Homegrown potatoes, like tomatoes, taste and feel much better than the varieties you buy in the store. That said, potatoes require a lot of growing space that many people don’t have room for in their yard. If you have limited space or live in the city, growing potatoes in containers is a great way to enjoy these homegrown delights.
Read on to learn how you can start growing your own today! We’ll teach you everything you need to select the right potatoes and containers for your needs.
Benefits of Container-Grown Potatoes
Potatoes are easy to grow under the right conditions, and they add a healthy source of nutrition to your meals. The advantages of growing your own at home are numerous, and using containers rather than growing your veggies in the ground can allow you to save some serious space.
Not only are homegrown potatoes tastier, but growing your own varieties also allows you to select the types of you like the most. Some of the tastiest ones likely cost more to buy at the store. Growing the more expensive fingerling potatoes, for example, can help you cut grocery store costs exponentially.
A Healthier Crop
Because you don’t need to make room in your vegetable garden, container potatoes may also be healthier. They’re protected from other plants and harmful critters that may attempt to eat your crop. Soil contamination is less of an issue, and growing potatoes in containers is a fun project for kids to learn how to grow their own food.
In fact, growing in containers will protect from a wide variety of pests. Tunnelling critters like moles, chipmunks, or gophers can’t reach your crop through a container. Furthermore, pests like grubs and wireworms will avoid your harvest as well.
Plus, containers are versatile. You can move them to any location for the best care, such as a patio or balcony, and plastic containers are especially easy to move. It’s also much easier to harvest potatoes in containers rather than digging in a vegetable patch. The latter method risks damaging unseen tubers as you rake through the dirt.
Just keep in mind that container potatoes will require more attention when it comes to watering. Always keep the soil moist, and constantly monitor the water level to produce a great harvest.
Select the Right Variety
There are many potato varieties that thrive in containers. The best types will mature early in the season, around 60—90 days from planting. Some types take up to 120 days to harvest, and these longer growing seasons tend to do better planted in the ground. You can also select the variety you enjoy the most from the supermarket to plant at home.
Here are some popular varieties grown in planters:
- Irish potatoes – Easy to grow anywhere. All you need for Irish potatoes to thrive is six to eight hours of direct light. This option is perfect for anyone who has a small garden or only has a patio space to work with. It’s also great for families who are teaching their kids how to grow foods they love to eat.
- Fingerling potatoes – Come in various varieties, all of which typically cost more at the grocery store and are suitable for containers. These smaller potatoes are only around 2-4 inches long, and they grow in an oblong shape. Color-wise, they can range from red and orange to purple or white. Some popular varieties include AmaRosa, French Fingerling, Banana, Rose Finn Apple, and Pinto.
- Early potatoes – Varieties that mature early in the season, or around 65-80 days from planting. These are perfect for containers because their crops yield simultaneously. They’re smaller in size with a sweet flavor. Favorite varieties include Dark Red Norland, Yukon Gold, Chieftain, Red Gold, Sangre, and Irish Cobbler.
- Salad potatoes – Easy to grow in containers, and bring flavor to your lunches. Try varieties such as Charlotte, Lady Christl, Rocket, or Anya.
Choose a Large Container
Potatoes need room to space out, so the larger container you use, the more tubers your plants can form.
Larger pots and planters are perfect for growing potatoes at home. Find a container no smaller than 16 inches in diameter or 41 cm tall for the best results. You can fit 4-6 seed potatoes in a container this size. 10-gallon nursery pots tend to perform well for this task.
Grow bags are made from fabric. These protect plants from being overwatered, and allow airflow for the roots to breathe. You can plant 2-3 seed potatoes in a 5-gallon-sized bag or 4-6 seed potatoes in a 10-gallon bag and reuse the sacs later.
This type of pot has both an inner and outer container, and they hold 2-3 seed potatoes. With these pots, you can lift the inner container to inspect your growing potatoes. Then replace the pot to protect the veggies as they develop.
Any plastic bucket can work for growing potatoes, as long as it can hold at least 5 gallons. You can recycle buckets you have around the house already, and plant 1-2 seed potatoes in each. Make sure to drill a drainage hole in each before adding soil.
Containers like this are great for growing potatoes because they offer a more consistent supply of water to your plants while decreasing the amount of moisture from evaporating. Potatoes require regularly maintained moisture levels, so self-watering containers can help you save your plants from overwatering or reaching dry soil to keep them growing strong.
A wide variety of things can be used to grow potatoes, and any large container could work. No matter what type of container you select, just ensure you have space to move soil over the growing spuds. Most importantly, always create drainage holes in the bottom.
- Laundry Baskets – Large in size, and work even better if they already have the holes you need for drainage and progress checking
- Tire Tower – Start with 2 tires. Later, you can use a rebar pole to add to 5-6 tires as the crop grows
- Potato Tower – Vertical gardening technique using a tower you can make using chicken wire, straw, and garden soil
- Trash Can – 30 gallons or more is ideal
- Trash Bag – 30 gallons or more in size, and requires you to create drainage holes
- Wooden Barrel or Box – 3 x 5-foot raised bed or barrel, and at least 18 inches deep
Where to Place Your Potato Container Garden
Potatoes grow best in full sun conditions. As such, place the containers in a location (indoors or out) where they receive six to eight hours of sun. They’ll also need a consistent temperature of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Materials You Need to Start
Once you have the container you want to grow your potatoes in, all you need is soil, fertilizer, water, and seed potatoes.
- Seed potatoes – Make sure the potatoes you use are certified seed potatoes. These are disease-free and haven’t been treated to discourage the seeds from sprouting. You can find them at your local nursery, or you can use organic potatoes from the store. Just make sure they haven’t been sprayed or treated. Look for at least two “eyes” or stem buds on the potatoes. Then, cut them into smaller (egg-sized) pieces for the best results.
- Potting Soil – Find a potting mix made specifically for use in containers. Alternatively, make your own mix using 1/3 compost, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 peat moss.
- Fertilizer – Add a slow-release, organic fertilizer to your potting soil while planting new potatoes. A diluted liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion can also be used every few weeks during the growing season.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Growing Potatoes in Containers
The instructions are similar no matter which type of potato or container you select. Potatoes require warmer temperatures to grow, avoiding hard freezes. To start, follow these steps after the freeze season is over:
- Place 4-6 inches of potting soil mix in the container you plan to use, mixing in the fertilizer.
- Set a few seed potatoes in the container at least 6 inches apart. The number of potatoes you use will vary based on the size of your container and the variety you grow. Basically, a normal 5-gallon pot can hold 4-6 seed potatoes.
- Cover each seed potato with at least 6 inches of soil, watering well.
- When the plant is about 6 inches tall, cover the spuds with more soil. Repeat this step every 2 weeks or so until your container is full. Growing potatoes vertically works better and saves space, and you don’t want the sun resting on new spuds for too long.
You can then harvest your potatoes for meals when the plants bloom. The foliage will begin to yellow when the plant is done growing. At this point, you can allow the foliage to die off and dump the container to locate your potatoes.
Most gardeners plant in later spring and harvest in May, but times may vary depending on where you live. You may also need to move the plants indoors in the summer if temperatures where you live reach over 85 degrees, or don’t last very long.