Sunday, March 7, 2010

Potatoes and Ollas revisited

So last year I tried growing potatoes in trash bags with marginal success. My mistakes were:
  • The bags I used were too big.
  • The bags lacked structure which made it difficult to add more soil as the plants grew.
  • I did not provide adequate drainage.
Still, the poor potato plants tried their best and at the end I did get a few potatoes. I did much better with the tubs. The only problem I had with the tubs was that when I tipped them to harvest the potatoes, the tubs broke.
So, this year I gave in to marketing and purchased two factory-made potato bags. These bags are 18 inches (45.72 cm) high and 14 inches (35.56 cm) in diameter. I planted two varieties of potato today --Yukon Gold and Purple Majesty.

I have been told that the first week of March is too early to plant potatoes but I have planted potatoes this early before and it has worked well for me.
As a test, I will also plant potatoes in:
  • The empty garden soil bag. I'll cut it to match the dimensions of the store-bought bags.
  • A 5 gallon (18.925 liter) bucket.
I really want to try the Olla (clay bottle) method of watering my plants but Ollas are rare to non-existent around here. So I took a pottery class last year in an effort to make my own but it turns out that making clay bottles is an advanced skill so I never made any. I am now considering going to one of the many pottery shops around here and paying someone to make them for me.
Olla watering is a very old method of watering allegedly brought to the Americas by the Spaniards. You bury a clay bottle near your plants with the mouth of the bottle exposed (for refilling the water) and the roots will obtain the moisture they need from the water that seeps through the porous clay. We'll see.

Stay tuned...


  1. Heya -

    You don't need to throw one on the wheel! I'm pretty sure you can make one handbuilt, though it won't be round like the traditional ones.

    Roll out a slab 1/4" inch thick. Wrap a wine bottle in damp newspaper or paper towels, and wrap the clay around that. Snug it in around the neck, but leave the bottom completely open. Once the clay is leather hard enough to hold its shape, slide out the bottle. If the clay gets too dry, it will shrink and crack, so be careful. Then cut out a clay circle wider than the bottom circumference, get all the edges wet with vinegar, and smoosh and smear those babies together.

    Low-fire (to 06 or 04) and your clay will be as porous as earthenware. The long neck will let you fill it easily, and it will weep just as well as the expensive ollas. :)

  2. Thanks Diana! I will give this a try and post about he results