Planting Potatoes in a Container Garden

My son had collected a couple of big white barrels to use for rainwater catching from the roof. He cut one in half crosswise and built stands for both halves to create raised garden beds for growing potatoes.

I’ve grown potatoes a few times, and fresh dug potatoes are delicious. Now, I have no yard space to grow them, so they will go into the containers.

homemade DIY barrel raised garden beds

The potatoes I used were simply old red (and one white) potatoes from the kitchen that had developed growth from their eyes.

I know that most information about planting potatoes says to buy special seed potatoes, but I never have. The reason for buying seed potatoes is to prevent disease, which is a good reason. I already had the sprouted potatoes so I used them. Also, orders are for pounds of potatoes – which I don’t have room for.

Read this page at Microveggie for ideas on where to buy seed potatoes.

The potatoes from the grocery store usually sprout on their own if left long enough, but I’d love to begin with the good, disease free ones, and keep planting from there. Don’t ever use the green parts of potatoes for anything – planting or eating!

March Potato Planting

I’m in Florida, and March is the time to get serious about planting a garden. This year I grew seeds in eggshells and purchased new grow boxes for the vegetables.

red and white potatoes with eyes

Beginning of March: After adding bags of organic garden dirt to the barrel beds, I mixed in some leaves to loosen the soil, bone meal (good for developing good roots) and blood meal. I add the “meals” this because I use these amendments in all my gardens each spring. Otherwise, no fertilizer needs to be added to potatoes while they are growing.

Compost would be nice to add, but presently I am in the middle of making my own compost using the Hot Frog Composter. It might be ready for Fall planting.

planting potatoes in raised container beds

Potatoes should be cut with only a couple of eyes in each piece. Plant each cut piece with eyes facing upward and cover with a couple of inches of dirt.

I put five cut pieces into each bed. This is probably too many. Also, the barrel beds are really too shallow, but I have no other place to grow potatoes. I will see what happens.

Potatoes in soil

We had a lot of rain for a few days after they were planted. My son had drilled holes in the bottom of the barrels for drainage. After a week or so the green leaves began to show. (Leaves are poisonous, so keep pets and kids away.)

potato plant
Potato plant
potato plants in grow box
Potatoes

As the green stems grow and get tall enough, I am adding more dirt. The potatoes will grow off tubers under the soil. The more dirt for them to spread out, the better. Unfortunately I don’t have much land for growing potatoes in the ground.

Building up the soil around the greenery

Potatoes grow well with green beans planted nearby. This is what my gardening book advises. If your garden is in the ground, and you have space, maybe do this.

When Are Potatoes Ready to Dig?

Once the tops – those green parts – die back, the potatoes need to be dug up. How long does it take? In general, three months, give or take.

It is possible to gently dig around the plants before this to pull up small potatoes for eating. After the plants have been growing for a couple of months, it is possible to carefully dig around and find a couple of small potatoes to eat. In a small household, like where I live, this is a good idea so I won’t end up with all the potatoes being ready at once.

In the ground, I would use a pitchfork and carefully lift the soil around each top. They can really branch out, so dig around.

Because they are in the barrel, I’ll choose a time when the soil is dry (hopefully) and dig with a hand shovel and gloves.

When all the potatoes are pulled out of the dirt. Let them sit in the sun to dry a bit. DO NOT RINSE THEM… just brush the dirt off. Often gardeners will say to cure them, which toughens the skin for storing. If your harvest is large, see what to do here at “How to Harvest and Store Potatoes”.

Potato tops can go into the compost pile. Leaves of potato plants are poisonous if eaten, but can go into the compost to be broken down. Only do this if the plant shows no sign of disease. Read more about composting questionable poisonous plants.

I will follow up with more information about my potato garden as the season progresses.

More Gardening News

Growing Potatoes in a Fabric Pot

potato plant leaves
Potato Plant

I’ve entered a phase of experimental gardening with fabric pots. Right now I think these things are the greatest idea ever. I’ve wanted raised beds but haven’t had the time to create any so little bags to hold dirt is the closest I’ve come. I planted two pieces of potato in this bag a few weeks ago and as you can see, they are growing nicely.
I am going to admit that I am a dummy when it comes to potato growing. I always thought the potatoes grew off the roots, but I guess they grow from the stem as it shoots upward. I do know that when the tops die, it’s about time to harvest the potatoes. This page at the Food Gardening Guide site has a good explanation of what to expect when growing potatoes.

Next year I will get my potatoes planted earlier as they like the weather cool.  I hope this fabric pot works out because it is certainly an easy way to grow them.

Next to the potatoes I have planted some green beans that haven’t sprouted yet.  On the other side I have one more pot where carrots are sprouting.

Another plus to using these pots, for me anyway, is that my cats stay out of them.  I wondered about that, since they seem to think my gardens are the best place to do their business.  I was hoping they wouldn’t think a pot of dirt was their litter box.  Next you will have to see my large fabric garden.  It’s like this potato holder, but much bigger.

A First Attempt at Fabric Pot Gardening

fabric pots
Growing Potatoes in Fabric Pots

I first learned about fabric pot gardening while reading a Wizzley article written by someone who also loves growing things. On his page he suggests growing potatoes in a pot made of black fabric or burlap.

Instantly, I loved this idea!  I don’t have to dig up the ground and get it ready to plant – whoo hoo – I hate that part of gardening.  I ordered three yards of compost / loam mix to add to all my garden beds and just used some of it to fill my black fabric bags.  The one on the left in my picture has potatoes and you can see one sprout shooting up through the dirt.  Once the shoots grow to 6 or 8 inches I will add more dirt.

The other pot has carrot seeds.  I figure they might do well in a good bag of soil instead of in my yard.   It’s always a chore to get the garden areas ready for planting.  I started at this house with an overgrown backyard so my first year here was spent clearing out the weeds and blackberry bushes.  Last year I expanded the garden area and added good dirt.  This year I am adding more dirt, but it’s easier to add it to bags and the chance of weeds invading a bag is minimal.

My backyard is quite small and my garden holds vegetables as well as flowers I’ve planted and flowering weeds.  Flowers of all kinds are good for attracting beneficial bugs to the garden area.  I am currently growing cold weather things like peas, basil, and strawberries (from last year).  I will have to wait until the first of June to get the cukes, tomatoes, basil and zucchini into the ground.

This type of gardening is experimental, but I am hoping for good results.  I even bought a large, round fabric bag and will set that up as soon as I get more dirt.  I started my own zucchini plants (5 of them!) this year from seeds I saved last summer and I may have to put a couple into that new pot along with some of my tomato plants.

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