Best Containers for Growing Potatoes: Expert Recommendation

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Any container filled with enough aerated soil that is consistently moist and slightly acidic can serve for growing potatoes. The best containers for growing potatoes add improved drainage, harvesting ease, accessibility, and portability. 

How to Choose The Best Container for Growing Potatoes

It takes potatoes as little as two months or as long as four months to mature. Early-season potato varieties mature in  50 and 70 days, while late-season varieties mature between three and four months.

It’s one of life’s delights to get to the end of the growing season and see the potato plant die back, knowing there’s a treasure trove of spuds below the surface. The waiting is over, and the grand reveal is about to happen. 

Tony O'Neill, the host of Simplify Gardening's YouTube channel, stands in front of a variety of containers of different sizes, displaying them for growing potatoes.
“Ready to grow your potatoes? Tony shows us how container gardening can be the perfect solution!”

Over the years, I’ve tried many potato-growing formats and have repeatedly demonstrated that I get better results from container-grown potatoes than garden-grown ones. On average, the containers give me double the potatoes per plant by weight and count.

Gardeners should consider the following six factors when choosing a container for growing potatoes.  

Drainage

For vessels to qualify as growing containers, they must, first and foremost, offer adequate drainage. If the soil in a potato container is not adequately drained, the roots can become waterlogged, leading to rot and stunted growth. Excessive moisture can cause the tubers to rot, reducing yields.

Good drainage allows excess water to escape from the container, preventing water from accumulating at the bottom. This ensures the soil remains moist but not waterlogged, which is ideal for potato growth. Proper drainage also helps prevent the soil’s buildup of salts and other minerals, which can harm plants.

To ensure proper drainage in potato containers, it is essential to use a potting mix that is specifically designed for container gardening. This soil type is typically lightweight and contains inert materials like pumice or perlite to improve drainage and peat moss to improve soil acidity. 

Ensuring the container has drainage holes at the bottom is essential, allowing excess water to flow out. Drainage holes at the bottom should be complemented with holes on the sides of the bottom rim, ensuring the pot’s drainage if standing on an impervious surface.

The Best Potato Container Size

Along with cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, summer squash, and other Solanaceae vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants), potatoes are moderately deep-rooted (18 to 24 inches/45 to 60 cm). Purely for interest, sweet potatoes are considered deep roasted (> 36 inches/91 cm)

Three black containers of different sizes for growing potatoes, placed on the ground. The containers are made of sturdy material with handles for easy carrying. The smallest container is approximately one-third the size of the largest one.
“Ready to grow some potatoes! 🌱🥔 These sturdy containers come in different sizes for all your planting needs.”

Although potatoes are cultivated as annuals for harvesting, they are herbaceous perennials. Potatoes are stolons tuber growths used to store starches for after-winter growth rebooting. 

Commercial growers space potato plants 9 to 11 inches (23 – 28 cm) apart in rows about 3 feet apart (91 cm). Potato plants can reach heights of up to two feet.

Plant potatoes in a container at least 12 inches deep, ideally 18 inches or more. An eight-gallon (30-liter) bucket is about 12 inches deep.

VolumeDepthVolumeDepth
8 gallons13 inches30 liters32 cm
10 gallons15 inches35 liters37.5 cm
13 gallons16 inches50 liters41 cm
17 gallons16.5 inches65 liters42 cm
18.5 gallons18 inches70 liters45.5 cm
30 gallons24 inches113.5 liters60 cm

Available Space

Growing potatoes in containers allows you to use your available limited space optimally. Potato containers suit every room, whether it’s your balcony or a patch in your backyard.

Wherever space you use, ensure your potato plants get at least six hours of direct sunlight and water daily. When growing potatoes in containers, keep the soil moist but not wet.

Good pot drainage could stain your balcony if you don’t place a tray under your potato container. Remember to empty the tray after water, never allowing your potato container to stand in water.

If you have the space, raised beds are among the best containers for growing potatoes. A blend of natural garden soil and formulated faster-draining potting soil ensures good drainage and biodiversity that’s healthy for all plant growth. 

Potato planters are similar to raised beds, but ensure they have good drainage to improve your success rates. 

Container Availability

Tony demonstrates the use of various sizes of container buckets, gesturing with his hands and pointing to the buckets while speaking.
“Container gardening just got better with the right bucket sizes! Tony shows you how it’s done.”

Potatoes are a staple food that has helped several countries avoid starvation. The best container for growing potatoes is available for people in need. 

While most horticultural buckets are black, many supermarkets and food producers have large white buckets you can pick up for nearly nothing. White buckets cannot heat as fast as darker-colored ones (especially in full sun).

It’s important to keep soil temperatures below 80°F/27°C to keep the potatoes planted in containers happy, and it’s easier to do this in white or light-colored containers.

You can convert near everything to plant potatoes if there’s drainage and enough space. Old storage bins, modified water cooler bottles, and wooden crates are all good options.

Enough water, good drainage, full sun, and enough space to form tubers, and you’re off to a good start. Avoid using treated wood or rail spacer beams that contain chemicals unsuitable for growing food near

Accessibility

When choosing containers for growing potatoes, consider accessibility before filling the container with potting soil and sticking seed potatoes in. Once the container is filled, it might be too heavy to move if you have mobility challenges.

Place a bucket on a raised surface for better accessibility, or use a raised bed that offers better accessibility.

Grow bags have flaps that give you access to baby potatoes to harvest early on after the plant has flowered. These fresh-dug potatoes are divine. Grow bags, also branded as Smart Pots, come in sizes from 1 to 100 gallons.

A picture of Tony holding two plastic containers that are used for growing potatoes. One container is larger than the other.
“Ready to grow some potatoes! Tony shows off his containers of different sizes for a bountiful harvest.”

If you’re interested in using grow bags, I’ll post on the topic soon. The benefits include access to new potatoes that buckets don’t readily allow.

Why Grow Potatoes in Containers?

I have demonstrated that in-ground planting does less well in my garden than planting potatoes in containers. Still, performance isn’t the only reason potato planters are a good option.

Check out my 7 Reasons To Grow Potatoes In Containers To Double Your Harvests article.

Taste Better

Homegrown potatoes taste better. Varieties like the early season caribe are magnificent, as are chieftain, belmonde, and the dark red Norland. Popular fingerling potato varieties include Rose Finn Apple and Russian Banana fingerling potatoes. 

The latter variety is a pink fingerling with bicolor flesh and grows tall, spreading plants that produce tubers with pink skin and yellow, red-flecked flesh. The French fingerling is known for its gourmet flavor and is best roasted or boiled.

Then there’s the single All-American-Selection (AAS) winner, Potato Clancy F1. The resulting potatoes are a lovely decorative blend with creamy white and yellow contents and skin tones ranging from crimson to rose blush. 

Clancy is a terrific potato for eating because of its excellent texture and sweet flavor, offering a happy medium between a yellow-skinned potato and a russet. Its light texture makes it perfect for boiling or mashing.

Greater Variety of Seed Potatoes

So wide potato varieties are specifically cultivated to meet the needs of different markets. Always buy your seed potatoes from reputable stockists. Depending on where you are, you may want to check out The Maine Potato Lady or Johnny’s Seeds for small-seed potatoes.

The photograph shows Tony handling seed potatoes and chitting them.
“Getting ready for a bountiful harvest! Tony carefully chits his seed potatoes before planting them.”

Early Potato Varieties

  • Dark Red Norland
  • Superior
  • Golden Globe
  • Belmonda

Mid-Season Potato Plants Varieties

  • Chieftain
  • Reba
  • Salem
  • Yukon Gold
  • Kennebec

Late Season Potato Varieties

  • Elba
  • Katahdin
  • Red Pontiac
  • Rocky Mountain Russet

Specialty Potato Varieties      

  • Adirondack Blue
  • Magic Molly
  • French Fingerling
  • Russian Banana (Heirloom seed potato)
  • German Butterball

Aesthetics

Tony O'Neill demonstrates container gardening by planting plants in buckets. He holds a small plant while beside a black bucket filled with soil.
“Tony O’Neill shows how easy it is to start container gardening with just a bucket and a plant!”

The best container for growing potatoes is a personal choice of what’s pleasing to the beholder’s eye. Aesthetic appeal refers to the quality of an object or experience that makes it visually or sensually pleasing or attractive. 

It is a subjective concept influenced by individual tastes and cultural preferences. Aesthetic appeal can be found in various forms, such as art, fashion, architecture, literature, music, nature, and potato containers. 

It is often associated with beauty, elegance, harmony, symmetry, and balance. Aesthetically appealing objects or experiences can evoke positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, and satisfaction, and enhance our overall well-being.

Choice of Growth Mediums

The best potato-growing containers allow you to use your preferred potting soil, which is especially significant if you live in an area with poor soil. At the risk of overemphasis, always opt for potting soil that drains well, retains some moisture, and is well aerated (light).

If you want to make your own, check out this article _________________

The basic homemade potting soil guidelines (and the reasons for the ingredients) are listed below 

IngredientReason to IncludeConstituent Part
Finished CompostQuality compost is made using a hot process and left to cure, stabilizing carbon content.It depends on the amount of carbon (organic fertilizer) in the rest of the potting mix, and higher carbon content increases water retention.
Leaf MoldAs an alternative to compost, leaf mold increases water retention and aeration.Total compost or leaf mold content should be about 30%.
Sphagnum Peat MossIncreases acidity of mix. It works well if kept moist, but it isn’t easy to rehydrate once dry.Not more than 25%. Consider replacing it with coconut coir and adding sulfur instead for acidity.
Coconut CoirDrains well. It retains moisture and takes about four years to decompose and collapse.Combined organic matter should not exceed 60% of the fresh potting soil. The remaining 40% should be inert materials.
Sharp Sand, Perlite, Pumice, Expanded Shale, Pea Gravel.All inert materials serve to improve drainage and aeration.Inert materials should make up about 40% of the total potting soil.

Garden Soil

Including topsoil in a potting mix is not advised as it reduces aeration levels. For soil porosity to return, the soil needs a healthy soil biota which takes time to establish. The soil should be included in larger formats, like raised beds, for more healthy, resilient vegetable crops.

Harvest Potatoes Easier

Two men, one of them being Tony, are emptying a container bucket onto the ground. They are standing in a field with potatoes around them.
“Harvest time! Tony and his friend empty their potato bucket, reaping the rewards of their hard work.”

The best containers for growing potatoes make harvesting potatoes easier. Smaller containers like buckets (instead of raised beds) make harvesting potatoes easy.

Growing potatoes in containers gives you the maximum harvest and makes the whole process easier.

  1. Begin harvesting by removing all the foliage (most should be dead) and surface mulch from the container, setting it aside for later composting.
  2. Tip the potato pots or grow bags over on a clear flat surface, checking root growth and moisture levels. Note these in your gardening journal to help you make better soil mix choices in the future (or do continue with what you used in this crop).
  3. Break the soil up, removing the potatoes from your container garden. The nice thing about container potatoes is there’s no back-breaking work.
  4. Keep breaking the soil up; you’ll find more potatoes. This soil can be used again in your container garden for non-solacean crops, i.e., not for planting potatoes or growing tomatoes.
  5. If you want to harvest new potatoes, you can repeat the above process, but do it shortly after the potato plant has flowered and the foliage starts dying back.

Growing Potato in Containers

Seed Potato Selection

Choose from high-yielding containers with smooth, symmetrical, disease- and insect-free seed stock to produce your seed potatoes. 

Get certified G1 or G2 (generation) seed stock if possible. To prevent disease contamination, store seed supply in a sterile environment Seed potatoes should weigh between 1.5 and 2 ounces. 

Cool larger seed potatoes to 45°F/7°C before cutting, and then sift them to remove any blind, slab, sliver, torn, and little pieces. Cure cut chits for 6 to 10 days in an environment with sufficient air circulation, at 38° to 40°F (near freezing) and 85–95% relative humidity.

Planting Potatoes in Containers

A unique way to plant seed potatoes is deep planting, and deep planting should only be used if you have excellent potato-growing soil that drains well and is not cold. Depending on soil temperature, seed potato plants typically emerge about 2 to 4 weeks after planting.

Deep planting allows you to skip the three-weekly mulching or hill by burying the seed potato 7 to 8 inches deep in the container. Although it takes longer for the seed potatoes to sprout, this method requires less work throughout the growing season.

Tony demonstrates how to plant seeded potatoes in a container bucket, holding a potato and digging a hole in the soil.
“Get your hands dirty and grow your potatoes! Tony shows us how it’s done in a container bucket.”

Alternatively, lightly bury seed potatoes in the ground before covering them with a thick layer of weed-free mulch (a leaf mold is a good option). Protect seed potatoes from light by adding extra mulch as necessary. 

When the plants are between 6 and 8 inches tall, “hill,” the potato stems up to a third of the plant’s height. This process is repeated every two to three weeks, keeping the added mulch about an inch below the bottom leaves.

The seed potatoes are protected from the sun by hilling, which would otherwise cause them to turn green and bitter. Common to all the Solanaceae family, the green parts contain Solanine and are poisonous when consumed in excessive quantities. Who would want to? It tastes disgusting and is intended to protect the plant from herbivores.

Seed potatoes and plants need consistent moisture (not wet soil). In gardens, that equates to at least one inch of water every week, but it’s a daily flush in containers that drain faster. Mulching aids with moisture retention, and keeping the soil moist also aids in lowering scabs.

Use row coverings to shield your crops against fleas, leafhoppers, and Colorado potato beetles. On the undersides of the leaves, crush the Colorado potato beetle’s yellow eggs. Take adults out by hand.

Potato Plant Nutrients

Plant potatoes with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 and low fertility soil (low in nitrogen and high in potassium). The best fertilizer is a fish emulsion, though I include a bone, blood and fish mix. If your pH is too high (too alkaline), consider spraying foliage with a manganese solution.

FAQs on The Best Containers for Growing Potatoes

Do potatoes grow better in pots or on the ground?

Potatoes can be grown in pots or on the ground, but they may grow better in pots as it provides better drainage, improves soil quality, and helps control pests and diseases. Container gardening also allows for more efficient use of space and easier harvest. However, ground-grown potatoes can still be successful with proper soil preparation and care.

When should I fertilize my potatoes?

It’s best to fertilize potatoes when planting and again after the plants have emerged. Use a balanced fertilizer with a higher potassium content and avoid using too much nitrogen, which can promote foliage growth over tuber development. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates.

Is chicken manure good for potatoes?

Chicken manure is considered a good fertilizer for potatoes as it is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, it should be composted before use to avoid burning the potato plants with high nitrogen content. Aged chicken manure or a balanced fertilizer may be a better option for novice gardeners.

In Summary

Potatoes grow well in soil that drains well yet can retain moisture. Ideally, potatoes grow well if given about two inches of water per week. Mulching can conserve moisture, slow weed growth, and cool the soil.

When potato plants flower and set fruit, just like tomatoes and peppers. Flowering is an indicator that the tubers are developing, an indicator that you should keep a close eye on watering routines and soil moisture. The potato flowers serve no other purpose (for you), so channel the energy they may use to the baby potatoes by cutting them off.

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