Growing potatoes is an easy thing to do but can take up a lot of room in your yard. Recently I decided to try growing potatoes in containers.
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This year I experimented with growing potatoes in garbage cans. Here’s how I did it:
- Get your container: 15-gallon pots or larger is usually best. I just used some cheap plastic garbage cans. If you’re worried about the plastic, you can buy food-grade bags to line the cans.
- Ensure proper drainage: Drill holes in the sides and bottom of the garbage can. Also, put about an inch or two of gravel in the bottom before adding soil.
- Choose seed potatoes: You can use old sprouted potatoes from the store, if you’d like, but they are more prone to disease and may not produce quite as large a harvest. I might try it next year anyway because I often let potatoes go so long they sprout. I bought a bag of seed potatoes from the nursery. Half of the bag was sufficient for my two cans and I shared the rest with other gardeners.
- Prepare potatoes: Wait until the potato seeds start sprouting a bit and then cut them into two to three pieces depending on their size, as long as 1-2 eyes are on each piece. Then leave them out to callus over a bit before planting.
- Plant potatoes: Add two inches of soil to the containers and place the potatoes on them with eyes facing up, about 4-6 inches apart. Then add 2 more inches of soil over them and water well. As the plants grow, add soil so that only 2/3 of the leaves on the plant are showing.
- Harvest: Harvest after all the leaves turn yellow and begin to wither. The kids and I just dumped them out and rummaged for the potatoes. You can also harvest over time, but it was too much for me to do so without feeling like I was damaging the plant. So I just waited.
It worked for me fairly well and was fun for the kids and I. The harvest wasn’t nearly what I’d hoped for though.
So after a little research, this is what I’m going to try next year to see if I can make it more worth my while:
- Consider the type of potato seed: I just bought red potatoes from the nursery, but apparently there are different kinds based on when they mature. It might be worth getting a few different varieties so I can harvest at different times. This article has some descriptions of the varieties.
- Keep well watered: The soil should be moist but not soaked and not allowed to dry out too much. The cans should be checked daily or every other day at the least and watered regularly until water comes out the sides and bottoms. I was far too infrequent with watering this year.
- Fertilize: The recommendation is to fertilize every other week with something like worm tea (yummmm) from our worm farm or liquid fish emulsion.
- Consider shallower pots: I may consider the idea of using several 15-gallon pots instead of bigger cans, assuming I can find them free or cheap, so I can plant smaller sets and harvest them more frequently. We’ll see.
Have you tried this way of growing potatoes? Would love to learn from your experience!