How to Plant a Potato Container Garden
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 thatâs 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.
Why Container Gardens are Important - grow your own food for a sustainable future
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.
Okay Then, Let's Grow Some Potatoes! - Potatoes grow well in zones 3 to 10
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. 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.
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!
The Best Part!
Have fun digging through all the dirt and exposing your treasures. :)
A Beautiful Way to Store Your Potatoes
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.
Now Here are Some Nice Fresh Potatoes
image credit - "Stocking the Pantry for Winter" by Susy Morris
Store Your Potatoes Long Term
storing lots of potatoes over the winter
With the proper storage set-up, your potatoes will last all Winter long! Potatoes keeping well for up to 6 months is common.
Using burlap bags is probably the easiest and most practical way to store a lot of potatoes over the Winter. Remember to place them in the bag gently and to also lay the bags flat instead of upright. This way the weight of the larger potatoes on top won't bruise the potatoes below. Also, don't stock bags on top of one another.
These come in sets of 4. So, use 2 for your potatoes, and you know what to do with the other two. Have fun! (and don't fall)
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.
Last updated on September 17, 2014
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