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Potato Project: Growing Potatoes in a Container

by Fern on March 12, 2010

in Fruits & Vegetables,How To

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I have more Smart Pots than just the ones I’ve set aside for the comparison study (and sent to Debra), so I’ve been looking for different things I could try. One of the things they are supposedly good for is growing potatoes. With that in mind, I bought a ‘French Fingerling’ potato seedling at the nursery, because that was the only way to get just one potato plant. All the seed potatoes were sold in bags of ten.

However, according to the Smart Pot website, you can grow 3 potato plants in a 10 gallon Smart Pot, so I need two more seedlings. Whoops. Word on the street is that Adriana has an extra seed potato, so maybe I can arrange a swap of some sort.

Here is what Smart Pot says to do to grow potatoes in one of their pots:

  1. Cut seed potatoes into chunks having at least 2 eyes each. Each piece should be about 1.5-2 inches long. Allow the pieces to dry and callous over, about 2 days. Whole seed potatoes can be planted if they are small.
  2. Use rich, loamy soil that is slightly acidic (the goal is a pH of 6.0).
  3. Plant the seed potatoes when the soil has reached a minimum of 45 degrees F.
  4. Fill the Smart Pot container about 1/3 full with a 50/50 mixture of garden soil and compost.
  5. Plant one seed potato for each 3 gallons of Smart Pot container. For the #15 container, for example, plant 5 seed potatoes. For the #10 container, plant 3 or 4 seed potatoes. Place the seed potatoes evenly in the container.
  6. Water the soil thoroughly. It should be moist but not soggy.
  7. Soon, you will see little stems pop through the soil. Mound up more soil/compost mix, but do not to cover the leaves. The leaves need sun and air exposure.
  8. As the potatoes continue growing, continue adding soil/compost mix until you reach the top of the Smart Pot container.
  9. As summer ends and autumn nears, the potato leaves and stems will begin to turn yellow. Timing will vary somewhat depending on the potato variety and your temperature zone.
  10. When the foliage has died back and the weather is cooler, stop all watering about 2 weeks prior to harvest. The leaves and stems will turn almost completely yellow. You are ready to harvest.

If you’re using something other than a Smart Pot, I’m sure you could still follow these instructions. I’ve heard of people using a plastic garbage bag with holes punches in the bottom. The benefit of the Smart Pot is supposed to be that the fabric sides of the pot are permeable and allows the soil to stay aerated.

Check back in a few hours. I’m going to plant my potato seedling according to these instructions this morning and I’ll post pictures when I’m done.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

shari March 12, 2010 at 7:46 am

I think I’ll stick to my sweet potato and toothpicks in the old peanut butter jar method myself. ;-)

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Fern March 12, 2010 at 10:13 am

Shari–That will produce a plant…but no sweet potatoes!

Genevieve March 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

Shari, potatoes may be cheap at the grocery store but you can’t even compare the taste of fresh homegrown ones to supermarket ones. I actually grow potatoes in a pot too because they’re easier to harvest in a container.

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Crafty Gardener March 12, 2010 at 8:47 am

I grew potatoes in bushel baskets last year as a first time experiment and they did really well. I plan to use lots more baskets this year.

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Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com March 12, 2010 at 9:08 am

Hi, thanks for directions. Handy. I have a cousin in Ohio who told me they used to grow potatoes in old half wine barrels so at the end of the season they could just dump it over and out they would come. I like the idea of having them contained. Thanks again.

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Adriana @ Anarchy in the Garden March 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

Yes yes yes! I have potato tubers for you. Those Smart Pots look awesome. I’ve been curious to try.

I still want to try the trash can method. I wonder if you could grow potatoes in Woolly Pockets? Can’t wait to see your results!

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Fern March 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

Adriana–Maybe I could trade some Smart Pots for the seed potato?

Sara March 13, 2010 at 10:08 am

Last year I grew potatoes in 3 plastic garbage cans. I planted Yukon Golds and Red Pontiacs. I got 60 lbs at harvest time and that didn’t count all the new potatoes I dug out early. One thing I didn’t see you mention is that potatoes are considered “cool season” crops. They don’t like to get too hot and this can be a problem in a container as I found out when I tried plant another batch in August. I didn’t move my cans into the shade and the seed potatoes cooked in the cans. I re-planted in October and now my Yukon Golds have flower buds. Hopefully, on Wednesday I will be able to harvest some new potatoes, which is one of the advantages of growing in a container. You can carefully dig out new potatoes once the plant starts blooming (but some, like Yukon Golds don’t so this isn’t always a good indicator) just be sure not to damage the stems or knock off any pea-sized potatoes. There will be plenty of big potatoes at the bottom of your containers at harvest time. Mine were the size of softballs. This year I got wheels for my cans so I can move them into the shade if it gets too hot. Also, its a good idea to have your container off of the ground for drainage. Good luck with your potatoes. Mine were the sweetest I’d ever tasted.

Sara in Silicon Valley

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Lee in Iowa March 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm

How far down inside the cans did you put the seed potatoes? I tried that the way the Rodale books illustrated, and my potatoes got no sun and pretty much rotted away.

melanie watts March 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

what great ideas. I think I might try growing some of my potatoes in big pots this year.

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francis March 25, 2012 at 5:37 am

what can i do with the old soil/compost from the containers i’ve grown potatoes in

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Fern March 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Compost it. :-)

Teresa March 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm

An useful idea some friends of mine had are planting potatoes in old tires. A stack of two or more, depending on how deep you want your root vegies to go, and fill with earth and compost works pretty well in climates that don’t get enough summer. You are serving two purposes…one, The tires are being recycled and two, they absorb and hold the heat. They are good for other plants too.

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john April 1, 2012 at 10:16 am

ive been using the tire method for years. Love the results.

Carol April 15, 2012 at 9:07 pm

I have 5 gallon plastic containers would those work to grow the potatoes? If I made holes for drainage? We don’t seem to have a long enough growing season heat wise. Thanks

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Fern April 15, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Sure!

Vera Noelle April 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

This is really cool, I JUST bought eight 3 gallon Smart Pots and planted potatoes without any knowledge of gardening, just a rapidly growing interest.. I had no idea if these pots would work, or if I was planting correctly.. I am SO hopeful now that I’ve read this :-) thanks for sharing!

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karen April 24, 2012 at 12:28 am

hi potato growers,
I grow my potatoes in raised garden beds using the no-dig method (lucerne, peastraw and compost). this works great for potatoes just use lucerne and peastraw to keep covering potato stems so potatoes dont go green. You end up with a good clean harvest!! This method also keeps well drained if you get heavy rain

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Shelley May 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

Hi, I grow my potatoes in old car tyres. I plant in the first one and as they grow I cover the leaves, leaving a few laeves at the top. Then I put another tyre on top af that and so on and so on. Until it is nearly my height. You will then find the whole stack ot tyres are full of potatoes. Well that is how we do it in Africa.

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Turiana October 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Try growing in old car tyres…just keep adding tyres and soil to what ever height you want. Harvest them the same way as you have planted…1 or 2 tyres at a time and pile the dirt up ready for the next season…

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mystree January 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

My concern in growing edibles in plastic bags or containers or even tires is these petroleum products leach out into the food you are growing, I have used half wooden barrels and prefer not worrying about what may have gotten into my food, Watch the documentary Plastic,, just sayin,,,,,,

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christi January 27, 2013 at 2:32 am

I really want to try some of these ideas, but will have to garden in the front yard where I have some sun. My landlord lives next door, so I will need to try to find a cheep way to plant veggies and flowers. I have a ton of fabric–has anyone tried making “growing bags” instead of plastic bags? Do you think that would work? Or covering plastic bags with a fabric cover?

Also, I have a lot of HUGE palm trees of several types all around the yard. Is there any problem trying to grow under them, if the plans still get sun?

Thanks!!

Christi

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nanatana May 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm

No need to buy seedlings – Just let a few of your favorite store-bought potatoes sprout in a dark place in your garage or shed, then cut into chunks and plant in your choice of container. I have grown russets, small red potatoes and fingerlings with good results. I live in California, so, as mentioned in another comment, moving them into the shade in hot weather is a good idea.

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Fern August 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

Oftentimes storebought potatoes are treated with a chemical to prevent them from sprouting…

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