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How to Grow Potatoes in a Container

Growing Potatoes

I’m always surprised when I speak with people about their vegetable gardens, and I find out they haven’t ever tried to grow potatoes! “I just haven’t gotten around to it,” they’ll say, or “Aren’t they difficult to grow?” And they answer is NO! In fact, they’re one of the easiest plants to grow, in my opinion. So there’s no reason not to plant yourself some potatoes this spring – not even if you don’t have space for a garden!

Growing Potatoes

Growing potatoes in a container is simple and rewarding. Even a square foot of space on a balcony or patio can make a great home for a container of potatoes! So if you want to give it a try this year, here’s what you’ll need:

  • A large and tall garden pot (with drainage holes)
  • Potting soil
  • A potato seedling/start (or a seed potato)

Growing Potatoes

Start by filling your pot with potting soil. Potatoes need quite a bit of room to grow downwards, so fill the whole thing with potting soil rather than using any sort of filler at the bottom of the pot.

Growing Potatoes

Once your pot is filled to about an inch below the rim, dig an appropriately sized hole for the roots of your plant, or a small hole about 2″ deep for your seed potato. If you’re using a plant start, gently split the root of the plant with your fingers before planting, to encourage proper root growth.

Growing Potatoes

Place your plant or seed in the hole, and fill around it with potting soil.

Growing Potatoes

Once it’s planted, press gently around the surface of the soil to settle it a bit.

Growing Potatoes

Water your pot thoroughly. During the growing season, make sure to the soil around your potato plant stays damp, but not saturated.

In the fall, the foliage of your potato plant will start to wither and yellow. This means it’s time to harvest! Each potato plant can yield 5-8 potatoes. Serve them up in the fall for a very special and very delicious potato dinner for the family! :-)

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Homekeeping Tips

  • Well by now it should be pretty obvious that growing potatoes is pretty easy! The reason to let the cut potatoes dry for a day or two is to reduce the risk of the pieces rotting in the damp soil before they can root and take hold. The fewer “eyes” you plant, the higher the reason to let them dry out a little.

    Jillee, the problem I see with your method is that potatoes grow from those roots, and will bulge up out of the soil. Therefore, you need to keep adding soil to keep them covered. When you do that, it forces the stem to keep growing taller, putting out more roots along the stem, and producing more potatoes. Your method doesn’t allow for that so you won’t get as many potatoes as you could be getting. And please remember that you must keep the potatoes covered to prevent the “green” on them, which is a photosynthesis result, and the green is toxic.

    The tire method encourages this mass production, however the tires can be toxic so it’s not the best option for materials, but the process is what makes it work so well. Just as FYI, sweet potatoes are just as easy to grow too!

    • If I was growing potatoes in a container, I’d put 2-4 inches of soil in the bottom, then put cut potato chunks (each chunk with 1-3 eyes) leaving 1-2 inches between each chunk and the container – room to grow, then layer on your soil up to about an inch above your chunks. Then as your potato plants appear (wait for 2-4 leaves to appear on several plants), layer on soil to half-to-one-inch above plant leaves. Continue this process through the summer until your pot is full of soil and plants, all the while keeping your soil evenly moist (but not wet, because heavy moisture can cause your potatoes to rot). In the fall when the potato plants wither and dry up, you can dump your pot out (I’d put a tarp or drop cloth down first, so you can collect and re-use the soil for next year), and gather your potatoes. I buy seed potatoes from a local nursery or the farm supply store, they are less expensive than potato plants.

      I use this same method in my garden, instead of a container, I dig a deep hole, about 12-14 inches deep, pile the dirt beside the hole, and fill the hole from the dirt as the plants grow. I grew 3 different kinds last year in 9 holes (3 holes per kind), and got 50-60 pounds of potatoes. I did have to dig my potatoes but I enjoy that as its like “digging for buried treasure.” I had one potato as long as my foot!

      I have grown potatoes in dirt, then added dried weeds or grass clippings on top, continuing to pile up to about a foot tall, and got a good crop that way too. I’ve known people who used tires with good success, never did it myself; a friend uses a plywood “box” with dirt on bottom, then uses straw to cover the plants, and garners several hundred pounds of potatoes each time. Everyone has their own way, I just use what works good for me, and ignore all the naysayers who say this or that cannot be done.
      However, potatoes are produced from the roots, and if you continually cover the leaves of the plant, it forces the plant to put out new roots and new leaves, thereby gaining you a greater yield in the fall.

      • There are lots of successful methods for growing potatoes, thanks for the idea Gayle!

  • We used to plant from seed potatoes. One year that there was a bare space in the garden, my mom started planting potato peels as they were produced. We actually got more potatoes from the peeling plants, and they matured faster than the seed potatoes that were planted earlier.

  • I’ve grown potatoes so many different ways it amuses me to see someone say you cant do this or you cant do that..
    You can toss your potatoes on the ground and cover them with hay or grass clippings and you will grow potatoes as long as you have enough water & sun to support them.
    I plant mine in a half barrel filled with potting soil.. and I plant them VERY thickly too.. We dont eat a lot of potatoes but we get about 3 or 4 gallons of new potatoes which is what Im after in the first place… and enough to use for seed potatoes next year too.
    Potatoes are very forgiving… Have fun!

    • One other thing… I dont cut my eyes from my mother plants.. I use the whole potato instead… Old timers did cut the eyes, usually making them at least an inch or two chunks… they also let the skin dry for a day before they planted them.. but its all just preference.. its not necessary.

  • Potatoes will not produce well when grown as outlined in this article. They do not set your crop of potatoes from the root, but rather from the stems between the root and the leaf tops. You would do much better to set your seed potato in a few inches of soil at the bottom, and as your pant grows fill in with more soil, or straw or sawdust gradually until the container was full. In the fall, after the plant has died down, just dump over the container and pick up your potato crop. You will get very few if any planting at the top of the pot, as outlined.

  • You don’t even need to grow them in much soil. Just enough for the roots. I’ve grown them in a big black garbage bag and straw. The bag folds down so the plant can get lots of light and then as it grows you put in straw so that only the very top of the plant is showing. Potatoes will grow in the straw and they come out clean.

  • If your seed potato is from the bin of potatoes in the produce section of your grocery store, you may not have much success in growing potatoes. I was told several years ago by the owner of a plant nursery that the potatoes headed to the produce section have been sprayed with something that slows down the growth of the ‘eyes’ for a longer shelf life. Seed potatoes that aren’t able to ‘get busy’ and start growing once they are planted could very well just rot away. Buy starter plants or seed potatoes from a nursery or other reputable seller for success. As a kid, I thought my dad was pretty amazing that he knew just how many potatoes to plant for a harvest that took us all through the winter with just enough left over to plant the new crop the following year.

    • I have had success in planting potatoes from the market as i do wash all my fruits and vegetables. They grew beautifully and plentiful.. I even canned a load full for “new potatoes’!

    • I’ve heard this, too. One good reason to grow your own potatoes is that the ones we buy from the store are loaded with chemicals. Also, I have read that you should leave as much potato as you can with each eye because the plant uses it as nourishment while it is getting established. There is some debate as to whether you should let the cut potatoes sit out for a week to form a “skin” before you plant, to prevent rotting. Some say you’re better off getting it right into the ground. Sadly, I discovered last year that deer like to munch the green plants, and chipmunks like to nibble on the potatoes themselves. I agree with the commenter who advises against using tires because of the possibility of chemicals leaching into the soil. One great benefit from gardening is to avoid chemicals in your food.

  • Question here: If we’ve decided to grow out an eye of a potato for an eventual plant how big should the eye piece be? I’m assuming the sprouting part is the eventual potatoes and should, therefore, be planted downwards?? I’ve got a potato working on a couple of eyes now and would eventually like to use that to grow more potatoes. Thanks in advance for your help.

  • If you have the space, another good way to grow potatoes is with 3 old tires. Put a tire down and fill it with a bag or two of garden soil. You can plant 3-4 plants in the tire. When the plants grow taller, add another tire on top of the last tire and fill with more soil. Pinch off the flowers at the top to promote growth under the soil. When the plants get tall enough, add another tire and soil. When the plants start to yellow and fade, it’s time to harvest. Remove the tires to harvest your crop. You will be surprised at your haul.

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