Growing Potatoes In Containers
Growing potatoes in containers is a perfect solution for those of us not fortunate enough to have an allotment and where growing space for a kitchen vegetable plot is limited. The bonus is that potatoes grown in containers produce a beautiful clean crop that is not affected by soil-borne pests and diseases such as keeled slugs, potato eelworms and scab.
Which Container To Use
There is no need to buy special potato growing bags or a potato barrel because virtually any container can be used to grow potatoes in as long as it is at least 30cm or 12 inches in diameter and depth. Buckets can be used, large flower pots, flower buckets from the local supermarket, dustbins and even empty compost bags turned inside out. But, you must ensure to make drainage holes in the bottom.
Planting The Potatoes
First, put some broken pots in the bottom of the container to aid drainage then using a good multi compost place 10cm or 4 inches of compost in the bottom of your containers. If using a bucket or large flower pot simply place one seed potato with the sprouts facing upward on the compost and cover with a further 10cm or 4 inches of compost. Be sure to water well. When using a dustbin to grow your potatoes place large pieces of broken polystyrene, that is used for packaging, in the base to aid drainage. A dustbin should take four or five seed potatoes.
It is important to either wait until after the last spring frost before planting or protect your containers with fleece if a frost is a forecast.
When the potato shoots are 15cm or 6 inches tall you need to start earthing up. Add another 10cm or 4-inch layer of multi compost and continue earthing up this way until the potato plant is above the top of the container leaving a 4cm or 2-inch gap at the top of the container for watering. Potatoes need watering well especially when the tubers are growing as under-watering can result in a poor crop but don’t drown the plants!
Harvesting is easy when growing one seed potato per bucket or pot, just tip out the entire contents of the bucket for fabulous, fresh and extremely tasty homegrown potatoes. First early and second early varieties of potatoes should be ready to harvest after approximately 13 weeks when the foliage starts to turn yellow and die. If you harvest too early you might be disappointed by a small crop of tiny potatoes. Have a careful root through the compost to feel the size of the tubers if you are unsure whether or not the potatoes are ready to harvest.
Yes, it is possible to serve freshly harvested homegrown potatoes with your Christmas Day meal. You will need to order second early seed potatoes from an online supplier which will be ready to plant out as soon as they arrive in July / early August. Be sure to water the plants well especially during a hot summer. The potatoes will be ready to harvest in October but leave them undisturbed in the containers they are growing in and you should enjoy the treat of a Christmas harvest.