Growing potatoes in containers is a fun and frugal way to garden. If you're strapped for space, this is the ideal option: you don't need a large yard and can even keep them on decks, patios, and porches.
Container potatoes require minimal materials and time. Plus, this isn't a complex style of gardening so it's great for beginners. All you need are a few tricks, tips, and some basic planting instructions.
Saving space is one of the main reasons people decide to grow potatoes in containers. But even those with ample land often prefer this method because it's so easy. Potato container gardening produces a decent yield, too, but in a concentrated area.
Growing in contrainers also minimizes weeds and the potential for pests, insect infestations, and diseases from subterranean growing. As an added bonus, it's a wonderful kid-friendly activity.
When it comes to container options, you're only limited by your imagination. Upcycle pots, buckets, storage totes, garbage cans, and cardboard boxes to give them a new life. You don't have to spend a cent on containers if you get creative with your planting ideas, but there are plenty of cute and colorful purpose-built choices, too.
You can also use bags. Fabric planting bags allow for drainage and airflow, and they also have handles for easy maneuvering. But trash bags, tote bags, burlap sacks, and shopping bags work well, too.
Just make sure that you safely drill or cut sufficient drainage holes into any containers that don't already have them.
Especially if you're repurposing something, you need to start you growing process on the right foot, or you'll run into problems.
One of the largest issues is cross-contamination. If you've previously used your containers to grow — or for anything else, for that matter — make sure to clean them with hot, soapy water before planting. This reduces the potential for infestation or infection.
You have to know where to grow your potatoes. Even if outdoor space is limited, you still need a spot where they'll be happy. Ideally, give them full sun for no less than six hours per day — eight is better. A southern exposure works best.
Some people go so far as to not even grow their container potatoes outside. If you have the proper space, climate, lighting, and set up, you can grow them in your home year-round.
If you're planning on growing indoors, you can plant your spuds whenever you'd like, as long as they'll get that aforementioned sunlight. For outdoor gardening, timing is a bit more specific. Above all, especially if you're in a cooler area, make sure you plant after the threat of frost has passed. Keep in mind that soil in containers is more likely to freeze than soil in the ground.
Potatoes typically come in three maturities: early, midseason, and late. For container growing, go with early varieties if you want a fast crop. This should net you a harvest in 70 to 90 days. The later types could take almost twice as long, but they usually yield a higher output.
Start you container garden with seed potatoes: ones that are already sprouting tubers. It's perfectly okay to organic potatoes from the grocery store that have sprouted in the bag. Nurseries sell them too, which is a safer bet for success. Small spuds can be planted whole, and larger ones need cut into two-inch chunks.
Stagger the potato pieces about five inches apart. Place them on top of four inches of soil, then cover them with a few more inches. Add more soil on top every couple of weeks.
Your soil should be new and fresh: never choose anything that has been in the ground or used in other containers. If you're a bit more experienced with container gardening, you may want to experiment with some other potting mediums to see how they work. Perlite and straw are popular, but if you're feeling daring, try some other well-draining materials.
If your soil is nutrient-rich, you don't have to worry about fertilizing for the first few weeks. But if you're trying out some new mediums, fertilize your plants right away.
Container potatoes leech nutrients due to the amount of water they consume, so it's essential to supplement this loss. Fertilize every week or two; your spuds are nightshades and eat fairly quickly. Organic fertilizers work best since they won't burn the roots if they're overused. Stop fertilizing near the end of the growing cycle so you aren't picking and consuming potatoes with fertilize in them.
Just like in-ground plants, container potatoes require different watering cycles depending on climate and the stage of growth. Because they tend to go through more water, you have to pay attention to wilting or other signs that your plant is parched.
As it grows, you'll notice it wants more and more water, but then it will slow down. Near harvest time, you may not even have to water it at all.
When you start to see the leaves on your plants turn yellow, ignore them completely for about a week. Then, let the harvest begin.
One of the benefits of container growing is the ease of harvesting. Instead of having to dig in the ground, all you need to do is dump out the container and your supply of spuds is there for the taking.