Many people are uncomfortable with growing potatoes in the ground as it often involves sifting through a mountain of soil and mostly slicing through the potatoes when finding your yield. However, harvesting a potted potato plant is a different process.
Planting potatoes in a pot is more straightforward, and protecting the plants from critters is easier. Additionally, harvesting potatoes from a container is as simple as picking them from the pot. Considering these numerous benefits, let us look at how to grow potatoes in a container or pot.
What You Need to Grow Potatoes in a Pot
Some of the tools and materials you would need include:
- Garden trowel
- Seed potatoes.
- Pot (such as a large plastic container).
- Potting soil.
Procedures and steps to follow
Planting potatoes in a pot is easy, but getting them to yield well can be tricky. The following steps can help you while planting your potatoes:
Preparing the potting soil and fertilizer
High-quality potting soil that is fast draining is especially useful when growing potatoes in a pot. A good option is the half-and-half mixture of commercial potting soil and quality compost. Ordinary garden soil drains poorly and contains pathogens and weeds, and it is not advisable to be used when growing potatoes in a pot.
Mix an organic fertilizer (preferably a slow-release one) into the potting soil. Potatoes require a lot of water which can cause the leaching of nutrients out of the ground. Gardeners prevent this by using a dilute liquid fertilizer at regular intervals as their potatoes grow.
Choose and Prepare the Right Seed Potatoes
Smaller varieties such as gem, fingerling, and red potatoes are best for growing in a pot; large potatoes have less room to spread out to full size and yield less. It is possible to purchase seed potatoes with sprouting eyes (growth nodes where shoots will appear) from nurseries or online. Purchasing varieties that mature mid to late season will give you more produce than those that die early.
To improve the odds of growing healthy and productive potatoes, experienced gardeners advise you to cut your seed potatoes into small chunks, preferably one to two inches, each containing at least two eyes. Set the newly cut seed potatoes out to callus over by air drying for a couple of days to prevent rotting when planted.
Pot size and location
The size and location of your planting vessel are essential when planting potatoes. A ten to fifteen-gallon pot over two feet tall but not up to three feet with plenty of drainage holes is ideal. Any plastic, metal, or fabric pot will do, provided an adequate amount of airflow and drainage is available to the soil.
When purchasing a pot, you can also pick one with a unique harvest door. Just be sure to select one of a quality brand with tight sealing. Place your potato pot in a sunny location with at least six hours of sunlight. Then fill your pot with about six inches of potting soil, a mixture of compost, and organic fertilizer.
Planting the seed potatoes
Place your seed potato piece’s eyes on the soil surface and allow a minimum space of five inches between each plant since the plant will grow pretty large. After positioning your seed potatoes, cover them with at least four to six inches of potting soil. If the climate is cooler, use less soil as cover so as not to stress the plant as the shoot grows up to find sunlight.
The next step is ensuring that your plant is growing under optimal conditions. Check the soil moisture level by poking your finger (at least up to the second knuckle) below the surface at least once daily. If it feels dry, then it’s time to water. Water the plant more than once a day during the hot or windy season.
Cultivate the habit of watering in the morning to reduce evaporation and plants sitting in boggy conditions overnight. Water deeply by waiting for the water to run out the bottom. It’s best to remember that growing potatoes need a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight each day. They also need moist soil but not wet.
It is also good to fertilize the growing potato plant every two weeks with a vegetable fertilizer rich in phosphorus. High-phosphorus fertilizers are good in supporting tuber growth; however, they only do this when the plant has grown a few inches tall.
‘Hill’ the seeded potatoes
You need to ‘hill’ them when your potato plants grow to about six to eight inches. Add about two inches of potting soil around your potato plant, covering the growing stems at the bottom. The hilling process ensures an increase in your yields, so continue adding soil regularly, always leaving at least four to six inches of the plant visible above the soil surface. You can stop once the soil reaches the top of your potato pot.
Harvesting and storage
Harvesting of your potatoes can start anytime when your plants begin to flower. Gently and carefully reach down into the soil of your pot and pull out a few potatoes while avoiding damage to the plant. Harvesting a live plant will provide you with more fresh potatoes. When your plant turns yellow and dies off, you can complete your final harvest by tipping your pot over in a wheelbarrow or tarp. You can easily access your potatoes from the soil now.
For storage, it’s best to use a dry rag to wipe off excess dirt on your potatoes, then let them dry for a couple of days to help preserve the tuber’s freshness and retain its shelf life.
Benefits of Potting Potatoes
Potting potatoes comes with several benefits. Using a pot to plant potatoes eliminates several issues with growing potatoes on the ground. Some of these benefits and problems solved are
- There is less time spent crawling around on the ground during harvest time.
- Weeding is almost entirely avoided.
- Attacks by insects and wildlife are almost entirely avoided.
- The issue of poor soil is no longer there as it is advised to use bags or wheelbarrows full of rich compost soil when planting.
- Reduced water usage.
- It is easier to check the health of the plant tubers in a pot than to dig around on the ground to find out the issues.
Tips to Consider
- Avoid using grocery potatoes, as they won’t sprout when planting unless they are organic and have not been sprayed.
- Potatoes with green skins contain a chemical known as mildly toxic solanine, and it is advisable to discard or cut away those portions of the potato.
The steps involved in planting potatoes in a pot are simple and easy to follow and implement. The yield comes faster, and a large plot of land is optional during the planting season.