What Are The Best Potatoes To Grow In Bags?

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Growing Potatoes in bags has become popular, particular in places like the UK, due to their relatively small gardens.  It is also a great way to dip your toe in the water and try a range of different Potatoes.  However, there are so many varieties on the market that it’s very difficult to decide which ones to plant, and for many gardeners, it often comes down to an uneducated guess.  In an attempt to shed some light on the subject, the RHS completed a trial on 20 different Early Potato varieties.

Based on the trial data, the best varieties to grow in bags, in order of yield per Seed Potato are Lady Christl, Sharpes Express, Vales Emerald, Casablanca, Jazzy, Maris Bard, Golden Nugget and Charlotte.  Most of these varieties are available through Morgan & Thompson in the UK or you can try Seed Now in the US.

Each variety was chitted for approximately 7 weeks, before being planted out in early April and then harvested in mid-June (approximately 10 weeks later).  Potatoes were judged on taste, texture, yield and appearance, resistance to pests and diseases, and uniformity.  The eight out of the 20 varieties tested, received an award of garden merit. 

VarietyYield Per Seed Potato (g)Average Tuber Weight (g)Award of Garden Merit
Lady Christl50836x
Sharpes Express49037x
Vales Emerald47037x
Casablanca46844x
Jazzy45025x
Maris Bard43041x
Golden Nugget42026x
Charlotte38040x
Trixie50029 
Rocket49057 
Maris Peer46867 
Foremost46052 
Accord45671 
Belana45234 
Piccolo Star43239 
Swift42850 
Accent42081 
Pentland Javelin39038 
Elisabeth37041 

What are the Best Varieties Like?

Lady Christl

An excellent first early variety that can be harvested after just 8 weeks of sowing.  The smooth and creamy tubers have a firm and waxy flesh that is good for boiling, steaming and sautéing.  No disintegration when cooked, good texture and taste.

Sharpe’s Express

A cultivar dating from 1900’s, which performed excellently.  White-skinned, oval tubers with cream, floury flesh with a lovely taste that lingers.  Care needed to avoid disintegration on cooking.

Vales Emerald

Even crop of good size for salad.  Buttery yellow flesh; skins are easily removed.

Casablanca

A clean, shallow-eyed, white-skinned, waxy white-fleshed tuber, of a regular size.  Can be left to grow on for storage as a main crop Potato if desired.

Jazzy

Visually appealing, oval, shallow-eyed, yellow-skinned and fleshed waxy tubers.  Sweet taste.  Not as widely available as other Potatoes in this list.

Maris Bard

A cultivar that was released in 1972, and is a very early variety that performs well in bags.  It is a white-skinned tuber with a waxy cream coloured flesh.

Golden Nugget

A uniform, small, gold-skinned, round tuber with waxy flesh with superb flavour.  Not as widely available as other Potatoes in this list.

Charlotte

Is a first early variety that produces medium sized oval tubers of uniform size.  The tubers are yellow-skinned and have a waxy consistency with a very fine flavour.

How To Grow Potatoes In Bags

One of the easiest options to grow Potatoes, particularly when you have only a small garden, is to use grow bags.  Grow bags are suitable for First Early and Second Early Potatoes, as they do not require much room. 

However, one common mistake gardeners make, is buying a standard grow-bag from the garden centre.  These are primarily designed to grow Tomatoes, and are too small to accommodate the Potatoes.  Typically, Potatoes require 20 litres of compost to produce a reasonable crop. There are larger grow bags that are specifically designed for growing potatoes that are available on Amazon. Alternatively, Patio growing kit can be purchased from yougarden.com which contains a grow bag and a 3 different varieties of potatoes.

The first step is to select the varieties to grow, and chit the tubers 1-2 months prior to the last frost.  This step is not essential, but there is definitive evidence that it is advantageous.  Click here for more information.

What Is Chitting Potatoes?

Chitting is the process of exposing the Seed Potatoes to light to speed up the ageing process of the Potato.  This will cause the eyes of the Seed Potato to start sprouting.  The sprouts should be small, knobbly, and green/purple in colour.  If long white sprouts appear, it suggests that there is not enough light.  Many people chit Potatoes by placing them in an egg carton inside, however, evidence suggests that the temperatures below 10°C are optimal to maximise the number of sprouts generated.

The benefits of chitting Potatoes is that you start the growing process before the seed is planted, which allows an earlier harvest, that is larger in size.  Click here for more information.

Planting the Potatoes in Bags or Pots

To plant the Potatoes, start by folding the bag down to about a third of its height and stab a few holes in the bottom of the bag with knife, to allow excess water to drain out.  Fill the bottom of it with loose compost to a height of 10-15 cm (4-6 inches).  Place 2-3 Potatoes in the grow bag and cover with a few inches of soil.  Some gardeners cut the Potatoes in half before planting, to get the most out of the Seed Potatoes.  Click here for more information.

Place the growbag in a sunny spot and water regularly, particularly in the first few weeks.  The plant will emerge after a week or two.  As the plant gets progressively larger, add more compost to the bag.  This will encourage the plant to produce more tubers to maximise the yield.  The harvest of Early Potatoes typically occurs around 10 to 12 weeks after planting.  A good indicator that the plant is ready to be harvested, is when the plant begins to flower. 

If multiple bags are harvested, it is advisable to only harvest what you need, as the size of the tubers will continue to swell, which will maximise the overall yield achieved.      

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