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Potato Growing Made Affordable with These Containers

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Several cheap potato containers can make this richly-diverse treasure trove crop part of your annual growing routine, creating a bountiful garden.   

Space limitations or poor garden soil conditions aren’t an excuse for not growing potatoes, nor is a limited budget. You can grow potatoes galore with full sun, the right potting mix, and an appropriate container.

Table of Contents

Cheap Potato Containers

The best containers for growing potatoes work well, look good, and cost the least. Bags made of breathable fabric (like jute sacks) are probably the cheapest, but so are buckets.

In this post, we’ll explore using grow bags, alternative fabric bags, and buckets for growing potatoes. We’ll look at potato growth inhibitors, growth stimulators, and how to get more potatoes for less.

Note that I have excluded old tires. They are unsafe for food growing, especially potatoes near the potential toxins in tires.

Growing Potatoes in Affordable Containers

A picture of Tony is standing next to a wheelbarrow filled with ripe potatoes, checking his yield by inspecting the tomatoes. He appears to be in a garden or a farm, surrounded by greenery and trees in the background.
“Harvest time! Tony inspects his bountiful potato crop while surrounded by nature’s beauty.”

Potatoes are an easy-to-grow crop that can produce five to twenty potatoes for every seed potato planted. That’s a great return if you consider a single seed potato can produce several chitted seed potatoes.

The yields you’ll get from your potato plants depend on the genetics of the potato variety and your care of the plant during growth. Subject to genetics, all plants have ten factors influencing their growth – five above ground and five below the soil surface.  

Above GroundBelow Ground
Light Quantity and QualityWater
Ambient TemperaturesOxygen
Carbon Dioxide LevelsSoil Temperatures
Humidity LevelsCarbon Content & Biodiversity

More about Potato Plants

Tony O'Neill, host of Simplify Gardening, proudly holds three freshly harvested potatoes from his own garden. He stands and holds the potatoes up for the camera with a smile on his face.
“Freshly harvested and delicious! Proud to share the fruits of my labor from my very own garden.” – Tony O’Neill, host of Simplify Gardening.

Potatoes are a delightfully easy crop to grow; every garden should have some growing somewhere. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), including potato, tomato, eggplant, and pepper (hot and sweet).

While the other three are classified as EPA Group 8: Fruiting Vegetables (okra is the other fruit vegetable), potatoes are in EPA Group 1: Root and Tuber Vegetables that include beet, carrot, celeriac, horseradish, parsnip, potato, radish, rutabaga, sweet potato, turnip, and several others.

Potatoes are not root vegetables but are tubers. The true roots of potatoes are mainly below the tubers that grow from the underground part of the stem on the proximal end of lateral stolons. 

The tubers develop eyes that are primarily dormant until exposed to light and the growth hormone ethylene. Because potato tubers are part of the plant’s foliage, exposure to light boosts chlorophyll and solanine, as in all family members. 

Solanine is a toxic substance that causes foliage to be bitter and wards herbivores off. Potatoes can be prevented from becoming green by keeping them covered from the sun. 

Potatoes are grown from tuber cuttings called seed potatoes. Productive plants may have two or more main stems. The stolons and tuberous roots grow from the stem tissue, and the true roots grow at the base of the stem, with some adventitious roots growing higher up. 

More About Seed Potatoes

A picture of Tony is demonstrating how to plant seeded potatoes in a container bucket. He is holding a small potato in his hand and pointing towards the bucket, which is partially filled with soil. There are gardening tools and other containers in the background.
“Get ready to harvest your own potatoes! Tony shows how easy it is to plant them in a container bucket 🌱🥔 #containergardening #homegrown #potatoplanting”

Potato plants are perennial, with potatoes serving as a food reservoir to kick-start the plant’s growth post-hibernation. We grow them as annuals, harvesting the tubers as a source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. 

Shoots grow from homegrown tubers if left in the light surrounded by other ripening fruit. The ethylene released by ripening fruit triggers a ripening response in surrounding fruit, and the ethylene also causes potatoes to grow green shoots.

Cutting these potatoes to capitalize on the individual shoots is called hitting, and the cuts are called chits or chitted potatoes. You can read about chitting in my Maximizing Your Potato Harvest: The Truth About Cutting Seed Potatoes post. 

All the shoots are potential potato plants. Potatoes growing from chits are genetic-identical to the parent plant. Store-bought potatoes often have growth inhibitors that prevent green shoots from growing, extending shelf life. 

7 Container Gardening Considerations

Below is a quick synopsis of considerations for growing potatoes in containers.

1. Container Size and Material

Choose the right size bucket or grow bag to grow potatoes. A container that is too small will restrict root growth, while a pot that is too large can hold too much moisture. Potato grow bags should be at least 18 inches deep. 

Tony holds up a sturdy plastic bucket with soil and a small plant inside. The bucket is specifically designed for planting potatoes, with a perforated bottom for drainage and a flip-up lid for easy access. Tony's smile suggests he's excited to share his gardening knowledge.
“Potatoes, anyone? Tony shares his container gardening tips with a specially designed bucket for potato planting.”

Anyone following me on my YouTube channel will know that I’m sold on plastic containers, especially the food-grade plastic five-gallon buckets I use from Oakland Gardens or their 30-liter ones for my potatoes.

You can’t expect a bountiful harvest if you only provide the plant with a few inches of soil.

2. Drainage

Ensure the potato bucket or grow bags have adequate drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom, which can lead to root rot. Don’t use pebbles to cover a drainage hole; use a coffee filter instead.

3. Soil

Use high-quality potting soil formulated explicitly for container plants. Avoid garden soil, which can be too dense and heavy for potted plants. 

Higher organic matter boosts water retention, and higher inert materials help boost soil aeration and drainage levels. Mixing organic and inorganic materials enables you to balance water drainage and retention levels.

All the soil used in containers can be reused in crops unrelated to the nightshade family. 

4. Fertilizer

Plants grown in containers need regular fertilization since nutrients can deplete quickly. Use a slow-release or liquid fertilizer according to the plant’s specific needs. Take care with the use of nitrogen in a potato grow bag.

5. Watering

Plants grown in potato grow bags or buckets need more frequent watering than plants in the ground, especially during hot weather. Water only when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. 

Avoid wetting plant leaves to reduce potato blight risks and other pathogens’ spread. If you can fit your potato bag with drip irrigation, do that.

6. Sunlight

Tony O'Neill is seated outdoors and holding a container bucket filled with freshly planted potatoes. Many other container buckets sizes are placed around him, each also filled with soil and sprouting potato plants.
“Harvest season is looking promising! Excited to see what these container buckets of potatoes will yield 🥔🌱 #containergardening #potatoharvest #greenthumb”

Choose a location for your potato to grow in bags or buckets that gives your potato plant at least 6 hours of sun-quality light daily. Nightshade plants are day-neutral, so the length of the day doesn’t affect flowering.

7. Pests and Disease

Plants grown in containers are not immune to pests and disease, so keep an eye out for signs of infestation and treat them promptly. Use covers to exclude the striped Colorado potato beetles and other pests from your potato crops.

Five Essential Soil Factors vs. Potato Container Choices

Because this post mainly deals with affordable potato containers, we’ll only focus on what potato plants need from a container to thrive.

1. Managing Soil Temperatures in Potato Grow Bags and Buckets

Seed potatoes grow well in soil temperatures between 60 and 65°F (15.5–18°C) and a maximum of 80°F (26.6°C). Plant seed potatoes when the soil is above 45°F/7°C, knowing that growth will slow when the soil temperature reaches 75°F/24°C and will stop when soil temperatures reach 85°F/29°C.

Potato plants emerge in a few weeks (two to four) after planting seed potatoes, depending on the soil temperature (closer to 60°F/16°C will germinate faster).

Depending on the variety, potatoes can take 90 to 120 days to mature, but gardeners can harvest new potatoes after 60 to 70 days. Potatoes require consistent moisture and a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily.

A picture of Tony placing straws on top of the soil in a container where he has planted potatoes. The straws appear to be creating a layer on top of the soil, possibly to protect the potatoes or aid in their growth.
“Tony uses a clever straw layering technique to help his container-grown potatoes thrive 🥔🌿 #containergardening #potatoes #gardeningtips”

Water content, evaporation rates, container color, ambient temperatures and insulation influence soil temperature. Grow bags come in various colors and can regulate soil temperatures – lighter colors offer a more consistent soil temperature.

Potato buckets are made of sturdy material and come in various colors. Again, lighter colors help stabilize spill temperature fluctuations. Dark colors should be avoided in warmer climes as these can quickly raise soil temperatures above the limited 80°F/27°C.

2. Managing Water Needs in Potato Grow Bags and Buckets

For potatoes to flourish, plants need consistent access to moisture and oxygen, which depends on the container’s drainage and the growing medium. 

In this YouTube video (I grew 235 lbs Of Potatoes in 200 sq ft Without Watering), I show you how I grow potatoes in containers relying only on rain and the water wicked up from the underlying woodchip.

A grow bag can be made of breathable fabric (porous) or non-porous material. Porous material allows better aeration and should be watered more regularly. The converse applies to non-porous materials, like buckets.

Porous grow bag grown potatoes are often negligible due to the rapid water loss. Avoid buying too many bags upfront before testing their products in your environment.  

A picture of Tony O'Neill watering a bucket filled with potato plants for the first time. He is holding a watering can and carefully pouring water onto the bucket. The sun is shining brightly, and the background features inside of his shed.
“First watering of the season for my bucket potato plants! ☀️🌱💦 Excited to see them grow 🌿 #containergardening #greenthumb”

Place your seed potatoes on a 4-inch layer of a blend of potting soil and bone, fish, and blood meal and cover the seed potatoes with more potting soil up to a third of the pot. 

Add a small layer of bone, fish, and blood meal before filling the container to about an inch from the top. Cover the soil with an inch of straw to insulate the potting soil and reduce weed seed germination and moisture loss.

Ensure the plants get enough water from when blooms form to when more than 50% of the foliage has died back, at which point you can harvest potatoes. The harvest window extends until after the vegetation has thoroughly dried. 

Grow potatoes in a potato grow bag and grow your potatoes. A potato grows bag made of biodegradable material and the use of permissible soil additives qualify as organic potatoes. Use heirloom seed potatoes. Add more bags for a

The harvest window can be extended, but potatoes are semi-hardy and should be removed before soil temperatures dip below 40°F/4..4°C.

3. Managing Soil Oxygen Needs in Potato Grow Bags and Buckets

For potatoes to flourish, plants need consistent access to moisture and oxygen, which depends on the potting soil content and container size. Large-capacity bags or buckets haven’t ever given me a production advantage.

I’ve tested larger and small containers over the years, and 30-liter buckets from Oakland Gardens have consistently given me the best results. This would be equivalent to 8 to 10-gallon potato bags or a large, sturdy rubble bag.

Check out my soil composition advice above or in this post ___________________

4. Managing Carbon Content in Potato Grow Bags and Buckets

Grow potatoes in organic matter to boost soil biodiversity. Whether raised beds, a grow bag, or a bucket, organic matter is synonymous with biodiversity – the two go hand-in-hand. 

Grow potatoes in a bag or bucket with a 50/50 ratio of compost from your compost heap and inert material for the best performance. Avoid using high-nitrogen compost like fresh manure or chicken manure pellets. 

5. Managing Potato Nutrient Needs in Potato Grow Bags and Buckets

In the photo, Tony is showing a bag of potting soil and several other items such as compost, and fertilizer. He is demonstrating how to mix these items together to create nutrient-rich potting soil for plants.
“Get your hands dirty! Tony shares his recipe for the perfect potting soil, using a blend of compost, fertilizer, and potting mix.”

Potatoes in a bag or bucket only need phosphorus and potassium to flourish. You can add some sulfur to boost acidity, which will help reduce the risk of potato scab, a common potato disease.

Scab can also develop if your potato growth bag gets too dry during tuberous root formation (during plant flowering).

7 Benefits of Potato Grow Bags or Buckets

Whether you’re thinking of starting a container garden or merely growing a plant in a pot, here are ten reasons why growing plants in pots is a good idea. Of all the gardening formats, container gardening for beginners is the best.

1. Space-Saving

A container garden allows you to grow plants in a limited space, making it an excellent option for people living in apartments or with small yards.

If you use vertically stacked containers, per-square-foot productivity is even further improved. Growing salad greens indoors have never been more accessible.

2. Flexibility

You can quickly move plants around to optimize their exposure to sunlight, temperature, and weather conditions. Container vegetable gardening allows earlier crop starting.

3. Accessibility

Tony places a wire fence on top of his container garden made from buckets, using his hands to adjust the positioning of the fence.
“Securing my bucket garden with a protective wire fence! 🌱👨‍🌾 #containergardening #urbangardening”

Container gardening is an ideal option for people with mobility issues or limited access to outdoor spaces. Raised beds offer easy access, reducing the need to bend.

4. Control

Growing plants in containers allows you to control the quality of the soil and the amount of water and nutrients your plants receive. Matching light needs and plant temperature and humidity specifics is infinitely more accessible with a container garden. 

5. Extended Growing Season

With container gardening, you can start planting earlier and extend the season by moving plants indoors when the weather turns colder. You can use cold frames or hot boxes, depending on your container garden format.

6. Low Maintenance

Container gardening requires less maintenance than traditional gardening, as there is less weeding and less need for fertilizing and pest control. By choosing suitable containers, managing water well, and providing proper light, you’re 90% closer to success.

7. Cost-Effective

Container gardening can be a cost-effective way to grow your food and flowers, as you can use recycled materials such as old buckets or pots and save money on water and soil amendments.

FAQs on Potato Growing Made Affordable with These Containers

In Summary

Growing potatoes in a bag or container give you access to one of the world’s biggest crops. A soil and compost mix is ideal for growing potatoes in a bag. Potatoes growing in a bucket should not contain garden soil.

The size of the potato bag is not directly related to harvest size. Stick to a bag volume of between 8 and 10 gallons – more load does not always equate to a more significant yield. I have done the trials over many years, and more giant bags can even produce a smaller harvest than the 10-gallon bucket or bag. Smaller bags are also less expensive.

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