Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
The Potato Plant. It has sustained our nation for hundreds of years and is an invaluable crop in the garden. There are many ways to grow the humble potato plant, and each works well. But in this blog post, I will share seven reasons for growing potatoes in containers. If you want to see this blog in video format, click here.
If you ask any gardener who grows their food which vegetable they would never do without, the humble potato plant would be in the top three. Potatoes are a perfect plant for the amount of effort put into them. They give you tubers that can be stored until the following harvest. This makes them an ideal crop for those willing to be more self-sufficient.
Is growing potatoes this way better?
Over the years, I have grown potatoes in all sorts of ways. I have grown potatoes in bags. I have grown potatoes in buckets. And I have grown potatoes in the ground. But my preferred method of growing potatoes is in containers. Why do I like to grow potatoes in containers so much? Well, there are 7 top reasons I prefer it, and you should consider growing your potatoes in containers too.
Traditional Way To Plant Potatoes
Traditionally, the most challenging part of growing potatoes is digging a trench, putting in manure, placing your potatoes in the track, and backfilling the trench.
That is a tremendous amount of work, it can be back-breaking, and not everyone can bend like this for so long. Growing the potato plant in containers is much easier; you can place the container on the floor or a work surface.
Place some compost into the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and feed and fill the container immediately; you are finished, other than feeding and watering. When using the trench method, you must keep visiting and hoe up the potatoes as they grow.
Hilling Up Potatoes
Potatoes Growing In Containers
Containers Allow You To Plant Potatoes Earlier
2. You can plant your seed potatoes much earlier. Due to potatoes not being frost-hardy when planting in the ground, we would have to wait until the threat of the last frost was over.
Frost dates differ depending on where you live, but planting outside before this date is risky. By growing potatoes in containers, you can cheat this time.
The seed potatoes can be sown earlier and left inside a greenhouse or polytunnel with a layer of fleece over them to protect the haulms. And then, the containers can be moved outside to their growing place when the weather is more conducive and less like to be harmed by frosts.
Containers Warm The Soil Quicker
3. Containers warm the soil much quicker than the soil in the ground warms because the containers are usually dark or black and absorb the sun. This gives them an edge when it comes to early growth
It also restricts the root zone in the container. This ensures that the roots have no choice but to absorb the water and nutrients provided. In the ground, the root zone is free to grow and stretch outside the feeding zone and, therefore, may uptake less feed.
If you doubt this, click here to see a video on Youtube of an experiment I performed last year. I could double the yield of potatoes grown in containers over potatoes grown in the ground. I ran that experiment for three years, and the results were identical yearly.
How To Water Potatoes Efficiently
4. Although you might not think it, Watering is more efficient as you only water the root zone. The plant takes up what is required; a smaller area is open to the surface, which cuts down evaporation.
In the ground, the soil wicks the water away from the plant, and this then has a larger area to evaporate from. Also, you may not necessarily be watering all the roots from the plant as these could have gone in all directions and further than where you are watering.
Dealing With Potato Diseases
5. You are much less likely to catch the disease; many soil-borne conditions, such as Alternaria, exist. Alternaria is a soil-borne disease otherwise known as early blight. There are many soil-borne diseases and pests that you can cut out of the equation, such as wireworms, as you are not using the soil from the ground.
Instead, you are using compost, either bought or homemade. Many people tell me it’s costly to buy compost to grow your potatoes in, but if you check out my last compost video below, you can easily make enough compost to fill containers.
Even if you buy your compost, it is worthwhile for numerous reasons. Some of these are the compost that can be reused multiple times when growing potatoes providing you avoid blight on your potatoes. And when reusing the soil, add the additional feed.
Once you can no longer use it for potatoes, you can spread it in your garden to help build the soil structure. Those who tell me it’s a waste do not understand how each garden section is supposed to work synergistically.
Can I move Potatoes In Containers
6. When the weather is terrible, and we have storms as we have had recently, or blight hits other gardeners around you, then you can pick up your container and take them indoors to a greenhouse or polytunnel, which can help prevent them from catching the blight.
If they are on the ground, you cannot do this. Also, you can move them about if you want the space for something else, even freeing up beds and putting them on a patio where you wouldn’t usually be able to grow such a crop.
Harvesting Potatoes From Containers
7. Last but certainly not least is the harvest. Removing potatoes from the ground is the reverse of putting them in, with all the backbreaking work involved. Also, I wouldn’t say I like this part as you waste a lot of potatoes by sticking the fork through the tubers or missing them completely, which means your harvest is less, and they pop up as volunteer potatoes next year.
With containers, it’s straightforward. Simply lift one container into a wheelbarrow or even tip it over where it stands and pull out all the potatoes, none are stabbed, and none are missed. You get every single one of them. On top of that, they are always cleaner coming out of containers than on the ground.
Curing And Storing Potatoes Long Term
After the harvest, we can wash them off and store the potatoes. I have a video that teaches you to keep your potatoes through winter and store your seed potatoes for the following year, which will help save you money on buying next year’s seed. You can view that video in the link below.
FAQs on Potato Paradise: How to Grow More in Less Space
How do you grow a lot of potatoes in a small space?
Use containers or potato bags to grow many potatoes in a small space. Fill them with loose, well-draining soil mixed with compost. Plant seed potatoes, ensuring each piece has at least one sprout. Add soil and mulch to encourage more tuber development as the plants grow. Regularly water, provide sunlight, and harvest when ready!
How much space does a potato plant need?
A potato plant typically requires about 8-12 inches of space between each plant, with rows spaced 2-3 feet apart. However, it’s essential to consider the specific variety and desired yield when determining the optimal spacing for potato plants.
Are potatoes space-efficient?
Yes, potatoes are space-efficient. They can be grown vertically in containers or using the “hilling” method in garden beds. Maximizing vertical space or planting in hills can yield a substantial harvest in a relatively small area.
Well, that’s it, folks. I have given you my top seven reasons to consider growing potatoes in containers. Whether that be plastic pots, buckets, or even bags. It does give you such an advantage over other growing methods. I urge you to check out the videos on my YouTube channel.
I know many people always struggled with the amount of compost used when growing potatoes in containers. But if you watch the compost video above or even check out my complete guide on the composting blog. This will ensure it doesn’t cost you a penny.
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Happy gardening, Have a great day. And remember, folks, You Reap What You Sow!