Whether it is the crunchiness of French fries, the flavor of a stuffed potato, or the soft texture of mashed spuds – this tuber is easily the most versatile vegetable you can grow at home. There are tons of misconceptions about growing potatoes, though. Most people think they need a lot of space to sprout out and thrive. But it is untrue. Potatoes can grow even in small areas as long as they have the right environment.
That’s why we recommend growing potatoes in containers. Whether you have a small garden with little space or you live in an apartment with no garden at all, you’ll find this growing method to be ideal. Below, we explain how to tackle the process, helping you grow any potato without a single problem. Care to learn more? Then check below!
What Type of Potatoes to Use?
Because potatoes are all super-similar in every aspect, the choice of potato doesn’t matter much. We recommend first-early varieties like the Swift, the fastest-to-sprout-and-mature type of potato. It typically needs between 50 and 70 days (7 to 10 weeks) to mature before harvesting. Second-early species like the Nicola will keep growing even after being harvested. But alongside Charlotte, Anya, Rocket, and Lady Christi types, second-early potatoes are slower to sprout. Typically, they mature at about 70 or 90 (10 to 12 weeks) days growing. Whatever you go for, all of these types will thrive on containers. Of course, it also depends heavily on the container you choose.
What Container to Use for Potatoes?
Before we go into the size of the container you should go for, it’s vital to know that the potato’s size won’t change either way. For example, if you plant one seed in a small container, the potatoes will be the same size as the three seeds you planted on the larger pot. Having said this, you can guess it is not much about the size of the container but the ability to keep the soil with proper humidity. While potatoes thrive in moisture, they also require adequate draining. Otherwise, they will eventually develop root rot or not grow enough. As for the type of pot, there’s no specific rule to follow either. Here are some types to consider and what they work better for:
- Small Pots
Ether metal or plastic, they’re ideal for planting single seeds. These pots require less compost and soil. They work well for apartments. You will need to open the drain holes below.
- Large Pots
Starting at 16 inches in diameter, you can use up to three seeds in large pots. They are better for houses and small gardens. Also, they need draining holes to work.
- Grow Bags
Measured in gallons, grow bags come in varieties going from 5 and 10 gallons up to 15 gallons and more. Every 5 gallons allow up to three seeds. They drain without holes due to unique fabric-like materials.
- Potato Pots
These are made with an inner pot and an exterior one. You pour soil and potatoes into the internal pot. When it’s time to harvest, you can get the internal pot out and remove the potatoes from the sides. These usually handle three to ten potato seeds.
- Rain Barrels
Generally large enough to hold over 50 gallons of water, you can use over ten seeds per rain barrel. These are only useful if you have tons of space to spare. They require constant draining to avoid overwatering.
Either plastic or metal, you can always use small buckets for the job. We typically recommend 5-gallon buckets for up to three seeds. Whatever you go for, be sure it won’t break when the potatoes start growing. That’s why we don’t recommend terracotta as a potato container.
What’s the Best Soil for Potatoes?
Like the type of container, you can grow potatoes on most potting soil mixes without a problem. However, you can always make it better with the right formula. For example, as you’re growing in pots, a container mix can always do the job. A combination of one-third of vermiculite/perlite, one-third of coconut or peat moss, and a final third of compost should be enough. But as said before, most mixes work well for potatoes as long as it is well-drained and nutrient-rich soil, there shouldn’t be any problem.
In What Conditions Do Potatoes Thrive?
The container and soil won’t be enough to grow potatoes if you can’t ensure a proper environment. Luckily, potatoes aren’t highly demanding plants either. As long as you can keep temperatures between 50 and 70-degrees Fahrenheit, the plants should thrive. Having said this, you should ensure at least 8 hours of sun exposure. The potato plant is a light-starving plant. As for the season, it depends on the species. Most types of potatoes grow from late spring all across the summer. But other species may thrive all year round.
How to Grow Potatoes in Containers in 9 Steps
Once you’ve understood how to make potatoes thrive, let’s start the growing process. Below, we explain how to grow these tubers in only 9 steps:
1. Prepare Pot & Soil
We hoped you picked the right container and soil mix. In that case, you will need to start pouring the soil in. It would help if you didn’t fill the container. Only fill about half of the container. Then pour some fertilizer in. You can always use liquid fertilizer for an easier time. Proceed by filling the pot as necessary. Leaving about one-third of free space between the soil and edge of the container can be helpful. This will leave enough room for the potatoes to grow below and the plant to grow upward.
Note: Be careful when pouring fertilizer, as you could burn the plants if you add too much.
2. Prepare the Seeds
With the container filled up with soil, you should now seed in. But first, we recommend preparing them. While most people typically place the seeds directly, cutting them into small pieces first can always help. You will have to ensure each piece contains at least two eyes or grow nodes. Then you must leave these pieces to dry for two days. This will give the seeds time to aerate and become ripe for growth after planting. This is an optional step. But it can be especially helpful if you’re planting on large containers and ensuring more efficient distribution of the potatoes.
3. Place the Seeds In
Now that the seeds are ready, you should place the seeds in the potting soil. This process is as easy as it sounds. You just put the seed on top of the soil and push down to about 5 inches deep. Be aware that the seeds need to have their grow node up. Meaning, the sprouting stem coming out of the potato should be facing up. This will prevent unwanted results later on. It is now time to water them and leave them to grow. Be sure to place them where they receive full sun exposure.
4. Ensure Proper Conditions
After planting the seeds in, the potatoes will need ideal conditions to grow fast. For that, you should ensure constant watering and several hours of full sun exposure. The soil should be moist at all times. Not necessarily wet, but moist enough for the potatoes to absorb nutrients. Too much dryness will trump growth, just like too much moisture. To ensure this, you should water once a day. In dry and hot places, you may need to water twice a day. As for sun exposure, make sure the container receives complete exposure for most of the day. We recommend early morning sun up to midday.
5. Care for the Seedlings
After 2 or 3 weeks of growth, you will see the seedlings. At this moment, there should already be a small potato growing underground. At this moment, you may start experiencing weeds or pests growing. In that case, don’t hesitate to use a mild homemade weed killer. As for the pests, use the mildest possible pesticide. At the seedling stage, the plant is fragile to strong chemicals. You can always wait one or two weeks more to apply the weed killer and pesticide. But do it as soon as possible to prevent growth issues.
6. Earth Up the Potato
When the sprouting leaves are about 6 to 8 inches long, you will need to earth up the potato. This often happens at about 3 to 4 weeks of the process. Also called hilling the potato, its focus is to add a little more soil into the plant’s base, promoting further growth. Some people recommend earthing up the plant every 3 weeks. But if you want to avoid the effort and time this takes, doing it once may suffice.
7. Feed the Plants
Once 4 to 6 weeks have passed, you should start seeing dense foliage covering the container’s top. That means the potatoes below are beginning to mature. At this stage, it is essential to feed the plant. Because potatoes are starting to consume more nutrients, it is vital to keep the soil rich. On top of that, potting soil starts to lose some of its nutrients. That’s why we always recommend adding a bit of fertilizer into the soil. If you can apply liquid fertilizer directly, that’s also worth doing. At the same time, you will need to maintain the soil moist. We recommend watering a bit more in this stage as well. You will have to do this until the 8th or 10th week.
8. Harvest the Potatoes
Between the 8th and 10th week, the leaves will start to flower. The foliage will turn yellow instead of green. That means it is time to harvest. Once this happens, you can stop watering the plant. Leave it 1 week without any water and then harvest all the potatoes. Because this is a root vegetable, you will have to get the foliage out of the soil first. If you used a potato pot, that wouldn’t be necessary as you will have direct access to the bottom. In some cases, in the 8th to 10th period, potato plants don’t start to flower or yellow away. In that case, you will have to feel the potatoes directly by inserting your hand into the soil. If they feel sturdy and large enough, then harvest them. Remember that some types of potatoes like the Nicola can be re-harvested. You need to disturb the soil as little as possible. Then leave out the foliage and part of the root in the pot to keep growing. Typically, cutting all the foliage and taking away the potatoes is enough if you have standard one-harvest potato species.
9. Store the Potatoes
With the potatoes ready, you can decide whether to eat them right away or store them. But because most potato plants give several spuds at once, there’s a high chance you will have to store them. The best place is a cold area with little to no exposure to the sun or other outdoor factors. We recommend curing the peel by cleaning it as much as possible. This will remove the remaining soil and prevent any unwanted organic effect.
Either way, they will be ready for consumption. Either as French fries or as mashed potatoes, this is the time to enjoy them. Also, the freshest they are, the tastier they will be. Please don’t leave them stored for too long.
Being one of the most resistant tuberculous in the world, potato grows as fast and easily as you can imagine. Even when growing potatoes in containers, you will have a very straightforward experience. But it is still worth considering all the advice and recommendations in this article. We made the process as easy-to-understand as possible while always adding a few gems of advice you won’t find anywhere else. Now that you are prepared, there’s no time to waste. Potato season is arriving – so put on your gloves and get the job done. You won’t regret growing your potatoes.