• Growing Potatoes ~ in containers YOU CAN GROW THAT!

    by  • January 7, 2014 • Adria's Garden Blog, In the Garden, You can Grow That! • 14 Comments

    Well, it’s that time again, time to plant potatoes! In our climate potatoes need to be planted before the soil is warm. I recommend planting between January and March. Here are varieties that are typically available at The Greenery.

    Look for our upcoming seminar Planting & Growing Potatoes. Click here for information or to sign up!

    Here’s a step-by-step for planting potatoes in containers.

    AHEAD OF TIME: Prepare the potatoes

    Whether you are planting in the ground or in containers you need to prepare the potatoes ahead of time. Using a clean knife, cut the potatoes into 4ths or 6ths. There should be at least

    Potatoes cut and dried. Ready for planting.

    one good “eye” per piece. Now leave the pieces on a tray or screen in the shade or indoors to dry. I recommend a minimum of 1 day but have left them to dry for a couple days without a problem. You will see sprouts beginning to grow, that is good! Any pieces that shrivel with no sprouts should be discarded. Preparing the potatoes like this prevents them from rotting in the soil.

    Planting In Containers

    1. Start with a deep container (24″ minimum) with good drainage. I used a #15 (15 gallon pot). You can use terra cotta for a nicer look.

    2. Add good potting soil. Don’t skimp on this part! I used our Gardner & Bloome All Purpose Potting soil but this year I’ll use the Blue Ribbon Blend instead. You need something that holds plenty of moisture yet drains well and is rich in nutrients and nutrient holding capacity.  If any of these fail, you will have less than desirable results.

    3. Add about 4 inches of potting soil and press firmly. Add one layer of cut potatoes spacing the potatoes a couple inches apart.

    4. Mix some potting soil (about 1/2 the container’s worth) with the recommended amount of fertilizer (see fertilizer package for details). Again, don’t skimp on this either. I can’t stress enough that you get what you pay for. I use Gardner & Bloome Tomato, Vegetable and Herb fertilizer. Now add some of this mixture to cover the potatoes by just a few inches. Your container will still be pretty empty and that’s fine.

    5. NOW WAIT. Water thoroughly and wait a couple days until the sprouts push up through the soil. You can add another layer of pieces now and a couple  more inches of the soil mixture. Water.

    Potato sprouts pushing through soil in containers.

    6. Repeat step 5 until the soil level in your container is about 6 inches from the top. Then add any soil mixture you have left or plain potting soil until the soil level is 2-3 inches below the lip of the container. Water. DO NOT OVERFILL THE CONTAINER with soil! Leaving enough lip of the container is important to ensure you can add enough water to thoroughly saturate the entire container.

    Maintaining your Container of Potatoes

    Watering is going to be the most important part. I have found that a it is a challenge to keep the entire container watered. My suggestion is to use a watering stake or 1/2′ pipe with holes drilled in it down the middle to ensure thorough watering. So be diligent in how well you water this container. If you aren’t sure, use a moisture meter!

    Fertilizing is also crucial with this crop. Using the soil preparation and fertilizer I have recommended the potato plants should be well fed for at least 2 months. At 2 months I recommend  fertilizing again. This is to ensure the potatoes have a steady supply of nutrients, especially since the frequent waterings required in our warm climate strip the soil of its nutrients.

    Insects and diseases are occasionally a problem so be on the look out. Being aware is key so you can treat any possible infection as soon as possible. If you do end up with something and not sure what it is or how to treat it, bring us a sample. We can help!

    Harvesting

    When to harvest potatoes depends on when you want to eat them. You can carefully harvest some (or all if eaten soon) when they reach the desired size (i.e. new potatoes). If you harvest new potatoes be sure not to injure the plant so it can continue to grow and develop spuds whether you are harvesting or just peeking at the size. Always make sure the spuds are covered with soil or they will turn green at which time they are inedible and poisonous.

    For potatoes that you plan on storing it is best to let the vines grow until yellow then brown to ensure the spuds are developed. Then leave the spuds in the soil (or container in this case) undisturbed for a couple weeks so they can cure. Do not water during the curing stage. Once they are cured, “lift”, brush off excess soil and store in a cool, dry place.

     

    That’s all it takes to grow your own potatoes!

    Happy Spud Planting!

    -Adria

     

    You Can Grow That is a group of Garden Writers that Adria is a member of. This group is passionate about promoting gardening for the greater good.

     

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    14 Responses to Growing Potatoes ~ in containers YOU CAN GROW THAT!

    1. January 4, 2013 at 8:00 am

      I am a big fan of growing potatoes and lucky enough to have enough space to grow them in full ground. I have grown them in a big plastic container as well and had lots of success with it. If you live like me in a zone 7 then it is important not to plant out to soon. I have lost a few crops due to frost. You can cover the containers with fleece for those late in the season frosty nights and keep the containers out of cold winds.

    2. Cindy
      February 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Your instructions are clear and helpful. Thank you so much!
      My neighbors and I are eager to plant potatoes this year. We also are wondering why it is a challenge to find sweet potatoes in local nurseries, and if it is possible to use sweet potatoes from the grocery store?

    3. February 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      @Cindy, you’re welcome! I think sweet potatoes are like almonds as far as nurseries are concerned. Here in the Central Valley almond and sweet potatoes are grown all over. I’m guessing that most people have friends or family that they buy them from instead of growing them themselves. Sweet potatoes are grown differently than irish potatoes and need much more space. Here is a decent article on growing them but I disagree with a few points. http://gardening.about.com/od/vegetables/p/Sweet-Potatoes.htm. In our climate spidermites on the foliage is a huge and largely uncontrollable problem on sweet potatoes. There’s no reason you can’t use store bought sweet potatoes, you just may not know what variety you have.

    4. Cindy
      March 6, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Ahh! Thank you, Adria, for explaining some big mysteries regarding sweet potatoes, especially the comparison to Irish potatoes. We will keep an eye out for troublesome spidermites, too. I appreciate the web site link to the gardening article and will give it a good read.
      Thank you again, soooo much!

    5. christine
      May 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      I have a question not a comment, even though you are very helpful! Thank you! ! When my potato soil is at the top of the container and all I have are crazy green vines…..and im waiting for them to yellow so I can harvest my yummy potatoes, do I keep watering them? Or should I be stopping that process and letting the vine die?

    6. May 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

      Hi Christine, questions are ALWAYS welcome! You can stop watering as soon as the leaves begin to yellow to allow them to cure. You can always dig “new” potatoes as soon as they are big enough for you.

    7. Doug
      May 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      Hi,
      Thanks for the great article. We planted two containers of potatoes using plastic gargage cans and they are already sprouting after about 2 weeks. However, the potting soil used is also sprouting some mushrooms and I am not sure why or if there is a possiblity of toxins in the mushrooms (if they are poisonous) contaminating the potatoes. If the mushrooms are a poisonous variety could they contaminate the potatoes? I removed the mushrooms and they don’t seem to be growing back.

    8. admin
      May 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Hi Doug, did you purchase the soil from us? If so, I need to report it to our supplier. Anytime mushrooms grow anywhere it is because there is organic matter that has not been broken down enough yet, we usually see it here in the Valley in lawns where a tree is dying or dead. The mushrooms feed on the dead roots in the soil. It can also be an indication of the soil staying too moist which can be a problem for potatoes. Did you fill the cans completely all at the same time or layer by layer as the potatoes grew?

      As far as the mushrooms, I am pretty confident that they can not make the potatoes poisonous if they are. I would try googling ways to identify mushrooms.

      Hope that helps!

    9. Tyson
      June 10, 2013 at 12:29 am

      Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better!
      Looking at this post reminds me of my previous
      roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I will send this article to him.
      Fairly certain he’s going to have a great read.
      Many thanks for sharing!

    10. daphne
      June 23, 2013 at 7:10 am

      I know this may sound very stupid but my container grown potatoes are now about 3 foot high and no sign of flowers ! . What have i done wrong ? .

    11. MaryG
      July 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Hi, I’m curious about the mushroom problem that Doug reported. I started my bucket around the end of May and since then I’ve added three layers of some compost but mostly straw. There are no mushrooms growing from the top, but today I noticed that a white mushroom had popped out of one of the many drainage holes in my bucket. Since I’d have to dump the bucket to get rid of whatever is near the bottom, I’m wondering if I should just consider it a bust. Is there a chance I could still get any yield if there are mushrooms near the bottom of the bucket? I’m very hesitant to start digging. Thoughts?

    12. July 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      @Daphne, you have done nothing wrong. Do you live here in California? We had a long, usually cool spring that threw a lot of plants off. My potatoes never flowered either. I harvested them on June 10th since they were yellowing and not responding to fertilizer anymore. You can harvest anytime now.

      @MaryG, do you live here in California? The only time mushrooms of any type grow is when there is lots of raw organic matter and lots of moisture. You may be keeping your container too wet. Also, why are you adding straw? That could be contributing to the mushrooms. Mushrooms won’t harm the potatoes but could be an indication of soil that is too damp for potatoes. You can carefully dig down to see how the potatoes are doing and harvest if you want. Otherwise just keep growing!

      • MaryG
        July 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        Thanks for you quick reply Adria. I live in Massachusetts in a semi-rural area. We’ve had a ton of rain followed by extreme heat. I’ve seen mushrooms growing in different parts of my yard, but wanted to make sure it wouldn’t ruin my potato bucket. I used the straw to add some lightness to the heavy compost – I think I read on one of the blogs that it was a good idea. Still, it makes sense that if it’s acting as a mulch, then perhaps too much water is being retained. I’ll remove some add more soil. Is there anything you’d recommend instead of compost? Also, there are lots of plants in the buckets, so I’m hesitant to dig. Also, I’ve noticed a few buds that look like flowers and since I started the bucket only a month ago, I’m thinking it’s too early for flowers. Would you recommend pinching them off? Thanks again!

    13. July 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      MaryG here we recommend only plant in potting soil or planting mix that is labeled for container use. Look for your local independent garden center to find the particular product they recommend. The brand we carry is local only. http://www.masternursery.com//masternursery.cfm?Page=zipcodes/zipcodelocator.cfm&thiscat=forgardeners

      And yes, pinch off the flowers if the potatoes are not the size you want yet.

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