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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Growing Potatoes In Containers: Quick and Easy in Pictures

Potatoes are related to the the tomato family. Actually they are members of the nightshade family. The leaves are very similar. Potatoes grow beneath the ground and they send up lots of green stalks. The key to potatoes is to keep burying parts of the stem as they grow upward. Like tomatoes, the green stems will root when buried. The more green stalk you bury, the more new potatoes will grow out from the buried stems.

The potatoes you use can come from the grocery store, be purchased online or found at nurseries as seed potatoes. Sometimes grocery potatoes are sprayed to prevent them from producing "eyes" the buds of green growth. On the other hand,  I checked my bag of red potatoes in my closet and found some that were budding. I also bought some varieties from a local home improvement store.

You don't necessarily need your potatoes to have stalk eyes or signs of growing before you plant them. But it does add a bit of comfort knowing they have starting growth when you plant them. You can sit your potatoes in a bowl and wait for them to start growth if you wish before planting.


The Potatoes:

These red potatoes came out of a gourmet bag of potatoes I bought. You can see the eyes of the potatoes have buds. (click the photos to enlarge them)



The Containers and Planting:

I am going to show this in pictures. The theme is a large container that you fill about 1/3 or 1/2 the way to the top with a growing medium. You want lose soil and you can throw in a good amount of peat moss. Potatoes do like a bit of acidity. The potatoes get planted with eye buds up or just plant them if you don't have buds starting. They should be planted about 3 inches deep. That is it. You are leaving all the extra space in the container to fill later as the greenery grows large.

These are the containers I am going to use. They are large. The middle container is a 5 gallon bucket.  Make sure there are drainage holes in the containers you use or the potatoes will rot.





I mixed peat moss, my garden compost and soil off the blue tarp. You want it to be fluffy. Potatoes have been know to grow in compost piles just fine. Don't worry about the growing medium. Well, just not heavy wet stuff. Make a mix and fill the container to about 1/3 to 1/2.




You can see the potato spacing. I have habit of always over planting. Three to five potatoes will work for this size container. I sat them on top and will bury them to 3 inches by pushing them into the soil. You don't need a lot of soil between the potato and bottom of the container because you are going to add soil as the greenery grows up.




They are buried and placed in a sunny location. 




The five gallon bucket is planted the same way. It was an upside down tomato bucket.






Another container that used to be my strawberry container. The diamond cuts aren't for the potatoes they were used for strawberries.








Filling the Container to Half the Green Growth:

Now I don't  have pictures yet because these are actually plantings for this season. But you will fill the container by 1/2 the growth once the leaves and stalks break above your container. If it takes 12 inches of growth to break the top of your container, cover 6 inches of the leaves and stalk with new soil.  This is the first fill. If it takes 8 inches of growth, cover 4 inches of growth.

When the stalks grow another 6-8 inches above the rim of your container fill the rest of the container. Potatoes don't grow endlessly so use your judgement.


Harvesting:

After the green turns yellow and dies back, you can dump the bucket and eat them. If you are going to eat them immediately, which I will do, grab them as you wish.  If you are going to store them, let them sit about 2 weeks in the soil once the plant has yellowed back. Their skins will toughen up.



Enjoy!