How to Grow Potatoes in a Container: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Grow Potatoes in a Container: A Beginner’s Guide

Perfect for small-space gardeners or those just starting out, growing potatoes in containers makes it possible to harvest this crop right on your balcony, patio, or any sunny spot around your home.

Potatoes thrive in containers and the setup is surprisingly simple. Not only does this method minimize the need for a traditional garden plot, but it also offers easier pest management and soil control. Plus, there’s something incredibly satisfying about “fishing” for your dinner from a pot of soil!

Alongside this beginner’s guide, there is an engaging video tutorial available that walks you through the process of planting potatoes in containers step by step. Whether you’re a visual learner or prefer reading at your own pace, we’ve got you covered. So grab your gardening gloves and let’s dig into the world of container-grown potatoes together!

This article contains affiliate links to some of our favorite products for growing potatoes. All of these products have been tried and tested by us, and we can attest to their usefulness in the art of growing potatoes! We earn a small commission from purchases made through these links, thank you for your support!

Benefits of Growing Potatoes in Containers

There are many advantages to growing potatoes in containers, especially if you have limited space or are new to gardening. Container gardening offers more than just a way to save space. Here’s why it’s such a great method for growing potatoes:

1. Space Efficiency

Containers allow you to grow potatoes on balconies, patios, or small backyards. This means you can make the most of your outdoor space no matter how big or small it is.

2. Control Over Soil Conditions

With containers, you have full control over the soil mix, which can be specifically tailored for potatoes. Unlike planting directly in the ground where soil quality may be an issue, using containers ensures that your tubers have all the nutrients they need to thrive.

3. Ease of Monitoring and Maintenance

Managing pests and weeds is easier when your plants are in containers. You can also quickly spot any changes or issues with your potato plants and take action immediately.

4. Enhanced Drainage

Proper drainage is essential for the health of potato plants, and containers can be designed with this in mind. Good drainage helps prevent waterlogging and reduces the risk of root diseases.

5. Portability

One of the biggest advantages of container gardening is the ability to move your plants around. If the weather suddenly changes or you realize that your potatoes need more sunlight, you can simply relocate the containers.

6. Reduced Physical Strain

Unlike traditional gardening methods that involve digging and bending over, container gardening allows you to work at a comfortable height. You can place your containers on a table or raised platform, making it easier to plant, care for, and harvest your potatoes.

Container gardening provides an ideal environment for growing potatoes. Even if you’re new to gardening, with the right setup, you can expect a successful harvest from your container potato garden.

Choosing the Right Container

Embarking on the journey of container gardening begins with a crucial decision: selecting the right home for your potato plants. The types of containers for growing potatoes are as diverse as the varieties of potatoes themselves. When searching for suitable containers for potato cultivation, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Size Matters: Potatoes need room to flourish. Aim for containers that are at least 2-3 feet deep and can hold 10-15 gallons of soil. This ensures enough space for the roots and tubers to develop.
  • Drainage is Key: Ensure your chosen container has ample drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot and other detrimental issues.
  • Material Choices: From traditional pots and wooden crates to creative options like burlap bags and plastic trash cans, the material of your container can vary. However, it’s essential to use food-safe materials, especially if repurposing containers not originally intended for gardening.
  • Opacity: To prevent sunlight from reaching the developing tubers and causing them to turn green — a sign of toxic solanine — opt for opaque containers.

Here’s a quick glance at some container options:

By focusing on size, drainage, material, and opacity, you set the stage for a successful potato harvest right from the start. With your container selected, you’re now ready to move on to the next vital step: selecting and preparing your seed potatoes.

Seed potatoes with sprouts, or eyes, ready to be planted in a container.

Seed potatoes with eyes

Selecting and Preparing Seed Potatoes

Using quality seed potatoes is crucial for a healthy potato harvest. Learn how to choose the right varieties and prepare them for planting.

When starting your journey of growing potatoes in containers, it’s important to begin with certified seed potatoes. These potatoes are guaranteed to be free from diseases that could harm your crop. Here are some certified seed potato varieties that we have successfully grown in containers in the past:

Variety Selection

Different potato varieties come with unique flavors, textures, and maturity times. Consider whether you’re aiming for early, midseason, or late harvests and choose varieties accordingly. Do you fancy colorful plates? Opt for vibrant blue and purple potatoes. On the lookout for traditional flavors? Classic russets never disappoint.

Sprouting Seed Potatoes

Encouraging your seed potatoes to sprout, or “chit” as it’s known in gardening circles, gives them a head start. Simply spread them out in a cool, light-filled room – think of it as their pre-garden pep-talk!

Cutting Larger Spuds

If some of your seed potatoes are on the hefty side, cut them into smaller pieces. Each piece should have at least 2-3 eyes. After cutting, let them dry out for a few days so they develop a protective callus over the cuts.

With your seed potatoes selected and prepared, you’re ready to move on to the next exciting stage – getting that container and soil mix ready for planting. Let’s keep those green thumbs busy!

Preparing the Container and Soil Mix

Proper preparation of the container and a well-draining soil mix are essential factors to consider when growing potatoes in containers.

When setting up your potato garden in a container, the right environment is vital for your tubers to thrive. Here’s how to get started:

1. Choose Your Container Wisely

Ensure it’s large enough to accommodate the plant’s growth, typically 2-3 feet in depth. Containers should have ample drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

2. Crafting the Perfect Soil Mix

Aim for a quality soil blend that’s loose, rich in organic matter, and has excellent drainage capabilities. A mix of half soilless potting mix and half well-rotted compost tends to create an ideal environment for potatoes.

3. Layering for Success

Begin with a layer of your soil mix at the bottom of the container—about 4-6 inches deep—to give your seed potatoes a soft bed to lie on.

4. Drainage Is Key

To enhance drainage, consider adding a layer of gravel or broken pottery pieces at the bottom before adding your soil mix.

Remember, the goal is to create conditions that closely mimic what potatoes would find in a garden bed: nutrient-rich, well-aerated, and moist (but not wet) soil. With your container and soil mix ready, you’re one step closer to enjoying homegrown potatoes. Next up, we’ll look into the planting process—it’s where things really start to get exciting!

Freshly harvested potato tubers that were grown in a container on a patio.

Planting, Caring, and Harvesting Potatoes in Containers

Ready to plant your potatoes? Let’s start!

Step 1: Spacing and Depth for Container Potato Planting

Aim to plant the seed potatoes around 5-6 inches apart and 3-4 inches away from the sides of the container. Cover your seed potatoes with 2-3 inches of your soil mix.

Step 2: Watering and Fertilizing Container Potatoes

The top 1-2 inches of soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged. A rule of thumb is to water when the top layer feels dry to the touch. Fertilize your plants every two weeks with diluted fish emulsion or a granular organic fertilizer, steering clear of high nitrogen ones. We commonly use Jobe’s Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer on our container grown potato plants.

Step 3: Hilling Potatoes in Containers

As your potato plants grow (around when they reach 6 inches tall), add more soil to cover the stems. This encourages stolon formation and prevents the tubers from being exposed to sunlight which can turn them green.

Step 4: Harvesting Potatoes in Containers

Harvest time depends on your potato variety and size preference. For small ‘new’ potatoes, you can gently dig around the plants after flowering. Wait until foliage dies down or after the first fall frost for a full crop. Remember not to wash them until you’re ready to eat them!

Just as it was with preparing the containers and soil mix, attention to detail is key in these steps too. So go ahead, get dirty and have fun growing your own potatoes!

Troubleshooting Common Problems in Container Potatoes

Container potatoes are convenient and versatile, but they can also face some challenges. It’s important to know how to identify and deal with these common problems so that you can have a successful harvest. Taking proactive steps to prevent pests and diseases is key.

Pests to Watch For:

  • Colorado Potato Beetles: These striped insects love to eat potato leaves. You can either pick them off by hand or use covers to keep them away from your plants.
  • Aphids: These small bugs can spread diseases to your potatoes. A strong spray of water or insecticidal soap usually does the trick in getting rid of them.
  • Wireworms: These larvae live in the soil and are attracted to newly planted potatoes. Make sure there is no debris around your containers where wireworms can hide.

Disease Management:

  • Early Blight and Late Blight: These diseases show up as spots on the leaves and stems of your potato plants. They thrive in wet conditions, so it’s important to water your plants at the base and not get the foliage wet. Also, give your plants enough space for air to circulate between them.
  • Scab: This disease is caused by bacteria in the soil and results in rough patches on the skin of your potatoes. To reduce the risk of potato scab, maintain a slightly acidic soil pH and use clean seed potatoes.

General Tips:

  • Make sure your containers are placed in an area where they can get plenty of sunlight and fresh air.
  • Every year, plant your potatoes in a different spot to prevent disease-causing organisms from building up in the soil.
  • Keep an eye on how much water your plants are getting; too much water can lead to fungal growth, while too little water can stress out the plants and make them more vulnerable to problems.

By addressing these common issues with container potatoes early on, you can ensure that your plants remain healthy and productive throughout the growing season. Remember, prevention is often the best cure when it comes to protecting your potato crop from pesky visitors and unwanted diseases.

Gardener with seed potato about to plant in a container.

Start Your Potato Container Garden Today

Ready to embrace the exciting world of container gardening? With the insights and guidance provided, you’re well-equipped to start your journey into growing potatoes in containers. Picture the pleasure of nurturing your plants from sprouting eyes to a bountiful harvest right on your patio, balcony, or backyard. The benefits of growing potatoes in containers are numerous—enhanced control over soil conditions, fewer encounters with soil-borne pests, and the sheer convenience of having your crop within easy reach.

  • Embrace experimentation: Each potato variety brings its unique flavor and texture. Why not try a rainbow assortment with reds, yellows, purples, or even fingerlings? Mix and match to discover your favorite!
  • Celebrate each step: From chitting your seed potatoes to hilling the soil around those vibrant green shoots, each phase in the life of your potato plant is an opportunity for learning and joy.
  • Share your successes: Don’t keep all that fun to yourself! Involve friends or family members in the process. Growing potatoes can be a wonderful project for kids or a relaxing weekend activity for anyone.

Remember, the video tutorial is there as a visual companion to this guide—use it to clarify any steps or just for some extra assurance as you go along.