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Growing potatoes in bags an experiment that worked; heirloom tomatoes

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Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2012 12:30 am

FAIRBANKS — After I’d completed all the direct seeding and transplanting this year, I realized that I had a bag of seed potatoes left over and no place to plant them. Since I’d been wanting to try growing potatoes in bags ever since reading about it in BBC Gardening Magazine, this was the perfect time to give it a go.

I have tons of the perfect bags leftover from used chicken feed, cracked corn, sheep feed and dog food. They are all about the same size, which is to say large enough for 40 pounds of dog kibble. Most of them are made of woven plastic, although some brands of the various foods are paper lined with heavier coated paper.

I needed a place that would keep them standing upright for the entire season. As you can see, a gardening wagon was my solution. I rolled the sides of each bag down and put in about 10 inches of soil. I then placed five seed pieces in, evenly spaced from each other, and covered with another four inches of soil. As the plants grew, I kept unrolling the bags to accommodate the growth and added more soil. It was the easiest hilling I had ever done.

Watering was easy, with no loss because the sides of the bags funneled it right down to the roots. Before planting, I had put a few slits in the bottom of each bag, and when water began dripping out of them I knew I was done with that chore.

Harvesting the spuds was easier than it ever has been. A teenager and I lifted each bag into one of my garden beds that needed more soil for next year, slit it wide open, spread back the sides, and simply picked out the now completely exposed potatoes.

Each bag produced about 10 pounds of potatoes, which is less than I usually get from five seed potatoes, but was still much better than never having planted potatoes at all. As they grew the bags started tilting over the sides of the wagon, so if I do this again I will build up the sides of the wagon with wood, to force the bags to stand straight all season.

My second gardening triumph was discovering Dr. Wyche’s yellow tomatoes, an heirloom variety purchased from Seed Savers Exchange ($2.75 plus shipping for 50 seeds from seedsavers.org). This is a greenhouse, or indeterminate, variety. From four plants, the yield was 12 tomatoes average, but not one weighed less than half a pound and more than half were one pounders. As you can see from the picture, all you need for the perfect tomato sandwich is one slice from a one pounder — there is no room for more.

The texture is firm and meaty, with fewer seeds than most varieties, and the taste is mild. The color is a striking orangey yellow. My first ripe Dr. Wyche was picked on August 8, having been started from seed on April 1 and transplanted into the greenhouse on May 8. I plan to grow these again.

This is it for the season. See you next February.

Linden Staciokas has gardened in the Interior for more than two decades. Send gardening questions to her at dorking@acsalaska.net.

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