Growing potatoes in containers is an excellent option for gardeners that have space restrictions or poor, rocky soil. Almost any vegetable can be grown successfully in a growing box or pot, including root vegetables like potatoes. While a container harvest may not be quite as plentiful as an in-ground one, an easy and ample harvest is within reach with the right care and planting considerations.
The method for growing potatoes differs a bit compared to cultivating other popular vegetables. Potatoes grow best in containers when stems are progressively buried by continually adding potting soil around the plant as it grows. The buried stems that are deeper in the soil will sprout more root structures beneath the soil’s growing hill.
It is also worth noting that while it is tempting to try to plant potatoes that may have sprouted in your pantry, it might not be the best choice. Traditionally, grocery store-bought potatoes are treated with a chemical to inhibit sprouting, so they might not be successful growers and probably not an organic option. Instead, look into buying seed potatoes from nurseries or seed companies and use the potatoes from those yields to grow more.
Growing Potatoes In Containers
Container selection is paramount to your success when growing potatoes in containers. Pots and planters come in various colors, shapes, sizes, designs, and materials. You can find them made from wood, metal, plastic, stone, clay, and even fabric. Plastic storage bins, barrels, and garbage pails are even fair games for planting potatoes. While there are pros and cons to each pot’s composition, there are two main things to consider that will impact your growing success.
A container’s size is crucial when growing potatoes because an adequate room is needed for the soil hilling process mentioned above. When growing plants in pots, root systems rely on you to provide them with the moisture and nutrients they need to grow. Potatoes produce beneath the soil and require plenty of space to grow and spread out. Choose a large and deep container for growing potatoes, ensuring that it is opaque and blocks out light for tuber formation.
For best success, select a large pot with excellent drainage. Look for pots with holes in the bottom or drill some of your own. Some growing containers have plugs in the bottom, so you have the option of having holes or not. A container without holes will retain too much water, which will pool up in the pot, causing the potatoes to rot beneath the soil.
Best Soil For Potatoes In Containers
When planting any high yielding vegetables in pots, it is vital to use a high-quality potting mix. Rich, healthy, well-draining soil keeps your plants well-fed and helps retain more moisture than poor quality soil. Potatoes thrive in soil that has a pH of 5.0-5.2.
Watering and Fertilizing Potatoes In Pots
When growing potatoes in containers they require a consistent supply of water. This continuous supply of water has the potential to leach essential nutrients out of the soil. It is recommended to add a slow-release organic fertilizer upon planting to ensure that potato plants are well fed.
Light & Temperature Requirements For Growing Potatoes In Containers
Potatoes grow best where temperatures hover between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They thrive in full sun, but care should be taken not to allow crops of potatoes to overheat with too much direct sunlight when planted in containers.
Adding mulch to your garden or container at the end of the hilling process can help the soil retain moisture. It also further shields the potatoes from direct sunlight that can cause them to turn green, making them bitter and unfit for consumption.
Planting Potatoes In Containers
About two weeks after the last frost date in your region is the perfect time to start planting your potatoes. Grab your large container and quality potting mix, and get started.
- Fill the bottom of the container with 4 to 6 inches of potting soil.
- Place the seed potato into the soil and cover it with dirt.
- As the seed potato sprouts and produces green shoots, add more dirt. Repeat this process by adding soil when you see more signs of growth, covering the stem until the whole bucket is filled.
- Layer in a slow-release organic fertilizer if desired.
- Add mulch to the top layer of the container around the base of the plant.
- The potato plant regularly to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.
- Once the potato plant has grown past the container’s top edge, continue to water regularly and ensure that the plant gets plenty of sunlight.
When To Harvest Potatoes
Once the plants have flowered, you can harvest the potatoes at any time. Potatoes that will be consumed right away are called ‘new potatoes,’ and they can be dug up carefully when plants are fully grown. Lift medium-sized potatoes to the surface of the soil and shake away any loose dirt.
If there are still very young tubers beneath the soil, leave them intact, cover them up, and continue to care for them until you see more growth. Potatoes can be harvested after the plants have browned and started to die back. Potatoes that are harvested later can be stored longer and are referred to as ‘storage potatoes.’ They have a bit longer of a shelflife. Rinse in cold water, store in a cool, dry, dark place, and use within the next few weeks.
Best Varieties For Growing Potatoes In Containers
There are many varieties of potatoes with different characteristics when it comes to taste, color, texture, size, and days to maturity. These varieties are sure to please whether you are craving a tender young red potato, a creamy yellow mashing potato, or a dry and fluffy russet.
- ‘Nicola‘ is a lovely yellow potato with a thin, yellowish, light-brown skin and golden flesh. It has higher moisture content and a more buttery flavor than its russet cousin and a waxier texture.
- ‘Kennebec‘ is an early season, all-purpose potato, which yields a large amount of produce. It has delicate skin and creamy flesh that retains its original shape well when it is cooked, which makes it a premier choice for potato salads, soups, and stews. It is also an excellent potato for mashing or frying.
- ‘Purple Majesty‘ is a fascinating potato to grow and will help you add deep color to the rainbow of foods on your plate. Deep purple skins and vibrant violet flesh have a lovely buttery flavor and smooth texture.
- ‘Yukon Gold‘ is a potato that you have undoubtedly come across at the grocery store, and for good reason. It is one of the most quintessential potatoes when it comes to versatility. It is an early cultivar and is superior for holding its shape through boiling, yet still creates a creamy and fluffy, great tasting mashed potato.
- ‘Burbank Russet‘ is a high starch potato that is ideal for baking. If you are looking for a dry, fluffy spud to load up with toppings, a classic French fry, or are merely looking for a mashing potato, russet potatoes fit the mold.
- ‘Red Norland‘ potatoes are early season favorites that are perfect for storing. They have smooth skin, white flesh, and provide strong yields of generously sized potatoes.