May 22, 2013

Tater Totes: Feed Bag Potato Patch

I have been upcycling feed bags into market totes, chicken coop artwork, Christmas stockings and shipping envelopes for years and this spring I’m putting the feed bags to use in a different way: as portable potato gardens. Planting potatoes in a container allows them to be grown in a small space and provides more flexibility in location. It's ideal for keeping my chickens from scratching them up and it frees up space in my garden for other plants and herbs they won't eat. The technique is remarkably simple and I’m looking forward to the spuds in a few months! 
Materials Needed:
woven plastic Feed bag with top end cut off
garden soil/compost
chicken manure compost or potato fertilizer 
About the potatoes:

 I ordered Yukon Gold seed potatoes, but there are endless varieties from which to choose; I found this variety selector very helpful. Store bought potatoes are not as good a choice as specially grown, disease-free, seed potatoes.

When the potatoes arrive, they can be "chitted," or sprouted to give them a head-start in the growing process. Placing them in a bright location for a week or two will result in eyes that sprout to an inch or less. I didn't bother chitting mine because I'm impatient like that and they'll grow fine without it.

Before planting, the sprouted potatoes can be cut into pieces, each containing a sprout,  (or eye) but the cut pieces must be dried for 2-4 days before planting to avoid rotting. I used whole potatoes.
How to Plant 'em
1. Roll down a cuff on the feed bag 2/3 of the way down. I placed straw in the bottom for drainage.

2. Fill bottom 1/3 of the bag with high-quality compost/garden soil
3. Place 5 potatoes, eyes up, into the soil. They shouldn't touch each other or the sides of the bag.
Compost, courtesy of my backyard pets. 
4. Either add a layer of chicken manure compost (my material of choice) or sprinkle some potato fertilizer around the spuds (not on top of them). 

5. Cover with ~4 inches of compost/garden soil to the top of the bag. 
6. Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, poke holes in the bottom and sides of the bag for drainage.

7. Place in a location that receives full sun. Water sparingly each morning. The soil should not be soaked, but should not dry out either. 

8. When leaves are approximately 6 inches tall, roll bag up a bit and cover all but the top most leaves with compost/garden soil. Repeat as leaves grow.

9. Fertilize every other week until leaves turn yellow and begin to dry out.

10. When leaves are dried out, harvest by cutting open the bag (preferably directly in the garden). Allow harvested potatoes to cure in full sun after harvesting for a day or two. The spuds will be ready to harvest in approximately 3 months (varies by variety).

Four months to the day, I dumped out the feed bags in my garden and found that the Yukon golds were a respectable size. While I put them in a basket, my chickens had a worm field day!

For other uses for empty feed bags, visit my blog article here.  
Feed bag coop art.


  1. loni van duzer5/22/13, 10:28 AM

    Cool! I want to try this!!

  2. how many potatoes do you get out of the 5 pieces of potatoe?

  3. Fiona Gregory5/22/13, 4:11 PM

    What a clever idea Kathy. I just bought some desiree potato stock to plant in the exposed soil on our property but I may give this a try instead. It would certainly save on adding lots of soil and compost as the spuds grow and keep them safe from the chooks!

  4. TheChickenChick5/22/13, 8:59 PM

    Let me know how it works out for you, Fiona!

  5. TheChickenChick5/22/13, 9:02 PM

    I don't know, I just planted mine for the first time. Much has been written on this topic though, so you won't have any trouble finding the answer to that question.

  6. Kari Spencer5/23/13, 9:57 PM

    Great idea to use feed sacks. I grow potatoes in a tomato cage that is wrapped in burlap, and use straw for mounding. I may give the feed sack a try next year. Thanks!

  7. I am visiting from the PIN Me linky party! I pinned your post to my gardening board. Great way to reuse thos big bags!

  8. Nici ~ Posed Perfection5/24/13, 10:23 AM

    This is such a great idea! I've seen them done in plastic garbage cans before, but never feed bags. Very Clever. Pinning!

  9. TheChickenChick5/24/13, 10:57 PM

    Thanks for visiting, Eric!

  10. I want to try this, it's such a great idea! Thanks for coming by and partying with me!


    Fluster Buster

  11. Backyard Chicken Lady5/26/13, 11:28 PM

    I love your great ideas to reuse empty feed bags...I hate throwing things away that have a potential second life!

  12. Teresa Cutrell5/29/13, 9:41 PM

    Love it. what a great idea. I think I may have to try this.

  13. Makes me wish I still live where there was a little acreage. Although in a rural area we live in town.Thanks for sharing. Visiting from Theresa

  14. I know I keep saying this but I'm always learning SO much from your blog. I don't even have chickens!

  15. Thanks for showing how. We have ducks and big bags of grain also. YAY. Something to do with them. It never occurred to me to use those bags. Duh! Best wishes, Linda

  16. TheChickenChick6/1/13, 10:29 PM

    That has got to be one of the highest compliments I could possibly receive, Katherine, thank you. ♥

  17. Cheryl Lindsay7/16/13, 10:38 AM

    I want to try this. Love Yukon Gold Potatoes! Wonder if it would work for Sweet Potatoes as well?

  18. Cyn Van Antwerp9/22/13, 3:29 PM

    I live right smack in the middle of town and have 13 hens and one accidental rooster! My neighbors love them AND their eggs.

  19. I am going to try this, I did try sweet potatoes in my square foot garden but they took up so much space, I like the idea of a feedbag, I think mine will have to be the sunflower seed bags!!

  20. Lisa Jochum3/12/14, 6:46 PM

    I have purchased Yukon gold seed potatoes two grow like. I was going to use a basket or roll of wire. I like your idea yet am wondering if the bag drains well enough and if its too wet wont mold develop?

  21. Would this work with sweet potato plants?

  22. I don't know why it wouldn't.

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  24. I advise you to switch to only organic feeds. All the others have godknowswhatall in them, including pesticides and GMO corn and soy. The chx are what they eat, and so are you when you eat their eggs and/or meat. Curing the potatoes in sun can cause them to turn green in spots, which are toxic to eat. Cover them with something, so they are in the dark while they cure. Love from an old crow.