Growing Potatoes in Containers

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Growing potatoes in containers is a lot of fun for kids and adults, plus it doesn't require tons of garden space.

There are a few benefits to growing potatoes in containers:

  1. The plants are less likely to be harmed by bugs or other pests;
  2. The potatoes will grow more quickly, giving you fresh potatoes earlier in the season;
  3. Because you control all aspects of the growing environment, you won’t have to worry about the potatoes rotting.

Everybody who sees your container of spuds will be delighted – it’s quite a sight! There is no comparison between home-grown and supermarket potatoes, the flavor difference is truly dramatic.

Getting started

Find a clean garbage can, 1/2 whisky barrel, recycle bin or even a 10 gallon pot will work. Just remember the larger the container the more difficult it will be to move around and also harvest your potatoes.

Next, drill drainage holes in the bottom, and sides of the container, about an inch from the bottom. To keep the container from having direct soil contact on the ground, elevate it using bricks or a plant dollie with wheels.

The Soil

Use a good quality potting mix mixed with pre-moistened peat. Add about one shovelful of pre-moistened peat moss to each 1 cubic foot bag of potting mix. The peat moss provides the potatoes with the acidity they require.

Mix a slow-release fertilizer into the soil. Espoma’s Garden Food 10-10-10 works well. Follow the directions on the label. You could also add composted manure or compost instead.

Make sure the holes in the bottom of the container are covered with newspaper or broken clay pot pieces or rocks to keep the soil from coming out of the holes. Next, FILL the container with 4 to 6 inches of soil.

The Potato Seeds

The potatoes you will purchase aren’t actually seeds, they are potatoes that have not been treated and have been grown in controlled conditions to minimize the chance of disease. Space potatoes 5 inches apart from each other and 5 inches away from the sides of the container. You’ll need 3 to 8 seeds, depending on the size of the container.

Planting the Spuds

Separate the potatoes from the package, and push them into the planting mix until they are covered by 2 inches of soil. Maintain the spacing.

Water thoroughly until the water comes out the bottom of your container. From this point forward, the soil must not dry out, otherwise the potatoes could get disfigured and lumpy or not grow at all.

Watering

Keep the container moist, but not soggy. In a few weeks the plants will break through the surface. When the plants measure 4 inches tall, cover them (leaves and all) with more planting mix until only 2 inches of the new growth shows. Every time the plants reach 4 inches above the soil, add another couple of inches of planting mix. Remember to keep watering each time you add soil, until water drains out the bottom.

Watering may be necessary two or three times a week, particularly as it gets warmer.

Stop adding soil when you’ve reached 3 inches from the top of the container.

At this point, plant some bush beans in between the potato plants. This serves two purposes: the bean plants keep the potato beetle away and the potato plant keeps the bean beetle away. (It’s called companion planting). The top growth of the potato will grow to 3 feet tall and will require staking so they don’t fall over or break.

Harvest Time

When small blossoms appear on the plants, the tiny, tender "new potatoes" are ready to harvest. Simply feel around in the container and pick some, trying not to disturb the root system of the others. Or leave them to grow into full size potatoes.

Usually people can’t wait to try them. They are delicious boiled and then buttered with parsley and chives. When the plants turn yellow and start to dry up, the rest of the potatoes have matured to full size. Dump the whole container and harvest your potatoes, or gently dig up your container.

Store your Potatoes

Store potatoes in a dark, cool location or in a paper bag. DO NOT RINSE the potatoes until they have hardened for a few days. Just lightly brush them off with your hands.