I am a firm believer in growing potatoes in containers. But one question I constantly get asked is how often to water container potatoes. In this article, not only am I going to answer this question, but I am also going to give you some tips to retain water and make your lives easier.
Watering potatoes in containers should be done between 1 and 3 days. Preserve water half burying the container, mulching the surface of the soil to prevent evaporation. Support potato foliage to create a canopy to shade the container. It will reduce the amount of water and time required.
If you ask 100 gardeners the best way to grow potatoes, you will get 101 different answers. For me, I always revert to containers. Yes, container growing does have considerable benefits in regards to space, time, and water usage.
Not only this, But you can increase the yields of potatoes growing in containers if you do it right. In the video below, I show you the results of an experiment where I developed the same amount of potatoes in the ground and containers.
The results will shock you. Not only were there many more, but their size and skin quality were also much better. They were the same variety out of the same seed bag. So check it out.
Control the growing environment when growing potatoes in containers
Containers are a great way to grow potatoes. You can control the container environment and create the perfect growing conditions for your crop. Even if you have a small yard or limited space, container potatoes will give you more yield with less water usage. To learn more about watering potatoes in containers check out this article I wrote.
Containers allow for better drainage, which means that the soil doesn’t stay wet as long and is easier to maintain. Usually, containers need watering every 1-3 days, depending on how hot or cold it is outside. Still, you can also use mulch (leaves/grass clippings) around the top of the container to keep moisture in longer or reduce evaporation rates.
The soil conditions within the container
The great thing about growing potatoes in containers is that you are not governed by the soil conditions in your backyard or garden. In a container, you can control that soil better.
Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables that people grow in container gardens. They have a relatively short growth time and can be planted in nearly any season, as long as you provide them with enough water to keep their soil moist. But container potato plants will only produce potatoes if they have the proper soil conditions, which is why it’s so essential for container gardeners to choose a good blend for their container potatoes.
Containers allow you to control the environment better than traditional gardening methods because you can change out your soil blends according to what best suits your crop or plant variety. For example, potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil. It allows you to create the perfect blend within those parameters, and you don’t have to put up with the PH of your garden soils.
How to stop containers from overheating during the summer sun?
When growing potatoes in containers, It is essential to consider the cold and heat. Potatoes are more susceptible to fluctuations in temperatures. But below is a list of things you can do to help prevent this from happening.
- Part bury the containers in the ground or place a woodchip mulch around them. It will act as a heat sink and draw out any heat in both directions. If it is cold, the container will absorb heat from the ground, but it will send heat into the surrounding soil if hot.
- Mulch the top of the containers with a good mulch. Grass clippings, woodchips, paper, cardboard, straw, but my favorite mulch are rapeseed straw. You can use anything that will mat together and reduce evaporation. More on this later.
- Support foliage to create a canopy. Potato foliage or haulms will readily bend and flop all over the place, especially if they lack water. Provide support to hold this up as it will help shield the containers from the worst of the sun.
How much water to give container potatoes?
Container potatoes ideally require about three to five liters or 1.2 gallons of water per week. It includes rainfall. The issue with most containers is that it evaporates or runs out of the bottom as you water. So more water is required to ensure that they are getting enough.
So, before I give you more tips to make your life easier, I will answer the question outright.
How often to water container potatoes? Once a week is perfect when they start to grow, and they may only need to be watered every two days during the height of summer.
Tips for preserving water when growing potatoes in containers
You may have tried growing potatoes in containers for many years and found yourself watering vast amounts of water daily to keep them hydrated. Here are a few tips to help you when it comes to watering your potatoes in containers, buckets, pots, or bags.
- Consider the growing soil you are using. I have an experiment running this year which you will see later on, about which soil is best for growing potatoes in containers. But this is something to consider.
Different soils or composts will hold varying amounts of water. Compost is excellent as its full of organic matter. It soaks the water like a sponge. However, it is essential to keep it moist because if you don’t, it will allow water to just run off it instead of being absorbed.
- Bury the container a 1/5 of its depth. It is essential as it allows the medium it is buried in to soak up any additional water that runs out of the drainage holes. Rather than this getting lost, it will hold it, and this can be released back into the pot via the wicking process.
- I decided not to bury the container in the soil. Instead, I placed down a membrane and sat the buckets on it. I then filled around the buckets with woodchips that have different particle sizes. It will allow the water that escapes being absorbed.
It will keep the container cooler as this water in the woodchips acts like a heatsink absorbing the heat away from the containers.
- Next is to mulch the surface. Many folks now grow in containers like me or similar types after seeing my videos on container-grown potatoes. But none of them ever use mulch.
Mulching the surface can help not only to keep down evaporation, but the mulch itself is highly absorbent, and this will hold lots of moisture, releasing it into the soil as it starts to dry out.
The soil itself will remain damp, and this is perfect for the potato’s growth as they get the heat and the moisture they require. The mulch holds this water and releases it as needed. It prevents the sun from baking the soil’s surface, which then makes future watering’s hard to penetrate.
These three tips alone will cut down on your water usage and save you hours watering. This is how I am growing mine this year, as I want to ensure that the potatoes can fend for themselves if required to do so.
Let’s look at the different forms of watering we can do and what is best and why?
Hand Watering Container Potatoes
The first is to water by hand with a watering can. This is how a lot of us water our container potatoes. We apply water until it flows out of the holes in the bottom, but is this a sufficient quantity?
I don’t think so. If you allowed your soil to dry out completely, as discussed earlier, the earth would shed the water, and you would see this running out of the holes before the soil absorbs it.
Seeing running water out of the container drainage holes is an excellent indication that enough has been given, providing the soil was moist before. If it was allowed to dry out, give it a watering and leave for 10 mins to absorb, then water again until this runs out, and then you know it is sufficient.
It is important to not overwater your containers too. In this blog post, I take you through how to tell you are giving enough water, but not overwatering your plants
Using Drip Irrigation To Water Potatoes
The next option is to use a dripper or drip irrigation to water your potato buckets. Suppose you have a tap available or set up a water reservoir nearby, such as my IBC container. It could be a great option because it allows you to water over a long period and saturates the soil thoroughly.
However, you decide to water, remember this one tip. You are far better off watering deeply once so that all the soil is moist rather than watering daily. Ensuring the earth never dries out will accept the next lot of water quickly and not just let it run off to the ground below and be wasted.
Know when to water your container potatoes?
To find out when water is required, stick your finger into the container soil right up to its knuckle. If it’s moist, the soil is fine, but if it feels a little on the dry side, then it’s time to water again.
How to preserve water when growing potatoes in containers?
I am implementing some other tricks this year, which I will discuss here; although they do not directly relate to watering, they can help conserve it.
I intend on adding a mesh screen above these pots to allow the potato foliage to grow through. It has several benefits. Firstly, it will hold all of the potatoes as a group. It will prevent wind and rain from flattening the foliage.
It will keep the foliage upright and not flattened over the side of the container. It shields the surface from the sun’s intense rays, which helps to shade the mulch and protect that valuable water.
It makes life much easier for you as a gardener to get to the buckets without breaking haulms when you water.What size is the best to use for containers? I have tried many sizes of containers over the years and consistently revert to 30 liter or 10 gallons.
This works out best for the efforts. Filling all those containers must be expensive. I have covered this in many videos. I always buy compost for use in the garden.
I use it before it goes on the garden for potatoes. It can be used for a couple of years, providing I have not had blight. So I have no issues. However, there are always challenges.
This year it’s hard to buy compost. But as I make around 5 tons of my own each year, I used that. I am growing 80 containers of potatoes this year, and 95% of those are filled with homemade compost. If you want to know how to make it, I have a detailed video, and I will link to it in the show notes below.
What mulch are you using? For the floor, I am using just normal woodchips that can be gained from most tree surgeons. I am using rape straw; this is a byproduct of the oilseed rape industry. It is usually sold in farm shops as horse bedding.
Could I use anything else I don’t need to buy as mulch? Yes, you could use woodchips or even shredded cardboard. But I like the straw, and it helps build the organic matter in my garden.
Benefits of growing potatoes in containers
- Much easier to plant
- Much easier to harvest
- Perfect for people with mobility issues
- They can place it anywhere
- Ideal for patio growers
- Higher yields with less space
- Plant earlier in spring undercover then moves out after last frosts.
- The soil warms up much quicker.
- Potatoes can be stored in the containers until needed
Conclusion on watering container-grown potatoes
Container-grown potatoes are an excellent choice for growing potatoes. With the tips I’ve provided, you should have no problems preserving water and getting your container-grown potatoes watered without using too much of it.
Follow these tips, and you will never have to worry about spending lots of money and time watering your container potatoes again.
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