How to Grow Potatoes in Containers
GROWING POTATOES IN CONTAINERS
Growing your own potatoes is a great way to learn to grow your own vegetables. For very little money and outlay of time, you can grow your own vegetables. Potatoes are just one of the many possibilities and are very easy to grow.
While traditionally potatoes are grown in the ground in a hill, there are some super easy ways that you can plant your own potatoes even if you have relatively no space at all!
Growing vegetables in containers gives you a better chance at keeping your plants healthy as you bypass many of the common deterrents to home gardening...such as pests, weather changes, leaf diseases, etc.
I have always grown my potatoes in the ground or gone to dig them at a local farm. However, when you grow potatoes in the ground, you obviously need a lot of space. This is something I currently don't have.
When it comes time to harvest your potatoes, you also have to literally dig them, usually with a pitchfork. This ultimately ends up piercing or breaking some of the potatoes because it's hard to find where the sprawling vines of potatoes are underground.
To understand how potatoes grow and how they can be successfully cultivated in containers, let's look at the basics on potatoes. Then I'll show you 3 different ways you can successfully grow them in little to no space.
GROWING POTATOES IN CONTAINERS
Growing potatoes in containers is really no different than growing potatoes in the ground. The principles are the same.
You start with a seed potato (although some people use potatoes right out of the cupboard and have great success with them).
You plant the seed potato with 2-3 "eyes" per piece in soil about 3-4 inches under soil and mulch, water and wait for the plant to grow.
Potatoes are tubers and while they send plant growth up to reach the sun, they send out sprawling tentacles beneath the surface where other potatoes form and grow.
As the plant growth continues, more dirt and mulch are built up just below the top of the new growth thus allowing the tubers to keep expanding underneath.
By the end of the growing season, the potato plants will grow, bloom, wither and die. When the plants have fully withered, it's harvest time for the potatoes.
The image below demonstrate how potatoes grow under the soil but also flower above ground. The above-ground changes are the clues as to what part of the cycle the potatoes are in.
WHAT YOU NEED TO GROW POTATOES
- Seed potatoes (at least 5 per container)
- Space or medium (see below)
- Shredded paper or newspaper (optional)
- Potting soil
- Sterilized manure (optional)
- Mulch or compost (can be straw, chipped bark, pine needles or combination)
- 6+ hours of direct sunlight per day
- Harvest time = 2 to 4 months
- Pick out new potatoes when foliage is about 1 foot high
SPACE OR MEDIUM
3 x 5 foot raised bed
30+ gallon trash can (metal or rubber)
30+ gallon black trash bag or grow bag
Tires & Rebar
2 tires to start + rebar pole (5-6 tires)
Any drum 30 gallons or more
Giant Tree Containers
30 gallons or plant less potatoes
Barrel or Wood Box
At least 18 inches deep
Smaller Trash Can or Container
Use less potatoes but 18 inches deep
METHOD #1 - GROWING POTATOES IN A TRASH BIN
- Cure your seed potatoes before planting for at least a day at room temperature. If they are large, cut into pieces so that only 2-3 "eyes" remain per piece.
- Use an old trash can, giant tree container or a drum. It doesn't have to be new. It should have a lid or makeshift cover. (A lid is only necessary should it get too cold or you want to protect the plants)
- Drill holes in the bottom of the trashcan and along the sides 3-6 inches from the bottom every few inches to promote drainage.
- Crumple newspapers or add shredded paper as the bottom layer in your trashcan. (Optional - this step keeps the dirt from draining out the drainage holes though)
- Mix potting soil, manure and mulch in a proportion to give you 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 manure and mulch each. Mix in a wheelbarrow or in a large trashcan - you will use later as the plants sprout.
- You can add in time release fertilizer here such as Osmocote or you can fertilize when you water.
- Add about 10 inches of your potting soil mix. Now plant your potatoes - about 5 inches apart and 4 inches deep. They need to be under the soil to start sending out their vines.
- Water but do not make soggy.
- Ideal temperature for the soil to remain at is 60 degrees. For easy moving of your potato garden, buy a trash can roller and place under the can. You can cover at night with the lid to prevent freezing. (I move our can to the garage when I'm worried about cold temps)
- Keep moist but not soggy and wait for the plants to appear. Take off the lid during hours of sunlight and they will grow quickly.
- When plants are 6-8 inches, add another layer of your soil mixture being careful to leave leaves/top of plant exposed. Mound around the stems.
- Keep adding soil as the plants poke through.
- As the growing season progresses, the plants will develop as normal plants do. Then they will flower and have berries on them. Then the entire plant will die off, turn brown and wither. Once the plant dies off, it is time to harvest your potatoes.
- How to harvest your potatoes? Spread a tarp out, simply tip your can so that the soil and contents all spill onto the tarp. Gather your potatoes!
TIP: For new potatoes, you can reach down under the soil close to the end of the growing season and hand pick these out. Use immediately as they are best eaten right after digging.
METHOD #2 - HOW TO GROW POTATOES IN A GARBAGE BAG
Growing potatoes in a garbage bag is similar to growing potatoes in a garbage can accept of course, instead of using a trash bin, you will use a 30+ gallon garbage bag.
The same ingredients apply as for planting your potatoes in a garbage can, however, your method will be slightly different.
You can also use a mixture of potting soil mixed with vermiculite, peat moss and compost rather than the above soil mixture.
Steps for growing potatoes in a garbage bag:
- Place a layer of crumpled newspaper or shredded paper in the bottom of the bag. (Optional but this does keep soil from draining out drainage holes)
- Fill the garbage bag with about 4 inches of your soil mixture.
- Roll your garbage bag down to within 2 inches of the soil.
- Using scissors, poke stab holes in the bag below the soil level to create drainage holes.
- Plant your potatoes - about 5 per bag - 1 in the center and 4 around it in a circle.
- Potatoes need to be covered with the soil so press them down below the surface.
- Water but do not make soggy.
- When the plant sprouts are about 4 inches high, add soil again until the plant is almost covered.
- Roll out the bag to keep up with the soil addition. Water.
- Keep doing this until the shoots reach the top of the bag.
- Let the plants bloom, develop berries and die off.
- Once the withered leaves are brown, place a tarp nearby and dump out your trash bag full of potatoes - or simply cut open and harvest.
METHOD #3 - GROWING POTATOES IN OLD TIRES
This method is basically the same concept as growing potatoes in a trash can or growing potatoes in a garbage sack. It is a great way to grow them in a small area and an interesting way to use old tires.
You will need the same ingredients that you would use for growing potatoes in a garbage bag or growing potatoes in a garbage can. However, you will need the following to start out growing potatoes in old tires.
- 2 old tires to start
- Piece of Rebar (optional)
Steps for growing your potatoes in old tires:
- Prepare your potatoes exactly the same way as for the methods above.
- Find a spot in your yard that receives 6-8 hours of full sun per day.
- Place 1 old tire on top of the ground.
- Pound piece of rebar into the ground.
- Fill the tire with your dirt mixture.
- Plant your potatoes (about 5 per tire "tower") - plant 1 in the center and 4 around in a circle.
- Make sure potatoes are covered with 3-4 inches of soil mixture.
- Water but do not over water to make soggy.
- After some growth of the potato plants, add another tire. Add another layer of dirt just leaving the tops of the plants exposed.
- Keep adding tires and more soil mixture until the plants grow, bloom, develop berries, and then wither. Plan on using 4-6 tires max.
- Once the plant has died off up top and withered, the potatoes are ready to harvest.
- How to harvest your potatoes grown in old tires? Simply take apart and harvest your potatoes.
TIP: You can reach in and grab out a few of your new potatoes just before the plants wither and die.
Growing Healthy Potatoes
Chewed or depleted foliage
Use eco-friendly spray
Use eco-friendly spray
Scab on potatoes
Plant scab-resistant varieties
Red wire worm
Rotate crops, don't reuse soil
Burn leaves, harvest in 2 weeks
GROWING IN CONTAINERS - HOW TO GROW POTATOES
As you can see, there are many options for growing potatoes in a relatively small space. The yield is incredible and the effort minimal.
There are many great varieties of potatoes out there to try. I love growing white potatoes or Yukon golds but the new rage is the Peruvian purples (for their antioxidant properties).
I'm going to be ordering some seed potatoes of the purples to give those a try this month but for now, I'm planting my old standbys. By fall, I hope to have enough potatoes to put away for the winter.
For planting potatoes in small spaces, try the method you think will work best for you. In my case, I'm going to be trying all 3 this year just to see which one works the very best.
If you have more suggestions or comments on growing potatoes, please leave your comments in the space provided below.
HOW TO STORE POTATOES ONCE HARVESTED
- If using the methods above, you should have no broken or pierced potatoes but if any are broken, use right away.
- Wipe as much dust and dirt from the potatoes as possible but do not wash
- Store in a cool, dry place out of the light to keep your potatoes the longest
- Wash only as you use them