Growing Potatoes In Containers: What Beginners Need
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At-home gardening has blossomed in the last few years. While people were stuck inside their homes and looking for ways to reduce spending when they couldn’t work, growing food became a popular pass time. Growing potatoes in containers was one popular option because there are so many recipes from various cultures that use spuds as an ingredient. Additionally, it’s a hardy plant, so growing them sustainably is quite straightforward.
Not only is growing produce in the backyard or on the patio cheaper than buying it, but it’s also healthier for the family. As many could likely imagine, ingesting or inhaling these chemicals is not suitable for humans, let alone animals or the environment. Some people may be allergic to them, while others experience nose and throat scratchiness, nausea, headache, exhaustion or intestinal disorders. In extreme cases, pesticides can have deadly side effects. Growing potatoes in containers is an excellent way to feed many in an eco-friendly way.
1. Pick a Large Container
To start, grab a sizeable container in which to place the dirt and grow the potatoes. If the space is available, it’s possible to garden them in raised containers or wooden boxes, but they aren’t necessary. Experts recommend a bucket or bag that fits at least 10 gallons to maximize production without using too much dirt or room.
2. Find the Right Potato Variety
Next, it will be necessary to determine the best kind of potato to grow. When growing potatoes in containers, the best choice is often to stick to smaller varieties since the larger ones won’t have enough room to develop. They also take much longer to grow, which can lead to disease amongst the spuds. The species best suited for pot or bag growing also mature much faster.
Smaller potatoes take anywhere from 50–100 days to grow, meaning they could be ready in just a few months. This list from Gardener’s Path also has varieties featuring different sugar and starch levels, making them better suited for mashing or stewing. Picking one to grow will also depend on how much sun each kind requires.
3. Or Plant Your Old Potatoes
Have any old potatoes lying around in the kitchen starting to sprout? Don’t throw them away just yet — use them to grow potatoes for free. To prep them, cut the sprouts apart, leaving any ones growing from the same eye together. Cut as much of the flesh away as possible — don’t plant the whole potato — and start them within two or three days of prepping.
4. Get a Growing Medium
Because growing potatoes in containers restricts the plants, it’s vital that the soil is well-draining — this allows the spuds to avoid sitting in too much water and rotting. They also enjoy a pH level between 5.8 and 6.5, which gardeners can measure with at-home testing. Potatoes also love very fertile soil, so check out Garden Tabs’s recommendations to narrow down the many options. Ideally, the fertilizer will need a mix of phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium.
5. Start Planting
Once there’s no chance of a frost killing the plants, it’s finally time to start planting. Start by pouring about half a foot of soil into the container of choice, then place the seeds or potato cuttings on the dirt. Then pile the same amount on top of the future spuds, making a small pile to allow more potatoes to grow.
This process works because potatoes will grow above where they’re planted. The leaves will need sunlight to grow the plant, but adding more dirt as they grow will yield a higher crop. As the plant grows above the soil, place more in the container so only about six inches of foliage are visible.
6. Get On a Watering and Fertilizing Regimen
There’s nothing plants hate more than too much water. While some varieties love it, slow-growing produce needs just enough water to develop without drowning the crop or roots. When the top 1–2 inches of dirt feel dry, add enough water that it starts to pour out of the drainage holes in the bottom. Doing so ensures the roots get a good soak without sitting in water.
Additionally, potatoes require a healthy amount of fertilizer to produce a lot of tubers for a bountiful harvest. As stated in the fourth step, they need one with a mix of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Start them off with this fertilizer and add more every couple of weeks for optimum nutrition.
7. Check the Spuds for Readiness
Likely, a few potatoes will be ready before the date experts say they will be done. To avoid losing any of the crop, feel free to harvest any large spuds, even if they have a week or so left to grow. Of course, letting them continue developing is perfectly fine. But if the gardener would rather have a few potatoes now and not risk them rotting, pick a few if they seem large enough.
8. Harvest According to the Variety’s Instructions
Once it’s been however long the kind of potatoes say they need to grow, it’s time to yield the fruits of the plant’s labor. One way to tell if the potatoes are ready is if the exposed leaves and stem start to yellow and die off. While this seems like a bad thing, don’t worry — it just means the potatoes are ready!
To harvest the potatoes, loosen the dirt with a trowel or spading fork and pull the plant up. Carefully remove the spuds that look the most ready, then replace the plant to let any immature potatoes continue growing. Give it a deep watering and get ready to enjoy some produce grown at home.
Growing Potatoes in Containers Is Simple
Even though finding ways to make food at home seems like it requires a lot of practice and space, growing potatoes in containers shows just how easy it can be. Start saving money and feeding friends and family healthily by starting an at-home food garden.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.