Planting Potatoes in a Container is Easy. In this Article I Take You all the Way from Planting and Caring to Harvesting, Curing and Storing

Planting potatoes is something that most home gardeners seem to shy away from. I believe we may rather grow vegetables that we can see fruiting before our eyes above ground. Seeing our toll and effort visually is rewarding and provides instant gratification. That said, what I don't think we all realize is that planting potatoes and having a successful harvest is easy and just as rewarding. After all, you get to dig for buried treasure, and that's fun!

Even if you are in an apartment without a yard or balcony, with the right lighting, you too can also be successful with growing potatoes. One of the greatest things about planting potatoes is that it does not require a lot of space. Growing potatoes is not difficult at all, and growing potatoes and especially harvesting potatoes are fun adventures, particularly for kids.

There are several ways for you to have a successful potato container garden. We'll look at container gardening for inside and outside and focus on the issues of having a lack of space. I think you'll be amazed at the yield one can get from a tiny area. If you have a large yard with a large garden, you can go crazy with planting your potatoes, although, you might like the look of some of these potato container garden ideas for your balcony, front porch, little yard nook, or back deck.

image credit - photo by Jon Hayes

Why Container Gardens are Important

grow your own food for a sustainable future

"Potatoes" by Michael Strange Before we go further, I want to explain why I think container gardening is important to utilize. I’ve written about this in more depth in a couple of other articles, and I thought I’d list a couple of the key points here.

I believe it is important that we all become responsible for growing some of our own food. Growing your own food ensures that you are getting the best-of-the-best. You have complete control in ensuring your food is organic and nutritiously the best it can be. With today’s awareness in genetically modified organisms, radiation of produce, importing produce from other countries that still have not banned seriously harmful use of pesticides, such as DDT, and treating different produce items so that their shelf-life is longer are all reasons why you may want to consider growing your own food.

Another reason to grow some of your own food is that it is getting seriously difficult for big-time farmers to feed the world. The human race’s population is growing at an exponential rate, and that is not an exaggeration. If one graphs the human population growth rate, particularly starting with the Industrial Revolution, the graph clearly depicts exponential growth. We’ve exceeded our carrying capacity period.

Too many people on the planet is the primary reason why less-than-good practices, such as the ones I listed above, are used in growing mass produce. The larger the fields, the less control farmers have in ensuring they have a successful yield. Having a successful yield is extremely important to the farmer, the farmer’s family, the community, the state, the country, and so on. A poor yield can be devastating.

There was a time when we all grew our own food. However, this practice is of generations past. Perhaps it’s time to go back to learning how we can sustain our own households once again. However, there is a problem with this. Times have changed and not all of us have a big, beautiful backyard with a place to grow a huge magnificent garden, and with our busy, hectic, day-to-day lifestyles, most of us wouldn’t have the time to manage such a garden anyway.

The good news is that we have the beginning of a solution. Gardening practices and methods are diversifying to accommodate everyone’s living space, both large and small. Container gardens for small spaces is an example.

image credit

Okay Then, Let's Grow Some Potatoes!

Potatoes grow well in zones 3 to 10

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map If you plan on growing your container potato garden outside on the balcony, deck, or small yard-nook, you’re going to have to figure out when the best time is for you to seed your potatoes. This requires having a good idea of when your area’s last expected Winter frost is and then waiting two weeks.

If you don’t have a general idea of when this is, you can simply just figure out which plant hardiness zone you are in by using a zone map. I’ve included a map of the U.S.A that denotes the hardiness zones simply because I have permission to use this graphic. If you are not within the Unite States, you may use the Interactive World Hardiness Zone Map. If you are in the U.S.A, you can also get detailed zone information with the interactive map. It’s a pretty cool interactive map.

The Plant Hardiness Zone Maps were developed to outline geographic locations where plants assigned to specific temperature categories grow best. Potatoes do well in zones from 3 to 10.[1] So, unless you’re living in a year round winter wonderland, you can grow potatoes. In fact, potatoes can be used as a winter crop in many of the hardiness zones.

1. When and How to Plant Potatoes by Your Hardiness Zone

image source

How to Plant Potatoes - Preparing and Seeding Potatoes

Ensure you get good quality organic potato seeds!

There are different methods of how to plant potatoes in a container. Here, I’ll be describing the easy tried-and-true method, as potatoes are not difficult to grow. They are what I call a very forgiving plant. You will need a good organic soil, an organic fertilizer, and organic starter seed potatoes.

Preparing the Container – Whatever container you decide to go with, rinse it thoroughly to ensure there aren’t any sort of chemical residues within. This is particularly important if you are using a large plastic planter or an old garbage can for example. Next, prepare the soil by mixing in the fertilizer using the amount recommended on the fertilizer packaging. You may add some of your own organic compost material into the soil as well. Okay, now fill up your container with the mixture to almost the top.

Plant your seed potatoes – First, let’s make sure we know what a seed potato is. If you are new to potato gardening or gardening in general, this term may be a bit confusing, as potato plants don’t produce little seeds like you are used to seeing with almost all varieties of produce, herbs, or flowers. A seed potato is the potato itself. If you’ve seen a potato that’s been sitting around for awhile, you may have noticed that it has begun to sprout in several areas. Those sprouts are the eyes or eyelets, and they are the seeds.

It’s important that you get your seed potatoes from a good source. The reason why is that the potatoes from your grocery store have most likely been treated with a substance that keeps the potatoes from sprouting for a long period of time. This practice increases the shelf life of the potatoes. Even if you purchase organic potatoes that have not been treated in anyway, you don’t get the same assurance that you have with an awesome seed potato that has been checked and re-checked by potato experts. Farmers and farms that sell seed potatoes are the experts. It’s what they do, and it’s very important that your seed potatoes come disease and fungus free. Once you harvest your first crop, you’ll get to save some of the potatoes and make these your seed potatoes for next year.

Again, growing potatoes is not an exact science, meaning that different methods are used and work well. There are typically two methods to seeding potatoes. One is two cut the eyelets out leaving some of the potato on or two, to simply place the whole potato into the soil. We’re going to place the whole potato into the soil. How many seed potatoes you use is dependent on the size of your container. Generally, container potatoes started early in the season can be placed only 4″ to 6″ apart. Now, push each potato down into the soil so that the whole potato is covered by the soil. Your potatoes should be covered with about 2″ of soil. Next, water your potatoes so that the soil is nice and moist and water drains from your container. Now, wait patiently for your potato plants to grow, and while you’re waiting for them to grow, check the soil moisture regularly. Potatoes don’t like to sit in water, but they do like a moist soil.

image source – courtesy of Amazon – This aesthetically pleasing and functional container for potato gardening was available for purchase. Unfortunately, they are no longer available. However, I’m keeping the photo up since I think designing your own would be a fairly easy DIY project. What I like about this design is that you can look (“cheat”) to see how your potatoes are coming along. You may also harvest potatoes only as you need them.

Organic Seed Potatoes

Read why it's important to use "seed" potatoes versus potatoes from most grocery chains.

It's important that you have organic seed potatoes to plant in your garden. More often than not, the potatoes in your local grocery stores have been treated so that they will no longer sprout thereby increasing the selling duration.

You should be able to get organic seed potatoes at your local garden center or farmer supply store. If you can't, these are available to order on Amazon.

Once Your Potato Plants Begin to Grow

keeping your plants happy and healthy

Again, make sure the soil is continuously moist. If the soil moisture is too dry, it may kill the plant, and if the soil moisture is too wet, your potatoes could rot. An inconsistent soil moisture level will cause stress on the plant and potatoes, and your potatoes will come out looking odd.

Your potato plants will need approximately 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. I’ve read where 4 hours per day is possible in colder hardiness zones, but overall, 6 to 8 hours is best.

Once your plants begin to bloom with flowers, they are ready for harvest. This happens after about 50 to 60 days after you planted your seeds. However, if you are planning on storing for the long run, meaning through the Winter, wait until the plants have completely grown, flowered, and begin to die. Then, harvest your potatoes. I know! It’s hard to wait!

image creditHappy Potato Plants by Van Corey

The Best Part!
Have fun digging through all the dirt and exposing your treasures. :)

Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Potatoes for the Long Term

Harvesting Potatoes – Harvesting potatoes is simple. Just dump the container and go! Now, don’t go crazy and have potato throwing fights! You need to be gentle with your potatoes, or they will bruise and not last very long. Have fun digging through all the dirt and exposing your treasures. :)

Curing Potatoes – If you want to store your potatoes for the long term, as they can make it through the whole winter, you want to cure them first. Curing is a method used to preserve the potatoes for a longer period of time. The curing time enables a potato to heal itself of small cuts and bruises, and it also allows the skin to thicken. The thicker the skin, the longer the they last. This is important to keep in mind when choosing what kinds of varieties to raise. For instance, russet potatoes have a much thicker skin than the red-skin varieties.

To cure your potatoes, you need a dark place where the temperature is cool, but the humidity is high. The ideal temperature should be between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the relative humidity should be between 85% to 95%. Leave your potatoes in this area for about 2 weeks. This will give your potatoes ample time to cure. Once the two-week time period is finished, inspect each of your potatoes. Discard any potatoes that are bruised, overall soft, or have open cuts or parts with missing skin. We really only want to keep perfect potatoes. The less-than-perfect won’t store well, and they will negatively affect the rest of the harvest.

Storing Potatoes – There are several ways and areas to store potatoes. All have a few good things in common. As with curing, the potatoes should be kept in a cooler area of 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity should be up to 90%. Potatoes like it humid. A few good places to store potatoes over the winter can be your basement, your garage, a closet exposed to an outside wall, or a root cellar.

Also, you want plenty of ventilation around those potatoes. This can easily be accomplished by storing your potatoes in small piles instead of one big pile or one huge bag. With smaller quantities, air will be able to evenly hit all the potatoes and there won’t be a pile of top potatoes weighing down and bruising the bottom potatoes.

image credit – photo by melaniekaren – How nice would it be if we could all have our very own root cellar! This is a door leading to a root cellar I believe. I walk past this door everyday and wonder what it looks like inside.

Now Here are Some Nice Fresh Potatoes

image credit – “Stocking the Pantry for Winter” by Susy Morris

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON POTATO PLANTS

Potato plants and the sprouts on potatoes are TOXIC. Never eat the actual plant and cut-off, break off, or scrub away the sprouting buds, also called "eyes" or "eyelets" off of the actual potatoes. You were probable already taught to do this at some point in your childhood, but now you know the most important reason why.

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  • KathyT Jun 28, 2014 @ 7:25 pm
    When you mentioned "the fun part" about digging out "the treasure" it put a huge smile on my face! John & I grow potatoes (but not in a container) and it's so much fun to harvest them! Great idea and lens!
  • sjewula Jun 23, 2014 @ 9:24 am
    Great article! I will try this next year. Before reading this article I found a potato growing on the counter so we planted it in a straw bail. It's green and growing. We'll see what I end up with. Thanks for sharing.
  • CreativeArtist Jun 10, 2014 @ 3:42 pm
    I grew sweet potatoes last year from ones that had sprouted; pretty cool.
  • DANCINGCOWGIRLDESIGN May 26, 2014 @ 6:35 am
    Great tips on growing potatoes. I never knew that parts of them are toxic. Good to know. Thanks.
  • godfather25 May 17, 2014 @ 1:32 pm
    I must try this sometime!
  • Arachnea May 11, 2014 @ 12:21 am
    This gave me some good ideas. Great lens.
  • angelatvs May 04, 2014 @ 12:27 am
    I started my potato garden this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!
  • lollyj Apr 26, 2014 @ 11:00 am
    Excellent tips, fascinating lens. Congrats on LOTD.
  • rconnor111 Apr 23, 2014 @ 10:24 pm
    Like the tips!
  • DebMartin Apr 23, 2014 @ 10:17 am
    I love potatoes and yet I have to be so fussy about the ones I buy that I do not get to eat them often enough. Thanks for your tips.
  • DeniseMcGill Apr 22, 2014 @ 12:57 pm
    By the way, my grandfather used to swear by planting by the moon. If the moon was full, plant things that grow/produce above ground. If the moon was new, plant things that produce below ground, like potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, etc. What do you know about that? Is there anything to it? Of is it just an old grandfather's tale?
  • jsr54 Apr 21, 2014 @ 11:48 pm
    I love growing potatoes in my back yard garden!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Apr 21, 2014 @ 11:16 pm
    I'd love to grow some of those baby reds. Wonderful to imagine feasting on them in 30 days. Congrats on LotD!
  • katiesnow Apr 21, 2014 @ 9:23 pm
    what a neat idea!
  • Ruthi Apr 21, 2014 @ 7:57 pm
    It as been years since I've grown my own potatoes, mostly because I prefer sweet potatoes. I just might have to grow some of them! I love these planters for root vegetables.
  • JeriBaker Apr 21, 2014 @ 7:51 pm
    Nice article. I haven't grown this crop in a container. Now, I'll have to give it a whirl.
  • favored1 Apr 21, 2014 @ 4:22 pm
    This is something I haven't grown yet, but really want to. Appreciate all the information and congratulations on LotD.
  • SofyBelle Apr 21, 2014 @ 2:53 pm
    Congratulations on LotD!! Thanks for the info on the potato plant & the sprouts being toxic, I never knew that!
  • StephenJParkin Apr 21, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
    Great LOTD! I never thought of growing potatoes in containers before duh!
  • Apr 21, 2014 @ 12:51 pm
    Terrific information. Congratulations on a well deserved LotD!
  • DeniseMcGill Apr 21, 2014 @ 12:40 pm
    I love this. Great ideas and tutorial about potatoes. Congrats on LOTD!
  • MarcellaCarlton Apr 21, 2014 @ 12:34 pm
    I think I'll be growing some potatoes in May! Sounds easy. Thanks for sharing.
  • thegembank Apr 21, 2014 @ 12:09 pm
    Definitely I am going to try that container. It's a space saver in my yard
  • LynnKK Apr 21, 2014 @ 11:23 am
    I love home grown potatoes almost more than home grown tomatoes, and that is saying something. I have tried the potato bags and one year inadvertently grew some potatoes in a cooler spot in my rather large compost pile! I do love it when things just sprout and hang on.
    Great lens, lots of good information. Congrats on LotD.
  • d-artist Apr 21, 2014 @ 10:14 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! great idea...I might even try and grow potatoes...
  • inkedwriter Apr 21, 2014 @ 10:11 am
    Great lens....definitely worthy of LOTD...congrats.
  • winlin Apr 21, 2014 @ 9:57 am
    Nicely done! I had no idea you could grow potatoes this way. I'm ready to start my own container.
  • LindaWhite Apr 21, 2014 @ 9:34 am
    Great article. I am really considering growing some this year !
  • 3QuartersToday Apr 21, 2014 @ 9:08 am
    I just planted my potatoes in a cage this past weekend. Very much like a tomato cage, lined the outside with straw, but the starters in the side. This is the first time I'm trying it so I hope it works Congrats on the LOTD
  • biorra2 Apr 21, 2014 @ 8:36 am
    Well earned lens of the day :)
  • trudidyer Apr 21, 2014 @ 7:12 am
    Very informative!
  • esmonaco Apr 21, 2014 @ 4:42 am
    Just back to say Congratulations on LOTD!! Well Deserved!!
  • angelatvs Apr 21, 2014 @ 12:08 am
    I'm excited to add potatoes to my garden this year!
  • esmonaco Mar 27, 2014 @ 1:05 pm
    I used to plant potatos years ago, Now we don't have much of a yard, but you have inspired me with this lens. Thanks for the information :)
  • mountainmist Feb 01, 2014 @ 12:32 pm
    Going to start container gardening this year and I could live on potatoes alone. Terrific article!
  • VioletteRose Jan 25, 2014 @ 6:48 am
    Very informative, that will be interesting to plant potatoes!
  • Denmarkguy Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:31 pm
    Wow, this is really cool! I'd heard of doing this before but had always dismissed it as "too much work" because it seemed like you would go to all this trouble to get 7-8 potatoes per container... but it seems like the yields can be MUCH higher than that.
  • melaniekaren Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
    Hello and thank you for reading my article and also for your lovely comment. Yes, the yield is surprisingly high. In fact, there are several videos on youtube that show you how to yield up to 500 potatoes from one large barrel. There are also "tire gardens" for potatoes that are vertical. You plant upward and have several layers of potatoes as high as you like. I'll be writing more articles on potato container gardening revolving around these other styles. Let me know if you give it a try!
  • flora-crew Jan 09, 2014 @ 8:45 am
    Wow, this is great. I am trying to figure out if I can do it where I live with such little space!
  • melaniekaren Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:45 pm
    Hello and thank you. :) You can. Potatoes are very forgiving plants, so much so, that they do well in several climates. They need about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight everyday. This is the hardest to control indoors. However, with a nice grow light, you may do just that. Good luck!
  • growownfood6 Jan 09, 2014 @ 3:43 am
    Growing potatoes in containers help them keep away from fungus called blight that is really very harmful for your potatoes.
  • melaniekaren Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:48 pm
    Hello and thank you kindly for your information. Yes, growing foods in containers and indoors allows for more control over fungi, bacteria, weather, and almost any outdoor variable that would have a harmful impact on the plants.
  • MaryRoseFitz Jan 05, 2014 @ 8:26 pm
    I have never considered growing potatoes in containers - what a wonderful idea. I particularly loved the barrel container.
  • melaniekaren Jan 11, 2014 @ 2:49 pm
    Hi and nice to meet you :) Yes, the potato barrel is a classic favorite. It's so cool that you can have a sneak peak at what is going on under the soil. Thank you for sharing.
  • FlowerChick Nov 07, 2013 @ 8:12 pm
    I love potatoes, but have never grown them. Thanks for sharing your knowledge...I want to give this a try now!
  • Hansoph Nov 06, 2013 @ 5:28 pm
    I've always wanted to grow potatoes but never given it a go. Maybe now is the time? Great lens.
  • campingman Nov 06, 2013 @ 12:22 pm
    I always enjoy reading about someone's passion and yours for gardening and growing potatoes in top notch. Thanks for a really fun read today.
  • 3QuartersToday Oct 25, 2013 @ 11:26 am
    I'm going to grown mine in a container next year. My hubby insisted he grow them the traditional way, took up too much room and this year he didn't water them like he should. So I'm going to build one next year with a PVC pipe in the middle for watering.
  • ErinMellor Oct 09, 2013 @ 1:03 pm
    I get early crop potatoes on the go, and with a bit of luck I can harvest them in time to put some zucchini in their place to make the most of my tiny garden.
  • Colin323 Jul 19, 2013 @ 10:36 am
    Very interesting lens. I have six hessian sacks with different types of potato growing - a sort of controlled trial to see which grow best. All doing well, and no sign of blight, which devastated my crop last year. Watering is a big issue, though, for the reasons you give - the containers soon dry out, particularly in the very hot (unusually so) weather in Britain at present.
  • snoopcat1 Jun 19, 2013 @ 9:53 pm
    Very cool. I'm going to try this.
  • dbodnariuc Jun 03, 2013 @ 5:58 pm
    Great idea, potatoes are among the most important to buy/grow organically.
  • Douglas5 May 31, 2013 @ 4:46 am
    Great Ideas for growing our own food
  • Douglas5 May 31, 2013 @ 4:46 am
    Great Ideas for growing our own food
  • LadyDuck May 26, 2013 @ 9:58 am
    I like the Victorian Potato Barrel, it's a so good idea, you can see your potatoes grow!
  • artyfax May 17, 2013 @ 5:55 pm
    I used to grow food in a large part of my garden buut with age I have converted it to a low maintenance garden. I still grow a few crops in containers. I grow potatoes in old dustbins. I have four. Just enough to enjoy a few fresh "spuds" in the late summer.
  • JimMcD May 07, 2013 @ 6:19 pm
    Nice informative lens. I enjoy the thought of growing some of our own foods.
  • ConvenientCalendar May 04, 2013 @ 2:26 pm
    Great lens!
  • ErinMellor May 04, 2013 @ 3:15 am
    I've had much more success with potatoes in containers than in the ground, they're easier to work too.
  • MiaBellezza Apr 29, 2013 @ 8:16 pm
    I've been thinking of growing potatoes and I like the Victorian Potato Barrel too.
  • melaniekaren May 02, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
    It really is a fun thing to do. eheheh -makes one feel like a kid again digging for treasure. Yes, all things Victorian are lovely. At least, I think so :)
  • takkhis Apr 27, 2013 @ 7:07 am
    In the village, we grow large quantity of potatoes every year for selling them :)
  • melaniekaren May 02, 2013 @ 4:25 pm
    It must be fun (and hard work) when it's time to start digging and harvesting! :)
  • Apr 22, 2013 @ 7:07 am
    I have planted potato container gardens, and will most likely do that again this year. There is nothing as good as a fresh picked potato. I love all the great ideas you share, thanks so much. :)
  • melaniekaren May 02, 2013 @ 4:28 pm
    Thank you so much Tipi. How kind of you. :) Fresh picked anything is so marvelous and better than food sitting on a truck, in a warehouse, or at the store. It's amazing how different and better the taste really is. I think people would generally enjoy eating their veggies more (including kids) if they had fresh picked varieties all the time.
  • laurenrich Mar 08, 2013 @ 9:38 pm
    This is a great lens. This is my first year of planting a vegetable container garden. Thanks for sharing.
  • melaniekaren May 02, 2013 @ 4:28 pm
    Thank you so much :) -and good luck with your harvest! Have fun :)
  • VickiSims Mar 03, 2013 @ 3:18 pm
    Great information about growing potatoes in containers. I've been growing mine in old tires for a long time, but liked some of the other options on your lens that I had not considered.
  • melaniekaren May 02, 2013 @ 4:30 pm
    Thank you Vicki :) I learned about growing potatoes in tires about 10 years ago. My neighbors gardener is always telling me about her new adventures in sustainable living and organic gardening.
  • hntrssthmpsn Mar 02, 2013 @ 3:23 pm
    Very cool! I'm an avid gardener, and must admit I've only grown the occasional potato that's sprouted in my compost. Perhaps 2013 will be the Year of the Potato.
  • seenamary Feb 24, 2013 @ 2:39 pm
    Interesting facts about growing potatoes. When I tried planting them in the ground, I got tiny potatoes. I should try container cultivation. Your harvest looks substantial!
  • Feb 24, 2013 @ 6:03 am
    Loved the concept of recycling old tires as garden containers. To me what makes a great lens is lots of good (and useful) information. This lens certainly qualifies. Give yourself a pat on the back. Blessed!
  • WriterJanis Feb 24, 2013 @ 3:03 am
    You have so many great suggestions here.
  • Pitaya Feb 24, 2013 @ 1:34 am
    I love this lens! It's useful, looks great and has tons of great info. I bet you put a lot of work into it, and it was definitely worth it.
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