Growing Potatoes in a Pot
I’m trying out growing potatoes in containers. I ordered Purple Viking and La Ratte Fingerling seed potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange. It seems you’re not supposed to just plop a potato from the store into the soil — there’s a risk of potato diseases spreading that way. Plus, this way you can order more obscure varieties that you can’t get at the grocery story or at many farmers markets.
I first got the idea for growing potatoes in containers from You Grow Girl. My Uncle, an amazing gardener, told me they’d probably do ok in the cooler weather at my house. As a kid, I remember eating, and loving, new potatoes from his garden in Western Montana.
Here are my steps for potatoes in a pot.
Step 1: Order seed potatoes or ask around for them at your local garden center.
Step 2: Once you’ve got your potatoes home, put them on the counter where they can get some natural light and them grow eyes. Apparently this is call chitting. As far as I can tell that’s a fancy way of saying let the spud sprout. It should take a few days. If it hasn’t sprouted, leave it out a few more days.
Step 3: If you have a big potato, cut into smaller chunks. The Purple Viking potatoes were on the small – medium side so I just cut them in half. Make sure each piece has a couple sprouting eyes. Don’t plant them yet. The cut needs to essentially scab over to keep from rotting. Let it sit after cutting for another couple days.
Step 4: Get the biggest container you can find. I’m using a 10 gallon pot because that’s the largest I have space for right now. You could also use a half wine barrel. Or big sacks. You can plant several in the same pot. The wider the pot, the more pieces you can plant. Fill the container 1/3 full with a combo of good potting soil & compost. Mix in a little organic / non-chemical fertilizer. I also mixed in a handful of bone meal, a phosphorous source that will help the plant have strong roots and set lots of tubers. Lay the potato pieces on top of the soil.
Step 6: Your potatoes are growing. Yay! Keep them moist. It took a while, maybe a couple weeks, for the first green leave to poke out of the soil. (I propped the pot up at a tilt for the light to get all the way down to the bottom. Not sure how necessary this is, but it seemed like a good idea.)
Step 7: When the plants get to be about 6 inches tall, fill in the pot with more potting soil, leaving only the top couple of inches of leaves showing. (Like tomatoes, potatoes grow new roots from their stems. More buried stem = more roots = more potatoes. Keep this going until you reach the top of the pot. They’ll start growing faster than you can believe, so keep an eye on them.
To give you a sense of how fast they’ll grow, here are my plants just over a week after the picture above was taken. Time to add more potting soil already.
Step 8: I haven’t gotten to this step yet. But instructions from Life on the Balcony say that the plants will keep growing and after a couple months the stems and leaves will turn yellow. Stop watering when the foliage dies outs. Wait two weeks. Harvest your potatoes.
Subscribe to get my posts via email to stay updated on how the container potatoes are growing. And if you’ve grown potatoes before, please leave me any tips in the comments.
Follow me on twitter: @baydirt.