Growing Potatoes in Containers is Surprisingly Good Family Fun
I am so excited to start growing potatoes in containers this year. Well, it’s actually a grow bag with a little peaky hole. The kids will love being able to watch the potatoes growing in the peaky place, ok not just kids, I am pretty excited about it too. So let’s grow some potatoes.
Here is why I want to use containers. First off the soil is disease-free. This is a big deal for potatoes. , the potatoes are more easily protected from pests like um Peter Rabbit, containers can be moved around as the sun changes, and finally, potatoes are easier to harvest from containers. For more on why container gardens pros and cons see my post here.
The first thing you will need is some seed potatoes. No, I am not kidding you need seed potatoes. I ordered mine online from Amazon. This is the one I bought. The potatoes that you buy at the grocery have not been approved to be free of disease and pathogens. This is a big deal for potatoes. If you get blight in your soil it will haunt you for years. Not such a big deal for us since we are growing potatoes in containers. Also, grocery store potatoes have been sprayed with Chlorpropham, trade name Bud Nip. as the name implies it is supposed to stop potatoes from sprouting.
So start with seed potatoes. Order these in time to get them about 3 weeks before your last frost, or if you live where there is no frost like I do they need to be able to have about 3-4 months before it really heats up to 100 degrees.
Getting ready to plant
Now that you have your seed potatoes you need to get them ready to plant. They need to start making little sprouts. Keep them in a cool environment and in the light. I have mine spread out on a tray, but some people like them with one end up in an egg carton. When the sprouts are about an inch long they are ready to be planted. There is one more step before they are put into the soil. If a potato is small like the size of an egg you don’t have to cut it up. On larger potatoes, you will be cutting the potato into pieces with 2 eyes or sprouts on the same piece. You will need them in a position where both are facing the same direction more or less. When they are planted they will need to be facing up. There is a fancy potato term for all of this called “chitting.” You will want to do this a few days before planting so that the freshly cut spots have time to heal.
Find a container
While your potatoes are sprouting you can begin looking for containers to grow them in. Some people just go for the simple 5-gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, I am getting these potato bags. I am excited about watching the potatoes grow. What can I say? Any container will do, as long as it is at least 15 inches deep and has drainage. If you want you can even grow them in burlap bags.
Where to put it?
Now you need to decide where you are going to place the container. Your potatoes will need 6-8 hours a day of daylight. If you place them in direct sun they will need more water and have a chance of dying from too much heat. They really want to live in a place that is 70 degrees or less. Also think about how you are going to water them, so unless you like to carry water close to a hose. Potatoes can be part of a pretty vegetable container garden.
OK so now you have potato seeds, a container, and chitted potatoes, right? All we are missing is the soil. Without geeking out about soil it should be a PH of about 5-6. There are 3 good soil recipes I have found. The first one is potting soil, compost, and 20% sand. The second one is garden soil (not potting soil) and compost mixed 50/50. The last one is 1/3 compost. 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss. Whichever you choose to use mix it all up. You can get a soil test kit to tell you if you are at the correct PH, or get my favorite garden gadget here. You can let the kiddos join in mixing the soils.
Now we actually get to plant the potatoes. Yea! Put about 5-6 inches of soil in your pot and water so it is moist but not soggy. Now place the potatoes in the container. Unless you are a control freak (I’m talking to myself here ) you can let the kiddos help with this too. You can probably fit 3-4 in a 7 gallon grow bag, and 4-6 in a 10 gallon. So just 2 0r 3 in a 5-gallon bucket. Cover with another 5-6 inches of soil. Keep the bags moist but not soggy.
The plants will need at least 1 inch of water a week, more depending on where you put them, outside temperatures and the type of container. Again my garden gadget will help to measure this. Put a layer of mulch on top. You don’t want the sun to actually get on the potatoes themselves. That will turn them green, which is not good. The green color comes from solanine which when eaten can make you sick.
In 3 to 4 weeks your plants should start to come up. when they are about 8 inches tall you are going to add more soil. Leave about 3 inches of the stem with some leaves uncovered. Cover with mulch again. This is called Hilling. It helps to think of potatoes growing sort or backward or upside down to understand why you would add more soil. You do this every time the plants grow until you reach the top of the container. Fertilize once a month with an organic vegetable fertilizer.
After the plants produce flowers they will start to turn yellow and wilt. They have done their job and now it’s time to harvest. Just dump out your container onto the ground and grab your potatoes, or let the kids do it.
So now all that’s left is to figure out what you are going to make with your delicious homegrown potatoes. I hope you have learned the growing potatoes in containers can be fun for the whole family, and that it becomes part of your backyard spring traditions.
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Till Next Time….
- order seed potatoes
- order grow bags
- start the potatoes growing by chitting
- prepare the soil
- plant the potatoes
- add soil by hilling as the plants grow
- keep soil moist
- fertilize monthly
- harvest after flowering