10 Easy Steps to Growing Potatoes in Containers

Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are one of the most highly consumed foods globally, having a total production output of over 370 million metric tons in the year 2021. As consumption and demand for potatoes increase, there are easy ways you can grow potatoes in your yard using containers.

Potatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow in your yard without any hassle. It requires very little maintenance and is resistant to quite a number of pests and diseases. So I am here to guide you through the entire process of easily growing potatoes in your yard as a beginner.

In this article I’m going to be covering what kind of potatoes you can plant in your yard, the best time of the year to plant potatoes, how long takes for tomatoes to grow from seed to harvest and finally a step-by-step process on how to grow potatoes.

By the end of this article, you would have known what it takes to grow potatoes in containers. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.

Why You Should Plant Your Potatoes in Containers

Before I begin to guide you through the process of growing potatoes in containers, I just want to stress the amazing benefits of growing tomatoes in containers. First, is that it saves you a lot of work as no digging required in order to plant your potatoes. It also protects your plants from cold weather and from pests and diseases that may be lying in the natural soil.
Lastly is that it makes it easier for you to harvest as you can simply overturn your containers to harvest your potatoes.

What Kind of Potatoes Can Be Grown in Containers?

Any potato type can be grown in containers. However, it is important to note that
larger storage types of potatoes may experience overcrowding in pots, leading to a lower yield of tubers. Smaller types, such as fingerling potatoes, and varieties grown to harvest as small “new” potatoes are often better suited for containers and can produce more prolific harvests.

While the idea of growing potatoes from store-bought ones may be enticing, it is important to consider that these potatoes often have low sprouting potential due to the application of growth inhibitors. Additionally, they may carry plant diseases. For home growers, it is generally advisable to obtain seed potatoes from reputable seed companies, as they offer a more reliable option.

Opting for early potato varieties is a favourable choice as they have a fast maturation period and yield a complete crop at once. These varieties generally reach maturity within 65-80 days, with new potatoes ready for harvest in 6-7 weeks from the time of planting.

When to plant tomatoes?

Potatoes thrive when they are planted during the early spring season, typically when the soil temperatures have warmed up to a minimum of 45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Degrees Celcius). It is crucial to wait for the soil to reach this optimal temperature range before planting the potato seeds. If the temperatures are any cooler than this threshold, there is a risk that the potato seeds may fail to sprout and instead deteriorate in the ground, leading to their rotting. Therefore, it is essential to exercise patience and ensure the appropriate soil conditions before embarking on the potato planting endeavour.

Materials and Tools Needed To Grow Potatoes in Containers

Growing potatoes in containers in your yard does not require so much. All you need is:

  • A Garden trowel
  • Seed potatoes
  • Container (such as a large plastic bucket or grow bag)
  • Fertile Soil

Garden Trowel

A garden trowel is an essential tool for any gardening enthusiast. It is a handheld implement with a pointed scoop-shaped blade, which you use for digging small holes or removing weeds. It is used for breaking up earth, digging small holes, especially for planting and weeding, mixing in fertilizer or other additives, and transferring plants to pots.

Seed potatoes

A seed potato is a potato that has been grown to be replanted to produce a potato crop. It’s the usual way that potatoes are made available to farmers and growers. While the potatoes in your refrigerator may sprout if kept for too long, it is not advisable to plant them in your garden due to the potential contamination of blight spores and viral diseases. It is also not recommended to allow leftover potatoes (known as volunteers) to sprout in your vegetable garden for the same reason.
You can usually find seed potatoes for sale at your local grocery store during the late winter to mid-spring period (specifically from January to April in the UK). This means you have the opportunity to select from a variety of seed potato types according to your preference.

Container

This is the container in which your potatoes are going to be planted. Your planting container should be a minimum of 3 gallons or 10 litres of soil. However, for optimum yield, I would advise using a container of about 2-3 feet (60 – 90cm) tall with a 10-15 gallons (40 -60 litres) capacity as this has consistently produced the best outcomes in my experience. Avoid containers that are taller than this, because it could be difficult to water them evenly. In taller containers, the top portion tends to dry out much faster than the bottom, which can result in soggy conditions and potential rotting of the potatoes. Proper drainage is also essential for the popper growth of your Potatoes, therefore you must ensure that your container has drainage holes at the bottom. You can make use of items such as:

  • a large plastic bucket
  • grow bag
  • Wooden half-barrels
  • Garbage bins
  • Plastic storage tubs
  • Chimney flues
  • Stack of tyres
  • Burlap sacks; or
  • Canvas tote bags

Fertile Soil

Another important material needed to grow healthy potatoes is fertile soil. I usually recommend using a potting soil mix. A potting soil mix is a blend of materials like sphagnum moss, bark, perlite, vermiculite, compost or coir that’s intended for growing plants in containers. Potten soil mixtures are often sold in bags at agro stores.
Alternatively, you can make compost and vermiculite in a 3 to 1 ratio. Potatoes often like a slightly acidic soil pH, therefore you can add a bit of Sulphur to give the soil a pH of about 5.2 – 6.5.

Steps for Planting Potatoes in Containers

Now that we have all the items and materials needed to grow healthy potato plants, I am going to be guiding you through a step-by-step process of how you can grow your potatoes from seed up to a bountiful harvest
Planting

1. Prepare Your Seed Potatoes

Seed Potatoes
Image Credit: _can_you_dig_it_

After purchasing your seed potatoes from the agro store, the seed potatoes can be given a head start by encouraging them to produce short, sturdy sprouts – a process known as ‘chitting’. Chitting speeds up the early stages of growth, leading to a bigger harvest more quickly. By doing this you not only give your potatoes a good head start but also helps you to be certain that your potatoes are healthy and good to go. To carry out this process of Chitting, simply store the potatoes in a cool dry place with the shoots facing upwards in a cool dry place Shoots will usually appear within two to four weeks. Don’t worry if they aren’t very big – once planted they’ll quickly grow away.

2. Find a Sunny Location

Ensure that you place your container in a section of your garden that receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight each day. Potatoes thrive and yield abundant harvests when exposed to ample sunlight. Optimal sun exposure also minimizes the chances of fungal ailments like powdery mildew. Pro tip: When cultivating potatoes indoors, select a room with a southern, south-eastern, or south-western orientation. If your residence lacks sufficient natural light, consider supplementing its lighting needs with grow lights.

3. Add Soil to the Container

Locate your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun daily, then add 2 to 3 inches of loamy, well-draining soil. (You’ll fill the empty space in your container when hilling your potatoes as they grow.) This specific pH range not only supports the healthy development of the potatoes but also helps protect against the occurrence of potato scabs, a common ailment. To achieve the desired pH level, you can mix in some compost while preparing the soil. This addition of compost not only aids in adjusting the pH but also provides a valuable nutrient boost that will nourish your potato plants and contribute to their overall growth.

4. Set seed potatoes in the Container

Plant your sections of potato in your containers with the potato eyes facing up. Space the seed potatoes about 10 inches apart from each other, and allow about 4 inches of space from the sides of the container. To avoid overcrowding and ensure stronger plants rub out the weakest shoots before planting leave to 2-3 per potato. One great tip that I have learned over the years is to plant your potatoes deep up to about 6 – 8 inches. This helps your potato plant to produce numerous tubers from the stem that is buried under the ground.

5. Cover with soil

Cover up your seed potatoes with about 4 – 6 inches of soil and water them well. Potatoes are like a very moist environment so ensure to water your potatoes well.

6. Apply Fertilizer

When it comes to fertilizing potatoes, using a versatile all-purpose fertilizer like Trifecta Plus is recommended. Potatoes thrive with higher levels of potassium in the soil compared to other nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Studies have shown that increased potassium levels significantly boost potato production. Therefore, it is important to ensure sufficient potassium in the soil, as it promotes plant health, tuber development, and overall growth throughout the season.

For container gardening, the amount of fertilizer needed varies based on the volume of soil. In a five-gallon container, adding about half a cup of Trifecta Plus is sufficient for the entire season. In a ten-gallon container, a cup of fertilizer should be used. It is essential to distribute the fertilizer where the potatoes will be planted to ensure the roots receive the necessary nutrients. Additionally, adding pelletized sulfur can lower the soil’s pH to around 5.5, which is ideal for potatoes and helps prevent scab disease.

7. Water Your Potatoes

I might have mentioned it earlier, but it is important to reiterate that potatoes like a moist soil environment. it’s important that you check their soil every day or so. Potatoes should receive regular watering so that soil remains consistently moist but never soggy. If you’re unsure if it’s time to water, insert your finger into your potatoes’ soil. If the top 1 to 2 inches of soil feels dry, then it needs to be watered, or else, you can just let them be.

8. Hill Up Your Potatoes

As your potato plants grow, they will also need to be hilled from time to time to protect the spuds from the sun and encourage more potatoes to develop. As the shoots grow, cover them up with further layers of potting soil, adding another layer each time the shoots reach 4 inches (10cm) above the surface. Leave just the tops of the foliage poking through each time you do this. This layering phase (called ‘earthing up’) gradually builds up the volume of potting soil for the developing crop of potato tubers to grow into. Continue hilling your plants every few weeks as they grow until they reach the top of your containers. Potatoes are fast growers, so this may take less time than you expect. The hilled soil should reach about 1/3 up your plant and it may cover up some of the plant’s lower leaves.

9. Check for Pests and Diseases

Potatoes grown in pots rarely suffer from pests and diseases, but they can be susceptible to aphids and Colorado beetles.

During periods of hot and humid summers, potatoes are susceptible to contracting powdery mildew, a fungal disease. In a worst-case scenario, they may also fall victim to the devastating potato blight, caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans. However, cultivating early varieties of potatoes offers a glimmer of hope, as these varieties typically reach maturity prior to the usual onset of late blight in July or August.

10. Harvest Potatoes in Containers

Potatoes can be harvested any time after they flower, which usually occurs in mid to late summer. Depending on the variety, this can be in about 3 to 4 months from planting. However, I usually wait for the potato plant to die completely so that the plant can expound all of its nutrients on the potato tubers.

To harvest your potatoes, carefully lift the whole plant out of the soil and pluck out the potato tubers one by one. The tubers will detach easily from the plant. Then you can wash them off and use them in all your favourite potato recipes.

Conclusion

Successful potato growth requires adequate sunlight exposure, ideally around 10 hours of full sun per day. Additionally, watering should be done when the soil feels dry, but not excessively, as potatoes are prone to root rot. Keeping the soil consistently moist without causing waterlogging is crucial for optimal growth and tuber development.

Following these guidelines, you can enjoy the rewarding experience of growing your own potatoes. Feel free to share your progress and results in the comments or on Facebook for further support and feedback.

References

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