Organic Gardening Magazine Tests Seven Different Potato Growing Methods

Doug Hall, writing for Organic Gardening magazine, did a test of seven different potato growing methods: hilled rows, straw mulch, raised beds, grow bags, garbage bags, wood boxes and wire cylinders. His conclusion? Raised beds worked the best giving the highest yield. Some of the other methods worked well too, though I wonder about black materials, such as grow bags, in our hot climate.

The last time we grew potatoes we used a stack of tires. Results were mixed. I think painting the tires white to reflect heat might have worked better. For most of you reading this, the opposite would probably be true. Black materials such as tires or grow bags would help keep your ‘taters warm in cool climates.

Read Hall’s article here: “7 Ways to Plant Potatoes

And let us know how you grow your potatoes . . .

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  1. I’ve grown potatoes in Reno Nv (high desert) for the past two years and have only gotten baby potatoes. For some reason, I just can’t seem to get more then 2 or 3 to grow to full size.

    I grow them in tires (per your book) and I think they might be getting to hot. This year, I am going to try and paint the tires. Last year I also tried the hill method and had much better results but nothing great.

    My brother in Seattle grows them in a raised bed and they’ve turned out great. Because of his success, we’ve talked about growing them in a raised box with removable sides.


  2. I have heard of these methods. I thought of using the tires, but wonder about what might leach from the tires as they slowly disintegrate. Any thoughts on the potential health implications?

  3. I’m of the opinion that tires are safe. From what I’ve read they are inert. That being said I wouldn’t grow all my food in them, but a few potatoes sounds fine to me. And Tony–wood might be a good option. Another problem for those of us in oddball climates is that there isn’t a lot of good information on when to plant them.

  4. I’m using grow bags, a black bucket and hilled rows in a garden to grow Red Pontiac potatoes. All are growing well, although I won’t really know the results until it’s harvest time. I let them get about 8 inches tall and then covered the plants halfway up the sides with a combo of soil and hay. I mulched the grow bag and bucket with a combination of potting soil bunch of seaweed I picked up at the beach.

  5. Did grow bags last year. First time with Potatoes, first time with grow bags. Living in the Arizona desert I’ve limited garden space/soil so the bags were perfect. Problem was, those grown outside ended up with termites getting into the bags!!! Had some good size taters, and the ones in the greenhouse were great! But the termites were/are a problem. Did post pictures on by blog last year as I harvested if you want to see the results.

  6. We’ve had good success with raised beds here in Pasadena. Even in the raised beds we have had troubles with excessive heat. The first year we grew potatoes we planted them in late April in a mix of soil and, apparently, not quite “finished” compost. A wave of 100+ temps in May combined with the heat from the still decomposing compost resulted in our potatoes literally baking in the ground. I now grow potatoes as a fall/winter/spring crop and avoid the summer entirely.

    Regarding tires: the tires themselves are unlikely to leach any dangerous chemicals, however, used tires are covered in all sorts of nasty chemicals and particulates – particularly heavy metals that are a result of dust from the tires themselves, brakes, and road paint. I would wash the tires very well with soapy water before using for any kind of food.

  7. I grow mine in large cardboard boxes buried just about 1/3 down in my beds (some dirt is hilled up on the outside to keep it set). Inside I layer dirt, mulch/leaves, straw, and keep adding to the box as a means of hilling up. Since we can get frost into May, the box tops can be closed at night to protect the plants. At the end of the season, I rip up the remains of the box and in the compost it goes!

  8. I’ve just got to say that I love all the ways folks come up with to grow potatoes. It just goes to show there’s no “right way” to garden. Creativity has a lot to do with it– creativity and close observation of the needs of the plants coupled with the unique environmental conditions of your garden.

    Erik and I need to figure out the best way to grow potatoes here, and all of these ideas give us something to chew on.

  9. It’s my first year growing potatoes. Like Eric, Im using stackable two x 4’s made into squares. I made mine out of cedar. As they grow, Im gonna bury them with good soil compost, etc and add another layer. A lot like the tire idea, however Im in Austin, so if I used tiresthey may get a bit of heat so I’m hoping the wood will not get as hot. Who knows? Trial and error……..thats what I love about growing. I tried to plant them early, but still its already been about 90 degrees here some days………Yowser.

  10. I grew potatoes last year and they were tiny I left them in the bags and they have regrown and are a good size. They have been in the bag since last September. This may be a stupid question but are they edible or no good I’m just a beginner.
    Thanks for any advice it’s all welcome

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