Growing Taters in Containers
Container gardening can offer the opportunity to garden on a balcony or patio, or the ability to place plants in optimum sunlight where a garden plot might not be feasible, or the mobility to relocate the garden as needed, so insects and vermin can’t get to prized young vegetables.
The greatest plus to growing produce in containers is the option of planting earlier in the season than the ground might allow. Any durable container can be used, such as grow bags, buckets, trash cans, feeding troughs, plastic pails, or standard large flowerpots.
Containers need drainage holes in the bottom so the soil won’t become waterlogged and prone to diseases. For potatoes especially, an even soil moisture level is a critical component to the success of the crop.
Potatoes are one of the easiest container veggies to grow, and they need very little attention. Select a container large enough to support a healthy root system. Cover drainage holes by layering newspaper, gravel, or even junk mail in the very bottom of the container, making sure water will drain out but the soil will not. Then, pour in several inches of soil. Potatoes aren’t particular and will grow in just about any medium.
Choose the varieties you prefer of certified organic seed potato from a reputable garden supply vendor. The quality of the starter is what will determine the quality and quantity of the harvest. Leave a one-inch cube of potato attached to the eye. Our short video will show you how to cut seed potatoes.
After spreading a few inches of soil into the container, place the seed potatoes, with the eyes facing up, on top of the soil. Cover completely with another layer of soil, water, set in full sun, and the plant should sprout through the soil surface relatively quickly. As your plant continues to grow taller, add soil to the base of the plant to always maintain coverage over the tubers. Potato plants do well with full sun to partial sun, and they like even moisture. In general, potatoes are drought-resistant, so erring on the side of too little, rather than too much water, is preferred. Support the tops of the plants, if necessary, so they don’t break off from their own weight.
A lush green plant will grow tall and full of foliage as the hidden tubers develop. When the plant’s small flowers are in bloom, the new or small potatoes are ready to be carefully dug up out of the soil. Potatoes are full size and ready for final harvest any time after the top of the plant yellows and begins to die off. Read our article “All About Potatoes” for detailed potato harvesting instructions.
Potatoes need to be stored, unwashed, in a cool, dark place for a few days, without any exposure to sunlight. This allows the skins to toughen and mature. Then, they can be moved to a cool cellar as they continue to provide 3 to 6 months of great meals.