On the Deck: Potatoes in Compost Bag

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Like some of you, I don't have access to land to grow fruits and vegetables. My space is confined to a 10 x 10 ft deck that gets about 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. While some might find this limiting, I've risen to the challenge to see how much produce I can actually get off this deck this summer.

Because I don't have land, this means I can't grow the vining crops like cucumbers, squash, and others. It means I also can't grow corn which needs a number of rows for good pollination. I am limited to growing in containers then.

Even in containers, you can grow many different crop families. Leafy greens do quite well in containers as their root needs are limited. You can grow herbs, cole crops, tomatoes, peppers, and others in containers. The 5 gallon buckets found at home and garden stores work surprisingly well for growing crops that have deeper root demands. I'm currently growing tomatoes in these 5 gallon buckets and more information on that to come in the next week.

Today though I want to discuss potatoes in compost bags. This idea came to me through a discussion with a colleague and seemed like an interesting experiment to see how well it works. I've further keep visiting community gardens and farms where I see potatoes being grown above ground. In 2nd photo, potatoes are being grown in a soil media at the community gardens at GPS Church in Machesney Park.

Due to my space limitations of a deck, I decided to grow mine in a compost bag. To set this up, you need: compost, seed potatoes, and fertilizer. The compost bag is going to act as the "grow bag" for the potatoes. You'll empty the compost bag and make some holes in the bottom to allow for drainage. This is especially important as the water will just sit in the bag if you don't do this. You might want to stick with smaller potato variety like a red or fingerling as the Yukon Gold plant can get pretty large. Your compost will not fully address your potato plant's nutritional needs as it has very limited NPK.

For the initial planting, roll the compost sides all the way down, add about 2 inches of compost, mix in a general fertilizer, add a seed potato piece (1-2 good eyes), and cover with about an inch of compost. As the potatoes grow, you'll add more compost and roll the sides of the compost bag up. By the end of the growing season, the bag should be fully unrolled and harvest will consist of emptying the bag out.

This is an experiment. I may find my yield is low. I may find I didn't place enough holes for drainage. I may find I've put too many seed potatoes into the bag. We will find out.

For updates on the potatoes, follow the Facebook page of Local Foods and Small Farms-Jo Daviess, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties.