In just 12 weeks you could be harvesting your very first crop of potatoes… even if you don’t have a huge garden. Growing potatoes in pots and containers is easy, rewarding and will save you money. While potatoes will grow easily in pots there are a few things you can do to significantly increase your harvest.
This guide will show you how to get started growing potatoes step by step.
Types Of Potatoes For Growing In ContainersThere are three types of potatoes: earlies, second earlies and main crop. Earlies are very quick growing plants and usually the best new potatoes. Main crop take longer to mature, are much bigger plants but have the advantage of storing very well. While second early potatoes and main crop potatoes can successfully be grown in pots, first earliest are what we recommend you grow in containers.
Potatoes Recommended For Growing In Containers
Potato Rocket - Rocket is a first early variety that grows well in pots, will give a good crop of tasty potatoes and grows quickly. Highly recommend if you enjoy eating new potatoes. You can begin harvesting these potatoes while they are still small or leave until mature.
Potato Swift - this variety is well known for growing a large crop of potatoes on a very compact plant. It’s ideal for containers and will give you a crop of perfectly round potatoes. Good disease ressistance. Matures very quickly if grown in the right conditions.
Potato Lady Christl - can be grown as either a first early or second early variety. Begin planting from the end of Febuary for a crop of small first earlies or allow to mature in just 15 weeks for a larger crop.
Pots For Growing Potatoes In
To get started, I recommend you begin with a 40 litre pot, these are the perfect size for planting 4 or 5 seed potatoes (depending on the variety) in. From a pot like this you can harvest a very worthwhile crop just 10 weeks from planting.
There are a lot of different containers for potatoes that you can buy but it’s very important to make the right choice. Large plastic pots (available at most garden centres) are the most common for growing potatoes and are pretty cheap to buy, usually these are made of cheap plastic though so do break.
Old compost bags are also good for growing potatoes in. The main advantage of using old compost bags to grow your potatoes in is that they are totally free. The disadvantage is that they don’t exactly look very good in a garden. Be sure to make holes in the bottom of the bag though or you will quickly find the compost is waterlogged.
Recommended Option #1 - Potato Bags
I’ve been growing my potatoes in potato bags for several years now and these are some of the cheapest available, they are easy to move and potatoes do very well in them. They will only last a few seasons even if you are very careful with them.
Planting just one potato in each of these bags gives a very good crop.
These potato containers can be purchased from Thompson & Morgan here.
Recommended Option #2 - Reusable Patio Potato Planter Bag
Similar to the previous bags but they are far better quality. The thicker material seems to insulate the soil and help the potatoes grow better. Rather than just a season or two these will last far longer and are easier to store than large pots.
The design means that you can use these pots to grow anywhere, on an allotment, garden or tiny patio. A lot of the gardeners who grow potatoes for show use these potato bags rather than traditional potato containers and pots.
If you are interested in more information about these potato bags, click here
Planting Potatoes In Containers
Planting usually begins in March for first early varieties. Second earlies and main crop potatoes should be planted from mid-March.
Begin by placing a layer of compost in the bottom of your container, filling the pot half full is usually a good guide. On top of this begin planting your potatoes, in a large 40 litre pot you can plant 5 first early see potatoes. Plant them evenly apart but try not to plant to close to the edge of the container.
Before covering the potatoes in compost you may want to add some fertiliser to help the potatoes grow. There are a lot of fertilisers around (some organic, some not) that you can use for potatoes however I believe if your growing your potatoes in a good compost adding more fertiliser really isn’t needed.
Once this is done, cover the potatoes with 6 inches of compost. If the compost is dry, now would be a good time to water, if the compost is already damp you don’t need to water any more.
Usually about a week from planting you will see the green tips coming through the compost. As these shoots begin to grow you can add more soil to your container until it’s full. Always leave the tips of the leaves showing through the new soil level.
Caring For Your Potatoes
Potatoes growing in pots only have two real growing need, they need to have sunlight and must be kept watered. As the potatoes are in pots, you will need to water the potatoes regularly. Don’t over water, having the soil just damp is ideal. In the hottest days you may need to water everyday.
Harvesting Potatoes From Pots
As a rough guide first early potatoes take 12 weeks to be ready for harvesting, second earlies take around 15 and main crop usually take 20 weeks. The harvesting time does vary depending on the weather, your location and the care you have given them. The good thing with containers is you can usually dig a little hole in the compost and try feel if there are any potatoes ready.
Depending on which pot you chose you grow your potatoes in, harvesting can either be be easy or very dirty. If you are growing in a potato barrel you can just open the sides and get your fresh potatoes.
In a large container or compost bags this will be a lot more dirty. Most of the potatoes will be near the bottom so you will have to empty the entire pot or bag.
Harvest, cook, eat and enjoy.
Image sources: Telegraph Gardening