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How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

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How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

Learn how to grow potatoes in containers; no tilling required. Although potatoes grow best in places with cool summer days and nights (think Idaho), if you choose the correct variety and plant them at the correct time, it’s possible and relatively simple to grow potatoes in warmer climates like Arizona. 

Whether you like them baked, mashed, french fried, roasted or any number of other ways, potatoes are a delicious staple. Try a homegrown potato and you can taste the difference in crispness and freshness. If you want to learn how to grow potatoes in containers, you’ve come to the right place. 


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Here are 10 tips for how to grow potatoes in containers:​


1. Before you learn how to grow potatoes in containers, understand how potatoes grow​

Look closely at a potato; there are several slightly-recessed ‘eyes’ on the surface. Under the right conditions, these eyes sprout – you’ve surely seen this happen to a potato in your kitchen. 

When the sprout is planted, it develops into a stem. The stem grows into a plant above ground, and the excess energy from the plant is channeled downward to the roots and stored in ‘tubers’. A tuber is the thickened part of the stem growing underground. We call those thickened tubers ‘potatoes’.

How to grow potatoes in containers

2. Choose the right potato to plant​

In warmer climates such as the low desert of Arizona, plant short-season varieties of potatoes (which are smaller potatoes rather than the larger potatoes commonly grown in places like Idaho). Varieties to try are Yukon GoldRed Gold or All Red

Buy certified disease-free seed potatoes from online retailers or garden centers for best results. I’ve also used organic grocery store potatoes that sprout in my pantry. 



3. Prepare the potato before planting​

Put seed potatoes where the temperature is between 60-70℉ and where they will be exposed to light. This encourages the potatoes to sprout (a process called ‘chitting’). Once potatoes have sprouted, cut larger potatoes in pieces. Ensure each cut piece has 2-3 eyes. 

Allow cut potatoes to dry at room temperature for 2-3 days to give the cut edges time to heal or scab over. When the edges feel leathery with no signs of moisture, they have properly dried. Smaller potatoes (about the size of a golf ball) can be left whole. Discard any potatoes with soft spots.


4. Plant potatoes at the correct time​

In cooler parts of the country, plant potatoes just after the last frost date. In the low desert of Arizona, there are two windows to plant potatoes. Plant the first crop in January or February for harvesting in June or July. Plant a second crop in September or October for harvesting in late winter. 

Potatoes are frost-sensitive and the plants will die back in a hard frost. If plants are killed by frost, harvest potatoes no matter the size, within a week or two to keep them from rotting.  


5. How to grow potatoes in containers? Pick a container, any container​

Potatoes aren’t picky about which container they are grown in. Choose trash cans, compost sacks, or burlap bags. I like growing potatoes in these 40 gallon grow-bags. Follow the basic principles for planting outlined below, and you can be successful no matter which container you choose.



6. Plant the right number of potatoes for your sized container

The most important rule when using containers is to match the number of seed potatoes to the size of container you are growing them in. As a rough guide, each potato plant needs about 3 gallons to grow well. Overcrowding potatoes results in smaller potatoes.


7. Plant potatoes correctly

Place a 3-4 inch layer of loose soil, amended with compost, in the bottom of the container. (Roll down sides of container if desired). Potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil. Use a soil blend made for acid-loving plants or amend soil with an acid mix fertilizer according to package directions. 

Plant seed potatoes with sprouted-side up in soil, and cover them with 2-3 inches of additional soil. 

As potatoes sprout, cover the sprouts halfway when they are about 6 inches tall. Continue this process until the top of the container is reached at which point the plant will continue to grow without being covered up. 


8. Don’t let potatoes dry out​

Potatoes need consistent moisture to grow well. Potatoes grown in the ground look for moisture in surrounding soil while container-grown potatoes rely on the moisture you provide. 

For even watering, I have a drip line inserted in each grow bag. It’s important to keep soil evenly damp, but not wet. Allow some drying between waterings. 

Consider feeding actively-growing potatoes with an acid -loving organic fertilizer or seaweed extract, each time you add more soil (or once or twice during the growing season). Mulching with straw helps to retain moisture.



9. Put your container in the best location​

Potatoes need at least 6 hours of sun to grow well. In the low desert, full sun is preferred for the fall planting of potatoes. Spring-planted potatoes do best with a little afternoon shade to prevent them from drying out too quickly.

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

10. Know when to harvest potatoes

New potatoes‘ are simply immature potatoes that are harvested before the potatoes are fully mature.

Approximately 8-10 weeks after planting dig down with your hand near a stem to check the size of the potatoes. Harvest potatoes that are large enough to eat as desired.

Harvest ‘new’ potatoes just after the plants flower (if the variety you are growing is one that flowers).  For larger potatoes, wait until the tops begin to turn yellow and die back. 

To increase the storage time of potatoes, allow them to stay in the ground for an additional 2 weeks following the dieback of the plants. 

When you are ready to harvest the entire container, gently dump it out into a wheelbarrow, being careful not to damage the potatoes. Let potatoes cure for a few hours outside. Brush loose soil off the potatoes, and store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.  

New potatoes are best eaten within a few weeks of harvest. Mature potatoes free of blemishes will store longer.



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Questions about how to grow potatoes in containers?

Ask below, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Happy growing!

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Lori Gardner

Sunday 10th of October 2021

I've heard you can add more seed potatoes as you add layers of compost. Is that what you did? I didn't see that point mentioned in your article.

Angela Judd

Sunday 10th of October 2021

No, I just add one layer of potatoes and they grow up through the layers of soil and compost.

Sorrell Kropf

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

Hi Angela!

Do you know where we can get seed potatoes in Arizona? All of the websites I have looked at are either sold out or won't whip until mid November/December which I think is too late to plant. When I ordered some online last year, shipping was delayed and I ended u getting a box of moldy potatoes :( I live in Mesa as well :) Also, do you have a suggestion on where to get onion sets?

BTW THANK YOU so much for helping me with my vermicomposting! The in-bed bins ended up not working out because I had an ant invasion, but we moved the worms into a single vermicomposting bin outside and they are thriving!

~Sorrell

Angela Judd

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

For onion sets I buy them at https://dixondalefarms.com/product-category/onion-plants/short-day-onion-plants/

Angela Judd

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

I've had the best luck sprouting my own organic potatoes. It's tough to get shipped ones timed right.

Michelle Kampmeier

Monday 27th of September 2021

Wonderful, informative post! I won't be using a drip line though, so how much water would be good for 3 plants in 10-gallon bags? That's what I'm going to start with as an experiment for my first time. Thanks!

Angela Judd

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

Water them deeply, trying to wet the entire bag and then let the top inch or so dry out before watering again.

Monica

Sunday 13th of June 2021

just harvested my potatoes in a grow bag from January. I have the same question about re-using the soil as mulch, especially with the heat wave coming this week, When using only as mulch, should I not use around any nightshades?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 15th of June 2021

I try to avoid adding around nightshade plants.

Jaya Chakladar

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

Hello !

Can you share some ideas about using the soils after you harvest the potatoes ? I was reading the soil is depleted as potatoes are hungry plants , is that also what you think ? Can I amend and use it for growing something else ?

Thanks

Angela Judd

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

I usually use the soil as mulch for other plants or in tree wells. You could also amend with fresh compost, etc. and use it again. But don't use it for other nightshade family crops right away.