Are you looking to start growing your own potatoes for food? You can grow them at home in your own pot. The process is easier than you might think, and can be done in a small area with little upkeep.
To grow potatoes in a pot, you just need a potato, a large pot, soil, fertilizer, and access to direct sunlight for 6-8 hours a day. If space is a premium, this is a great way to harvest potatoes. Follow the steps in this guide, and you will have potatoes in 65 to 100 days, depending on the variety.
This guide will take you through everything you need to know, including what materials you will need, each step you need to take, and how to select a container and the type of potato to grow. Find out how to grow your potatoes to perfection in a pot.
Materials You Will Need to Grow Your Potatoes
You are ready to grow your own potatoes. The main things you will need to grow your potatoes are:
- A good container
- The right kind of potato
How should you select the right materials for your container potato garden? Here is a list of materials. We will also discuss various options for each item you will need.
Choosing a Container
Potatoes can be grown almost anywhere, which is what makes them a great choice for a do-it-yourself garden. Growing potatoes in a container makes harvesting easier because all the tubers are in one place, which will require less manual labor for you.
Here are some different types of containers you can grow your potatoes in.
- Medium or large plastic gardening pot
- Tupperware bin
- Trash can
- Burlap bag or gunny sack
- Old Water Barrel
Ten-gallon nursery pots are ideal for growing potatoes. However, any medium or large plastic planter from any home and garden store will suffice for growing your potatoes, as would a good plastic storage bin or a rubber made trash can.
- Heavy burlap is an excellent choice for growing potatoes because the material drains well and allows for adequate airflow for the plant.
- An old water barrel will also provide a spacious area to grow your potatoes.
- It also adds a charming rustic aesthetic to your potato growing venture.
Each potato needs around 2.5 gallons of soil to grow in. Minimally, you just need a container that will hold 2-3 gallons of soil. If all you have is a collection of smaller pots, you can make that work by planting one potato in each.
Whichever type of container you use, make sure that your container has an adequate number of holes for excess water to drain. If water builds up, harmful bacteria and fungus may take up residence in your container.
Does the Type of Soil Matter?
You can use garden soil or composted soil to grow your potatoes. In general, potatoes grow well in most soil types but for best results, plant your potatoes in fertile, acidic soil. The soil pH should be somewhere between 4.8 to 5.5 to prevent fungus from developing.
You should use a loose, light soil that is rich with organic matter. It should also drain well. Your soil needs to be well moisturized, but if it becomes over saturated, it creates an opportune breeding ground for Scab and other fungi to reproduce.
N-P-K Levels are Important
Testing the N-P-K levels is important in determining whether the soil has enough macronutrients to support the plant’s health. The macronutrients needed are:
- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorus (P)
- Potassium (K)
The higher the N-P-K number, the more concentrated the nutrients in your fertilizer are. Why is this important for your plant? Without a healthy balance of these macronutrients, your plant might die. Each has an important role to play in your plant’s health.
- Nitrogen facilitates the growth of leaves on the plant.
- Phosphorus is responsible for the growth of the plant’s roots as well as flower and fruit development.
- Potassium facilitates the overall plant functions to make sure that all the different parts are doing their job to promote the plant’s survival.
For Potatoes specifically, a good N-P-K balance is 2:2:3, with equal amounts of Nitrogen and Phosphorus which feeds the root system as well as the leaves of the plant.
Test for a Good Soil Mixture
If you are not sure about the health of your soil, you can purchase a good soil testing kit for an exact analysis of the macronutrients and pH. Then you can make necessary adjustments and ensure that your potato plant is getting the nutrients needed to thrive.
Best results tend to come from a mixture of garden soil and compost soil. Another helpful tip is to spread a layer of potting soil across the bottom of the container for the roots to anchor themselves.
If you do not want to use soil, there are other growing mediums such as perlite, that potatoes have been known to harvest successfully.
Selecting a Potato to Grow
Early potato varieties and Fingerling varieties are the best for growing in a container. The crop harvests all at once, and they mature within 65 to 100 days. Early potato varieties include:
- Dark Red Norland
- Irish Cobbler
- Red Gold
- Yukon Gold
These varieties tend to have a sweeter flavor and a delicate texture.
Fingerling Varieties Include:
- Ama Rosa
- French Fingerling
- Rose Finn Apple
Fingerling varieties come in a variety of colors, such as:
- Red skin
- Orange skin
- Purple skin
- White skin with orange, purple, yellow, or white flesh
The flavor of fingerling potatoes tends to be earthy and they have a firm texture. Fingerling potatoes are usually moister than other varieties.
Grocery Store Potatoes Can Act as Seeds
While using potatoes from the grocery store as seed potatoes can be done successfully, to ensure a healthy harvest, you may want to choose a high-quality, certified seed potato. These are guaranteed to be disease free.
Is there a specific type of potato that is known to grow well in your region? Growing native potatoes or potatoes that are known to do well in other regions with similar climates are your best for harvesting healthy, fertile potato plants.
Growing Your Potatoes Step by Step
Let’s discuss the process of growing your potato plants from a seed potato. Now that you have picked your pot and soil, it time to get started.
Here’s a quick video showing it done in a 5 gallon bucket, with steps below:
Preparing Your Seed Potatoes
To prepare your seed potatoes to become potato plants, choose a potato that has eyes that are just starting to sprout. When the eyes sprout, they are ready to be planted.
Place the potato in a sunny spot for 1 to 2 days to help the sprouts along. This process is known as “chitting” and should be done about 6 to 8 weeks prio to planting the seed potatoes.
Once you have sprouts, it is time to cut the potato into golf ball sized chunks. Make sure that each chunk has at least two eyes. Tubers that are egg-sized or small can be planted whole.
You will also need to check for a disease before planting the seed potatoes to ensure that a healthy new crop will indeed grow.
- Next, you need to give the pieces time to dry out and callous over.
- This takes around two days.
- When your seed potatoes are ready for planting, fill your container about a third of the way with your soil.
- Cover the seed potatoes with 6 inches of soil, then water them generously.
- Remember to make sure that the excess water drains from the container and doesn’t build up and stay stagnant.
When your potato plant reaches about 6 inches tall, add more soil to the container. About every two weeks, you will need “earth up” or add more soil as your plant grows, until the container is full.
Repeating this process after every 5 to 6 inches of growth, encourages the growth of even more tubers in the layers, increasing the number of potatoes you will grow. Instead of soil, you can “earth up” with home-made compost.
Give your seed potatoes plenty of growing space. Planting 1 to 2 potatoes per square foot will give you the best results. Overcrowding your container can reduce your yield and can spread disease more quickly.
The Best Location for Your Potato Plant to Grow
Potatoes grown in containers need access to direct sun from 6 to 8 hours a day. Ambient temperatures from 64 to 68 degrees provide the best growing conditions for a high yield harvest.
If you are living in a cooler climate, make sure that your container is in an area where it receives direct sunlight. When growing potatoes in a warmer climate, make sure that your container is in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.
The Best Time of Year to Grow Potatoes
Timing is everything when planting your seed potatoes. Planting them too early or too late in the season will make a difference in the:
It affects the overall success of your harvest.
Potatoes need 3 to 4 months of cool weather to grow. Hard freezes will kill your plant. Temperatures in the mid-eighties or higher will make the plant stop growing tubers.
If you live in a temperate climate zone, the best time of year to plant your potatoes is springtime between March through May.
Of course, there is variation even within the temperate climate zone, so you need to be aware of the historic weather conditions as well as the current weather conditions to make an informed choice on when to plant your seed potatoes.
This video talks about the best times to grow potatoes:
Feed Your Seed Potato the Right Nutrients and Water
Providing the right balance of nutrients and water for your seed potatoes is a key part of growing a healthy and bountiful potato plant. There are a number of materials that can be used as fertilizer in order to provide nutrients and minerals for your potato plant.
If you do not want to use manure as a fertilizer, consider some of these alternatives:
Green Manure as Fertilizer
Green manure is a plant that is grown not for direct use such as eating. Rather it is grown specifically to enrich the soil so that other plants can grow heartily.
The benefit to using green manure is that you don’t have to dig to incorporate it into the soil. Simply chop up the plant and spread it out around the surface of your container soil.
The elements from the plant will decompose and add organic matter, making the soil richer and providing even more nutrients to improve the health of your potatoes.
Other Plant Matter to Fertilize Your Potatoes
Other plant matter such as pine needles and leaves can be used in much the same way as the green manure. Weeds that have been pulled from your garden hold nutrients that will break down and enrich the soil.
If you live on the coast, or near a large body of water, seaweed is a great choice of plant matter. Seaweed increases the porosity of the soil, increasing its water retention, which means you do not have to water the plant as frequently.
Seaweed also helps to fight off harmful bacteria and fosters beneficial bacteria that help regulate and increase plant growth.
The tables below list the micronutrients and vitamins this nutritious water plant contains and describes the benefits they provide for plants.
|Micronutrients||Benefits to the Plant’s Health|
|Sulfur||Helps the plant to: produce proteins conditions the soil reduces the plant’s sodium content A Sulfur deficiency causes plants to turn yellow and will decrease the amount of Nitrogen the plant can retain.|
|Magnesium||The driving force in photosynthesis, magnesium: helps chlorophyll capture sunlight to produce green pigment used for the metabolism of carbohydrates cell membrane stabilization in plants A deficiency results in poor growth.|
|Boron||Plays a key role in: Cell wall formation and stability Movement of sugar and energy into parts of the plant that are growing A deficiency causes stunted root growth.|
|Calcium||Provides structural support to cell walls Secondary messenger when plants are physically or biochemically stressed It can be used to reduce pH in soil A deficiency in Calcium can ultimately cause the plant to die.|
|Vitamin||Benefits to the Plant’s Health|
|C||Improves photosynthesis Makes the plant more nutritious Protects against ozone, which can stunt plant growth|
|E||Builds plant’s resistance to cold temperatures|
|K||Electron acceptor during photosynthesis- drives the reaction turning carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.|
How Much Water Do Your Potatoes Need?
Potato plants need to be watered consistently and require about 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. This is most important when your tubers start to form.
Container soil tends to dry out at a faster rate than the soil in your garden so you will need to monitor your potato container frequently to make sure it is not too dry.
Be careful to water your plant at the roots and avoid getting water on the plants’ leaves as much as possible.
If you are using a liquid fertilizer, you can mix it in with the water to increase the rate of your tuber growth. You can stop watering the plant when its vines begin to wither and turn yellow.
Harvesting Your Potatoes
When your plant starts to flower, that is a sign that your crop is emerging and will soon be ready to harvest. About a week after your plant’s flowers have started to yellow, and you have stopped watering the plant, it is finally time to harvest your potatoes.
Harvesting your container potatoes is easy and requires little work. Unlike potatoes that are harvested in a garden, you don’t have to do any digging. Simply turn your container over and sort through the soil to find your new potatoes.
A Small area Gives You More Control
Using a smaller area to grow your potatoes also gives you greater control over the
- Condition of the soil
- Amount of water intake
- The amount and types of nutrients
It’s easier to adjust soil pH or add a specific amount of nutrient to the soil in a smaller area. Using a smaller container to grow your potatoes requires less fertilizer, so it is less expensive and more efficient.
The ability to control your plant’s water intake is particularly useful. If a plant gets too much water, bacteria and fungus can take over the soil and impact the health of your plant. Too little water inhibits plant growth and can kill the plant.
Benefits of Growing Your Potatoes in a Container
The benefits to growing your potatoes in a container are:
- Takes up little space
- More control over soil conditions and water intake
- You can easily monitor plant growth
If you do not have a garden or a lot of space in general, using containers still allows you to yield a decent crop of potatoes if you follow the steps laid out in this article. Maintaining a bountiful harvest using less space allows you to grow your own food efficiently.