To grow potatoes in containers, choose a large pot or box

June 16, 2020

When potatoes were first brought to Europe, they were believed to be poisonous. An 18th century French agronomist, Antoine-Auguste Parmentier, wanted to convince his fellow French that potatoes are a nutritious, easy-to-grow food. Thinking that people want what they cannot have, he posted guards around his potato fields each day and purposely left the potato crop unguarded at night. Soon, enough people would sneak into the fields and steal the forbidden crop. Potatoes have been a part of French cuisine ever since.

You do not need a large garden, or, indeed, any garden at all to grow potatoes. They grow perfectly well in containers. When grown in pots, it is easier to protect potato plants from animal pests. Unlike garden plots of potatoes, you rarely have to weed container-grown potatoes.

Planting potatoes in containers is a remarkably easy and fun project for kids. Potato plants grow very fast to suit a child's limited attention span. As a bonus, your kids will enjoy a vegetable that they grew themselves.

Potatoes and kids go a long way back. Indeed, in 1952, a toy that consisted of plastic ears, nose and mouth that could be stuck onto a raw potato debuted. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television.

To grow potatoes in containers, choose a large pot or box. The bigger the pot, the more room for roots and tubers, so the higher your yield will be. Choose a pot at least 16 inches in diameter and 16 inches deep. This will hold four to six seed potatoes. Five-gallon buckets with drainage holes drilled in the bottom work well. You can even use garbage cans, again with drainage holes drilled into the bottom.

Potatoes are grown from seed potatoes, which are pieces of potato that contain eyes or buds. While any variety of potato will grow in a container, gardeners find that quick-growing or early varieties such as Irish Cobbler, Caribe, Yukon Gold or Red Norland are easiest. Early potatoes are ready to harvest as soon as seven weeks after planting.

Plant seed potatoes six inches apart and cover them with several inches of soil. Use a potting soil that is made specifically for containers, or mix your own using one-third compost added to good garden soil. You can feed your potted potatoes with a foliage spray of fish emulsion every few weeks.

Because pots heat up and dry out quicker than garden soil, make sure you water them well, but never so much that the soil stays soggy.

Potatoes grow best with at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Because potatoes are a cool-season crop, move the pots out of hot sun when temperatures are above 80F.

You can begin harvesting new potatoes as soon as the plants bloom. The regular crop is ready to dig up after the leaves die and begin to turn yellow.

Pot up a few seed potatoes, and in just a few months you will enjoy delicious, home-grown potatoes for mashing, boiling, baking, and frying into french fries or potato chips.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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