Kitchen Gardening

The Benefits of Growing Potatoes in Containers

There's any number of reasons that we gardeners might prefer to grow things up as opposed to out.

Picture by Dr. Hemmet under the creative commons attribution license 3.0.
Photo/Illustration: Dr. Hemmet

There’s any number of reasons that we gardeners might prefer to grow things up as opposed to out.

At the expense of sounding as if I like to do everything the easy way (wait, I do like to do everything the easy way), here it is: yet another incredibly simple method to growing potatoes. This time, we’re planting them above the ground.

Here in suburbia, we simply don’t have whole lot of land to work with. On average, we have a relatively small plot surrounding our homes and we have to make do with what the big housing developer in the sky gave us. Sometimes what we have is land with extremely rocky soil or land that is predominately concrete.

Want another good reason to grow potatoes in containers? Just when you are plumb proud of yourself and your green thumb, potatoes can succumb to a fungus called “blight” (Phtophthora infestans). Its usual place of attack on innocent potatoes is in their garden beds. So, planting potatoes in containers can also help protect your harvest.

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

One of the coolest containers to use for growing potatoes is a bushel basket. It’s a great size and the basket fits into the whole farm-look nicely. If you don’t have a bushel basket or never could stand the farm-look, you can use a 5 gallon bucket or a garbage can, as long as you put holes in the bottom for drainage.

You’ll want to plant only one seed potato in a 5 gallon bucket, but feel free to plant 2 or 3 in a bushel basket or garbage can. First, fill the container halfway up with compost. By the way, compost is also a disease suppressor, so you have extra good measure against blight or any other fungal enemy.

Set your seed potatoes on top of the compost in the container and add just enough compost on top of the seeds to cover them. As the plants grow, add more compost to cover the tubers – always make sure the potatoes are buried. Continue to cover tubers as the plants grow up above the top of your container.

During the summer (after flowering), just stick your hand in there and harvest the potatoes that you need for your favorite recipes for side dishes, BBQs or salads. You’ll harvest for months! Another idea is to simply wait for the tops of the plants to die down and turn the entire container over for an instant fall harvest.

More Potato Container Ideas

How about a big cardboard box? That’ll do just fine for the season and you can compost it later! Just fold the flaps down in the inside and plant. Remember to dig a bit into the ground like 5 or 6 inches and bury the bottom edge of the box so it doesn’t blow away. You can always place some big rocks at the bottom instead.

Do you have any *old tires lying around? Plant one tire with a seed potato or two and as the plants grow up and out of the first tire, stack another tire on top and fill it up with more soil. These are extra nice ideas for people living in condos or apartments, as well. Even a laundry basket makes a great container for growing potatoes.

*For the record, the jury is till out on whether or not tires leach chemicals into the soil (therefore, into the plants). So, do a little research and decide for yourself.

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