Grow Potatoes in a Coffee Sack

Sharon Hanna takes a page from Jamie Oliver's book and grows potatoes in a burlap bag.

Credit: Sharon Hanna

Above: Sharon’s experiment
to grow potatoes in a
burlap sack began May 8.

According to friends, this technique was recently popularized by Jamie Oliver.

You can place your potato sack anywhere that has enough sunlight (6 hours or so midday)—even on the back steps, or where ever.

It’s okay to start these early (March or earlier) in a greenhouse or sheltered spot, but be sure to move the sack to it’s “permanent” location before it gets too heavy and unwieldy! Some folks like to put it on a piece of board for this purpose.

Please note: I am trying this for the first time! But so far, so good.

Very important: Don’t use “early” potatoes—best to use mid- to late season maturers. If you use early maturing potatoes, this method won’t work because the potatoes will be ready to dig when the sack is barely half full—or so I hear.

How to grow potatoes in a burlap bag

1) Get a coffee sack or, I guess, a potato sack if you can find one. JJ Bean, Yoka’s on Broadway and other coffee roasting places are all places to ask for one.

2) Roll the sack down. This is easiest with two people as the sack can be a bit resistant depending on the burlap, which seems to vary from tightly woven to very loose. The sack should then look a bit like a thin doughnut.

3) Add about 3 inches of soil—enough to totally cover the bottom. This should be regular garden soil—nothing too rich. Potatoes dislike fresh compost or manure.

4) Place three regular-size seed potatoes or four small (like bintjes or french fingerlings) about equidistant apart. Not too close to the edges, not too far away.

5) Barely cover with soil, and water lightly.

Very important: Do not continue to add potatoes. The one layer on the bottom is all you need. And, do not add too many potatoes. Regular potatoes need a couple of feet between rows—they’ll produce lots that way.

The potatoes will begin to sprout after awhile. Now, keep adding a bit of soil, barely covering leaves, and water lightly. Expect slow growth at first, especially if your spring is cold like it was this year (2009).

After about 100 days of growth, leaves will begin to yellow and the potatoes will be ‘done’. Stop watering them when the sack is quite full and the leaves start to die off.

I’ll let you know how my own experiment goes!

UPDATE: Day 29, June 6, 2009
Grow potatoes in a burlap bag