In addition to being a certified herbalist and aromatherapy consultant, Gina finds the unrelenting allure of gardening very strong.
You Don't Need a Large Space to Grow Your Own Potatoes
Potatoes are notoriously easy to grow, but you don't need a huge backyard plot to grow your own. All you really need are:
- some seed potatoes
- some potting soil
- a large container, such as a plastic bucket, burlap or sturdy plastic sack, or grow-bag
Even urban gardeners with little more than a balcony for outdoor space can have fresh, home-grown potatoes by the time fall rolls around.
Grow Your Own Potatoes Anywhere With a Container and Some Soil
You can grow potatoes in a sack, a grow-bag, wooden moving box, or any other type of deep container. You can even grow them in old tires! The size and depth of your container will determine how many potatoes your plants produce.
Since you probably already have some potatoes in your house, if you aren't too fussy about the variety you're going to grow, then you don't need to buy anything. Simply use the potatoes that you already have.
If you have grown them before, you know you should keep a few of your old stock to grow the new stock. If you haven't, then keep a few of the potatoes you have on hand and let them "grow out".
Easy to Grow
Irish potatoes are easy to grow in the home garden, and there are many varieties available, including the following:
The greatest thing about them is that they all should grow and produce well in your backyard garden, or a container, given:
- the proper soil preparation,
- planting date,
- and cultural practices
Whichever type you decide to grow, all are delicious and nutritious. And the best part is that you get bragging rights because you learned how to grow potatoes and raised them from seed yourself.
Preparing the Potatoes for Planting
Whether you are planting in the ground or in containers, you need to prepare the potatoes ahead of time.
- There should be at least one good “eye” per piece.
- If you had to cut your potatoes into smaller pieces, now you will have to leave the pieces on a tray or screen in the shade or indoors to dry.
- I recommend a minimum of 1 day but have left them to dry for a couple days without a problem.
- You will see sprouts beginning to grow, which is what you want.
- Any pieces that shrivel with no sprouts should be discarded.
Preparing the potatoes like this prevents them from rotting in the soil.
Choose Your Container
Growing potatoes in containers can be done in almost any kind of container, as anybody who knows how to grow them will tell you. Choose a
- potato bag or grow-bag
- garbage can
- large wooden box
- or any other type of container
The deeper the container, the better.
Start with a deep container (24″ minimum) with good drainage.
Add Potting Soil
Add about 4 to 6 inches of good potting soil and press firmly. Don’t skimp on this part!
You need something that holds plenty of moisture yet drains well and is rich in nutrients and nutrient-holding capacity. If any of these fail, you will have less than desirable results.
Potatoes are best grown in well-drained soil in full sun.
Once you've added the soil, add one layer of cut potatoes—spacing them a few inches apart—and cover them with about 6 inches of soil.
Wait a Few Days Until the Sprouts Push Up Through the Soil
Water thoroughly and wait a couple days until the sprouts push up through the soil. You can add another layer of potato pieces now (if you like), and a couple more inches of the soil mixture.
Water them at the time of planting. Continue to water about every three days to keep the soil moist. Do not allow the soil to dry out.
As a general rule of thumb, every plant will produce at least 10 potatoes, so I would expect to get about 40 from this crop.
After planting, in about three weeks the plants will begin to emerge. When the above-ground part reaches about a foot tall, hill up the soil about halfway up the stem, about 6".
Don't worry about covering some of the green leaves. Instead of soil, straw or mulch works, too. You can repeat this step a few times over the course of the following weeks.
Don't Overfill the Container With Soil
Repeat until the soil level in your container is about 6 inches from the top. Then add any soil mixture you have left or plain potting soil until the soil level is 2 to 3 inches below the lip of the container.
Do not overfill the container with soil!
Leaving enough lip of the container is important to ensure you can add enough water to thoroughly saturate the entire container.
This process, when done in a field, is called "hilling up" potatoes, as farmers will form hills of soil around the stem to maximize production.
Cover the potatoes with another 2 inches of soil once sprouts emerge from the ground. As the plants grow, continue mounding soil or mulch over the tops of the roots to keep the growing tubers covered. Tubers exposed to sunlight turn green and can be toxic, so they should not be eaten.
Maintaining Your Container of Potatoes
Watering is going to be the most important part. I have found that a it is a challenge to keep the entire container watered. My suggestion is to use a watering stake or 1/2′ pipe with holes drilled in it down the middle to ensure thorough watering. So be diligent in how well you water this container. If you aren’t sure, use a moisture meter!
Fertilizing is also crucial with this crop. Using the soil preparation and fertilizer I have recommended, the potato plants should be well-fed for at least 2 months. At 2 months, I recommend fertilizing again. This is to ensure the potatoes have a steady supply of nutrients, especially since the frequent waterings required in our warm climate strip the soil of its nutrients.
Insects and diseases are occasionally a problem, so be on the lookout. Being aware is key so you can treat any possible infection as soon as possible.
When Can You Harvest?
When flowers start to bloom, it's a good indication that you've produced baby potatoes (also called "new potatoes"—these are the same teeny ones you see at the farmer's market). You can harvest potatoes from your plant now, if you'd like!
After the flowers bloom, the vines will yellow and die back.
Leave plants for another week or so before harvesting (potatoes are still developing inside that bag).
To harvest, line your patio or deck or your ground with newspaper or tarp and cut open the sides of the bag, if you're using a grow-bag. You can also simply just dump it out. If you're using a container like a trash can or other hard container, simply turn it on its side and gently rock the soil out onto the tarp.
You can reuse the soil for lettuces or herbs.
Harvest the potatoes and let them "cure" for two days. All this means is that you will lay them out to dry, which helps to develop the skin. Do not wash them as soon as you harvest, as this will damage the tender skins.
After they have been cured, cook them as you like!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Gina Welds
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on February 15, 2019:
Yes, absolutely. There are holes in the bottom as well as the sides of the container.
Emmanuel Yohanna on February 15, 2019:
Sir. is their holes in the container?
phalesy on January 26, 2019:
Knowledge is powerful, thanks
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on November 04, 2018:
Irish potatoes are best grown during cool temperatures.
mwampashe's Deo on June 28, 2018:
This is great, so thanks now on I'm about practices
Mervis on October 05, 2017:
Thank you for this, I am from Zambia Africa and will try it. I found it quite interesting. I though potato farming was for big farmers only!
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on May 04, 2017:
Hi Shauna. Thanks for stopping by. The best time to plant Irish potatoes is in October/November. It's a cool weather crop, so you want to start it when it is relatively cool outside. You will be able to harvest by April for smaller potatoes, or leave until June/July for bigger potatoes.
Yes, you can add compost to the potting soil. I used compost that I started back in April last year for my potatoes planted in October.
All the best. I'm heading out now to plant some seeds....and to check on my tomatoes to make sure the birds haven't gotten to them, That's a constant battle.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 03, 2017:
I've been meaning to try this for a couple of years now and keep spacing it off. I've got a couple of 5 gallon buckets set aside for this very purpose.
I have a couple of questions for you, Gina:
1. When is the best time of year to plant?
2. Can I mix compost with the potting soil to act as fertilizer? or do you recommend an actual product for veggies?
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 28, 2017:
Thanks for your very clear instructions. I like potatoes and you encourage me to try.