Growing Potatoes in Pots

Potato flower

Grow potatoes in a pot? Sure, why not! If you are cramped for space in the garden or live in a condo with only a balcony that doesn’t mean you have to be without home grown potatoes! Spuds can be grown quite easily in a container as long they get lots of sun and you’re able to water them.

First you need to choose the type of potato you want to grow and eventually eat. There are a lot of varieties, from purple ones to gourmet French Fingerlings to Yukon Gold to Russet Burbank. If your production will be on a super small scale we usually have a mixed basket of bulk potatoes for those who only need a few.

When you get your selection home you need to ‘chit’ them (get them sprouting). Keep in a dry, slightly warm yet dark place so that the ‘eyes’ can sprout (I use a paper bag). Once the sprouts have shown signs of life or are about half an inch long and you’re ready to plant cut the potatoes with a clean, sharp knife into a few pieces but make sure each piece has at least a couple of good sprouts.

Choose your container. It can be as simple as a 5 gallon, black nursery pot or as fancy as you want to go but make sure it’s lightweight. Use a good, light potting mix such as Get Up & Grow or My Soil Organic. Put a few inches of soil in the bottom of the container and then one of the cut pieces of seed potato. Cover with a few more inches of soil. Sit back and wait.

Once the plant grows about six inches you can add more soil, covering the z Potato plantingstem until only the top sets of leaves are showing. Do this a couple more times or until the soil level is near the top of the pot. This will encourage more potatoes to grow from the stem rather than just at the bottom where the seed is, increasing your harvest.

z Potato planting 2Water is essential during the growing period so make sure the soil is evenly moist, especially when you’re fertilizing. I use a granular vegetable fertilizer every couple of weeks alternating with a teaspoon or so of Better World Plant Food during active growing. Make sure whatever fertilizer you use doesn’t have a higher first number in the N-P-K rating or you will get lots of lovely green foliage but not much happening under the soil.

Once the plant flowers and the blossoms die off then that’s the first sign that you can harvest however you don’t have to if you’re not ready as the potatoes keep really well in the ground. In fact, I’ve left some of my pots until Christmas dinner! You just need to make sure there aren’t any potatoes peaking up above soil level otherwise they’ll turn green.

Speaking of green, when exposed to sunlight the potato goes through a chemical change that results in turning the skin green (the potatoes, not yours). This green skin is toxic and should be peeled or cut away before cooking or discard the whole spud if you’re particularly cautious.

z Potato planting 5Harvesting is simple. Just tip the pot over, pull the plant out and start plucking out the new spuds. I usually upend the pot where I need more soil in the garden.

Growing potatoes in pots is easy and usually you don’t get the same pest problems as you do in the garden so if you are running out of space and still want to enjoy home grown potatoes then find yourself some containers! One of my favourite things…new spuds, herbs, garlic, shallots, a dab of butter, a little water and red wine to help steam them, all wrapped up in foil and placed on the bar-be-que. Yum.zz harvest copy

Shirley Eppler

April 2015