Yesterday, I shared three lessons from this year’s sweet potato bust. Today, I’m sharing the fourth and final lesson: No more bushel baskets.

Yes. I know. I love bushel baskets. Many of you do too. As this photo from last year (below) shows, they can be a fantastic home for sweet potatoes: charming and cheap and just the right size.

sweet potatoes in a bushel basket

But, I suspect, they may also be toxic. Or, more specifically, the bushel baskets I purchased this spring may be toxic.

Three years ago, I bought five or six bushel baskets from a local agricultural supply company, and tried them out as containers for sweet potatoes and potato potatoes. The regular potatoes pouted (too dry?) but the sweet potatoes thrived. Last year, I reused those original bushel baskets and the sweet potatoes thrived once again.

This year, I bought new bushel baskets to replace those original baskets, which had mostly rotted away. Same source, same apparent baskets, but something was clearly different because these sweet potatoes did not thrive. They barely survived. I know the problem wasn’t the slips or the potting soil or the growing conditions, because my sweets planted elsewhere did fine (low harvest, but healthy plants). These plants, however, looked a sickly pale yellow, and never really took off.

unhealthy sweet potatoes

My hunch? Those bushel baskets I bought three years ago were untreated, while these newer baskets were treated with some sort of something. It’s just a guess at this point. Just a hunch. But, I’m fairly certain this is a hunch that’ll prove to be true — I simply cannot think of another reason why these sweets would suffer while those planted in other containers did just fine. I’ll be reaching out to the company I bought from, and will seek some answers. But, even if all I get is an “I don’t know,” I already know I won’t be growing anything in these baskets next year. Just seems too risky.

How about you? Have you tried growing sweets or other crops in bushel baskets? And, if so, how did your plants grow? Please share your comments below.

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