For a few years I have grown potatoes in bags and earlier this year I mentioned this in the post Potatoes In A Bag .
But I have struggled to produce a decent potato harvest, so over the winter I did some research. This year I made a change using the indeterminate potato varieties of German Butterball, Katahdin and Elba. Indeterminate means they produce all along the stem and produce for a longer period of time not just one big harvest. What a difference! Previously I had grown red, blue and fingerlings types with pitiful harvests, although not all of those types are determinate varieties. I just picked the wrong ones to grow in a bag.
The first to ripen or let me put this another way, when the vines started to die, were the German Butterballs. By the way I cut the vines back to about 3 inches when they started to fall over and wilt. Another useful tidbit is a potato can be left in the ground during the summer or fall until you’re ready to use them, they’ll just develop a heavier skin. I only used five potatoes between the 5-gallon and 10-gallon root pouch bags. Average potato size was 2.1 ounces or about the size of an egg and larger ones closer to a tennis ball in circumference. I suspect these would be very good as mashed potatoes as they are more soft than the other varieties, still very good roasted or grilled. The flesh is yellowish white in color. Seed potatoes came in a 2.5 pound package that was $7.75 or $3.10 per pound. Some of the details of the harvest are below.
German Potato Harvest Details
- Total harvest – 9.5 lb (152 oz)
- Cost/lb harvested, $ 0.33
- Cost/#potatoes used, $ 0.14
Katahdin potatoes were the most prolific variety in volume and were the second ones to ripen. Two root pouches were used – one 5-gallon and one 10-gallon. One seed potato, cut into quarters with at least two eyes, was used per bag for a total of two. Very good tasting roasted, grilled or used as home fries, they are a round, whitish, very light yellow potato with an average size of 5.2 ounces. A pound of Katahdin seed potatoes was only $1.80 or $4.50 for 2.5 pounds.
Katahdin Potato Analysis
- Total harvest – 11.4 lb (182.4 oz)
- Cost/lb harvested, $ 0.16
- Cost/#potatoes used, $ 0.05
Elba potatoes were by far the largest of all and matured later in the summer. Once again I used two bags – one 5-gallon and one 10-gallon. Poundage wise the yield was higher than the other two varieties.
However the cost of 2.5 pounds of seed potatoes was $10.75 or $4.30 per pound. Size varied from the largest of over a pound to an average of 7.6 ounces. They are a crisp, round, white potato also good roasted, grilled or as home fries.
Elba Potato Analysis
- Total harvest – 16.1 lb (257.6 oz)
- Cost/lb harvested, $ 0.27
- Cost/#potatoes used, $ 0.13
This was my first successful year growing sweet potatoes but I still need to make some adjustments. Although tasty, they grew mostly in a clump in three 10-gallon bags and one 5-gallon bag. It appeared they didn’t have any room to spread out although there was abundant room in the pouches. I’ll be looking at other varieties that are more adapted to grow bags next year. They were the lowest yielding per bag compared to the other potatoes and most expensive at $8.00 for 6 slips.
Sweet Potatoes Analysis
- Total harvest – 11.5 lb ( 184.0 oz)
- Total Cost Slips/lb harvested, $0.70
- Cost/Slips used, $5.32
Potato Varieties Comparison
In summary I did not include the cost of compost and soil as those are reused. Root Pouch cost was not included either since I can buy these in bulk and use them in the greenhouse too. They last several years and I prefer the brown or colored root pouches which have a life expectancy of about 6 years – gray ones about 3 to 4 years.
The Katahdin potatoes took the prize for most frugal and cost effective potato, however they were all excellent to eat. Seed potatoes may be expensive to buy but they don’t come with diseases that many others do. We eat the extra ones we don’t use to plant so there isn’t any waste. There’s something about a fresh garden potato that can never compare to what you buy in a store. I also hope my cost analysis convinces you can save money having a garden. Until next time.