potatoes: Third time’s a charm?

  1. Kara

    I’ve had very similar experiences with potatoes so far…but with slightly sadder results! This time, I just planted them in the ground, and figured I’d see what happened. No containers, no piling, just in the ground. We’ll see. (Can’t be any worse than my previous attempts!)

  2. Joanna

    I’m going back to in the ground, well in a raised bed. We tried some sort of tower thing last year and they just didn’t produce. I’ve had good results in the ground. I’m hopeful this year, but if not it will be back to Olsen’s for me too. 🙂

  3. Michelle

    I’m going to second (third?) that growing in the ground is the way to get the best yields, at least in Seattle. That being said, I get that not everyone has room in the ground, since my potatoes will be going in towers or containers this year, due to garden renovations and space issues.
    Also, keep in mind that some varieties just don’t put out gangbuster yields. My experience with fingerlings is that they don’t produce much poundage, but the flavor makes up for it.

  4. Lindsey @ NW Backyard Veggies

    I ripped a Ruth Stout this year – cut the seed potatoes up for the eyes, buried them just under the surface of the really super rich soil, and covered with 8 inches of straw.


    If they don’t grow this year, I’m done too. This will be my 3rd year as well and sometimes you just gotta know when to fold ’em.

  5. SMB

    Well, shoot. This is my first year trying and I’ve got some seed potatoes “chitting” in my sunroom, but this is making me feel a little nervous.

    Does anyone else buy seed potatoes? My boyfriend made fun of me.

    1. stacy Post author

      I do – buy seed potatoes, I mean. After all the bad luck I’ve had, I wouldn’t go any other way. 🙂 Good luck with your spuds! Let me know how it goes!

  6. SMB

    How are your taters coming? I build a potato “cage” with paving stones and rebar. I’ve piled the dirt up about 2′ but the things keep growing–they’re almost as tall as me now (I’m 5’2″). I know I crowded the seed potatoes, though, so we’ll see if I actually get anything…

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  8. Debs

    I just popped over here from a link on 12 strategies. Did you know (i didn’t) that potatoes, like tomatoes come in determinant and indeterminate? Modern potatoes are determinant which is better for machine harvest. The old fashioned potatoes that give me happier results in a tower are indeterminate. I did not believe this when I first read it and searched the net for info. The oldest post I could find was only 2 years old but it did say that the old Red LaSoda and many (but not all) Russets. I have put the indeterminate Burbank Russet in my tower but have not harvested that neglected tower yet…..so we shall see.

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