Growing potatoes in containers is a fun and easy way to turn a sunny spot of your porch or yard into a productive little home garden. Potato plants actually have pretty shallow roots considering how large the plants themselves are, which makes them perfect for growing in large containers.
Every year I like to grow potatoes in containers to save room in my raised beds for other veggies. Container potatoes are easier to plant and harvest and is a great way for beginner gardeners to get growing. If you have kids who want to help in the garden then potatoes are super easy for them to plant (compared to small seeds) and fun to harvest.
Follow these tips to grow pounds and pounds of your own homegrown potatoes!
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THE BEST CONTAINERS FOR GROWING POTATOES
Before we talk about the best soil needed to grow potatoes we have to make sure you have the right type of container or pot to grow them in. Potatoes grow well in large containers. For best results, choose one that’s about 18 inches deep so that you can fill the container with about 15″ of soil and still have plenty of room at the top to mound soil around the potato stems as they grow.
No matter which container you choose, make sure it has at least one good drainage hole so that excess water can leave the container. Drainage is super important in containers because the top will dry out much faster than the bottom. You don’t want your potatoes to find themselves in a swampy situation and rot.
Here are a couple of my favorite container options:
Wine barrels and old whiskey barrels can have a great second life as potato growing containers thanks to their generous size. It’s easy enough to use a drill to make some holes in the bottom of these wood containers.
A 10-gallon bucket makes an easy container for large root crops like potatoes. Buckets might not be the most attractive option, but they’re super practical and inexpensive. (If you want a little more space, you could even do an opaque storage tub. Nothing clear because you don’t want any sunlight shining on the tubers while they’re growing.) Don’t forget to drill drainage holes in the bottom.
Large Grow Sacks
This 15-gallon grow bag is a great option for your potatoes. It releases extra moisture through the fabric sides to prevent overwatering. (In other words, you don’t need to drill holes in the bottom of this one!) Find more grow bag options here.
THE BEST SOIL FOR A POTATO CONTAINER GARDEN
Potatoes appreciate well-drained soil. In fact, the fastest way to invite fungal diseases like potato blight is to plant your seed potatoes in a poorly drained soil.
My favorite soil for growing potatoes in containers is a mixture of good-quality potting soil and compost. Adding compost to the potting soil gives you that nutrient-rich soil that root crops love and will even help with moisture control.
I recommend buying a potting mix from online or your local nursery instead of using native soil from your yard for several reasons. One, many of us have heavy clay soil, which is a little too basic (literally) for these spuds. Potatoes prefer a more acidic soil (between 6 and 6.5 on the soil pH scale). Two, buying fresh soil ensures you’ll be growing your future baked potatoes in soil that hasn’t been treated with pesticides and weed killers or sprayed with synthetic fertilizers. Finally, potting soil is made to be light and fluffy, which is more ideal for containers and proper drainage.
Fill your container with good soil up to about 3″ to 4″ below the top. Make sure to break up any large clumps to make it easy for your potato tubers and roots to spread underground. The goal is a nice, loose soil.
THE BEST POTATO VARIETIES TO GROW IN CONTAINERS
Unless you’ve got a really large container, you might not have enough space for larger spuds like Russet potatoes to grow to their full size. You can always try to grow your favorite type anyway, but just be aware you might not get quite as big of yield as you would in a larger raised bed.
Early potatoes and mid-season potatoes typically do really well in containers since they mature quickly (in about 65 to 80 days) and produce all at once. I have always had great luck with growing white, yellow and red potatoes in containers.
Some great smaller potato options for container gardens include:
- Fingerling potatoes – These are small potatoes that are typically about 2″ to 4″ long and narrow (like little fingers!). AmaRose fingerling potatoes are a beautiful burgundy color and taste delicious.
- Red potatoes – Colorado Rose is a good option for roasting and steaming. This type of potato gives high yields and stores really well. Dark Red Norland potatoes are ready to harvest in just 60 to 75 days, or even sooner if you want delicious baby potatoes.
- Gem potatoes – Yukon Gem is a crowd favorite to be sure! The buttery-yellow flesh is delicious baked, boiled, mashed, or fried.
HOW TO PLANT POTATOES IN CONTAINERS
If you’re not familiar with how to prepare seed potatoes for planting, make sure you check out our potato growing guide for pre-planting steps. We’re going to jump straight to planting in this post.
Follow these six steps to get your taters planted up right around the time of your last frost date or within 85 days of your first frost of the fall/winter season.
Step one to plant potatoes
Move your container to a sunny spot before you fill it with heavy soil. Potatoes need full sun, basically at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Try to avoid a spot where eaves from your home or patio might dump a bunch of water into your container during rain.
Step two to plant potatoes
Fill your container with about 12″ to 15″ of soil. Make sure to leave a couple inches at the top to mound up the soil around potato stems as they grow. I like to add a balanced organic fertilizer to the soil so that my potatoes will be off to a great start.
Step three to plant potatoes
Since the soil in your container should already be nice and loose, it’ll be easy to dig a little trench about 4″ to 6″ deep.
Step four to plant potatoes
Place seed potato pieces with the cut side facing down and the eye pointing up, spacing them about 10 inches apart. The number of seed potatoes you can plant depends, of course, on the width of the container. Ideally, each seed piece should be 3″ to 4″ from the side of the container so that it’ll have plenty of space to produce new tubers at the tips of its underground stems.
Step five to plant potatoes
Cover your seed pieces with a couple inches of soil. You’ll return as the potatoes are growing to cover them up more and more.
Step six to plant potatoes
Give your little potato pieces a deep watering in to welcome them to their new container home. We’ll go over water requirements in a bit.
HOW TO CARE FOR POTATOES GROWING IN CONTAINERS
There are three main tending tasks required of you while your potatoes are multiplying inside your container: hilling, fertilizing, and watering. Also, keep in mind that the top of the plant (the leaves) is vulnerable to frost, so be prepared to cover if you’re expecting a late-season freeze.
When sprouts have grown about 4″ to 6″ above the soil, it’s time to hill them by carefully pushing more soil and compost around the base of the plant. Think about making little mounds around each plant stem to give them support. Hilling also encourages the plants to form more tubers underground. Continue hilling your potato plants every couple of weeks throughout the growing season, until you reach the top of the container.
If potatoes show up at the surface, be sure to cover them up with more soil. Exposure to light gets you green potatoes, which you don’t want. A little green can be peeled away, but lots of green isn’t healthy (on potatoes, that is).
Potatoes like lots of nutrients, particularly phosphorus, while they’re growing. Start giving your plants a little fertilizer side dressing when they’re 6 to 8 inches high. (Side dressing just means to add fertilizer around the stems of the plant.) Make sure to water well after. Repeat every 2 to 3 weeks.
Other great phosphorus-rich fertilizer options include fish emulsion, kelp meal, and bone meal.
Potato plants need consistent soil moisture to grow nice spuds. You don’t want to water too little, or your potatoes will shrivel up. You also don’t want to water too much, or your potatoes could split, mold, or rot underground in the swampy soil conditions you’ve created.
If your container is open to the elements (in other words, not under a covered patio), it’s a good idea to use a rain gauge to keep track of your weather conditions. Your plants will need 1″ to 2″ of water per week, so if you’re short on rainfall, supplement by hand watering.
Monitor the moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil each day. If the top 1″ to 2″ inches of soil feel dry to the touch, it’s time to water. Add water until you see it coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of your container. Make sure to aim water at the soil surface just over the roots, never on the leaves of the plant, so that you don’t encourage disease.
HOW TO HARVEST POTATOES FROM CONTAINER GARDENS
New potatoes, which have a more delicate texture and a sweeter flavor than their larger counterparts, can be harvested about 6 to 7 weeks after planting.
Otherwise, wait for your potato plants to give you signs they’re ready for harvest. The plant tops will turn yellow, die back, and flop over. When you see this start to happen, stop watering your plants. You’re only about 2 to 3 weeks away from harvest time, and you want the tubers to thicken their skins.
The best way to harvest container-grown potatoes is to spread out a tarp and gently tip the entire container over. Pull each potato from the soil. With any luck, you’ll get 5 to 6 healthy potatoes from each potato piece you planted.
Make sure to handle potatoes gently, especially new potatoes. Any potatoes damaged during harvest will spoil quickly. Gently brush off excess soil, but don’t wash them until you’re ready to enjoy them.
For longer storage you need to let them cure in a cool, well ventalated space for about two weeks. I bring mine indoors to my indoor seed starting rack. After curing, move your harvest somewhere cool and dark.
LETTUCE HELP YOU GROW
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Happy gardening, folks!