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

Potato Comparison – Why We Love to Eat Home Grown Vegetables.

Short and sweet, this photo compares a fresh dug red potato to one from the grocery store.

garden potato
Which red potato is fresh from the garden?

For some reason I am having a lot of trouble growing summer (yellow) squash here in Florida. Maybe it’s too hot, too humid, or something else. But I have had 2 small squash, and they were the sweetest, most delicious squash I ever ate.

Everything fresh from the backyard garden tastes a hundred times better than the bland, old stuff from the grocery store. I just had to take that potato photo when I saw the beautiful bright red color of my fresh-dug potatoes. Unfortunately most of them were really small because worms ate the potato leaves, so I dug them up early.

Potatoes are easy to grow if you have the space to grow them.  Unfortunately I do not.

Spring Again, March in the Backyard Garden

Planting some vegetables in the March garden in central Florida.

Here in Central Florida we are still having “cool” weather which I love. The neighbors are wearing winter clothing (seriously?) and complaining. When I say “I love this weather”, they tell me to go back to Vermont (I’m from New Hampshire).

I guess Floridians get grumpy when it’s cold.

The weather is perfect for planting the garden, and truly I should have begun sooner. Unfortunately I still have the lack-of-dirt problem. I’ve continued to add leaves, grass, and kitchen compost to the raised bed, but need to buy bags of dirt.

Now I have the money, but need the help lugging all those bags of soil and fertilizer / compost from the store and to the backyard.

For now I am using a few fabric bags where I have planted zucchini (or summer squash, I can’t remember which), lettuce and potatoes.  All are doing very well and growing fast.

Check out my other posts to see how things are going: May in the Garden.

squash plant
Zucchini or yellow squash (can’t remember which)

Tonight I will snip off the tops of this bib lettuce for supper. It will continue to grow back unless the hot weather moves in. Lettuce likes it cool.

lettuce growing in a fabric pot
The lettuce is loving the cooler weather

Yesterday I searched the Home Depot for some decent vegetable plants. I came away with a Celebrity tomato, and something called a Bonnie Original. One is a determinate and one an indetermanent, and as I stood there in the garden center I couldn’t remember what that meant. I thought one was grown within a cage and the other was sprawling. I think I was sort of right. Read more here about the difference between the two types.

tomato plants
Little tomato plants

I have tomato-stealing raccoons, so I’m not going nuts with the tomato plants. I also have a limited amount of space to grow things. The tomatoes may end up in bags with handles so I can easily move them inside at night away from tiny raccoon paws.

Potatoes growing in fabric pot
Potato vines

I planted some red potatoes, from my kitchen, with big “eyes” and that is what is growing in one of the fabric bags. I have good luck with potatoes. Although they are usually quite small, they are delicious.

I am so excited to see this little “volunteer” pepper plant! Glad I didn’t weed it out before I recognized it. My original pepper plant is still living and growing from last Spring! Even with all the cold weather over the winter, it survived (although it has a few aphids) and is flowering now. Amazing. I trimmed off the curling leaves and will see what it does. Apparently a seed was dropped, and now a new pepper plant is growing. I’d never heard of a “volunteer” plant until I lived in New Hampshire. My preferred word for them is “free”!

little pepper plant
“Volunteer” pepper plant

On my latest trip to Pell’s Nursery in Osteen I picked up this little Navel orange tree. I have left it in it’s original pot for now, but bought that ceramic one for later use. It has a few little oranges growing which I hope don’t fall off. Sometime between October and March I should be picking an orange or two from my yard.

little navel orange tree in pot
My new Navel orange tree

I’ve had good luck with growing the Persian Lime, so thought I’d add more citrus to the yard.

The Garden in March, One Month Later

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My Garden, March 2nd

Last month I began to plant my little garden in my Florida backyard. Because the raised bed was not filled with dirt, I used black fabric pots.

I began with crops that were more suited to cooler weather, like peas and lettuce.

Well, Skittle the cat decided to sleep in the bed of peas, so now only one stalk is growing as the others were a bit crushed. It was just the right spot for a nap in the sun. No worries Skittle, I’ll eat 2 peas and be happy.

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Skittle in the Peas

I also planted potatoes and they are growing like mad. I followed the directions from a blog I read and began by only filling the bags part way. Then I have added dirt as the tops grew. And boy did they grow! Course I’ll have to wait and see what’s happening down inside the bags, but hopefully I’ll have some little red potatoes to eat one day.

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Growing potatoes

I also just planted cucumber seeds and I see today that they are popping through the soil.  It only took 2 days for that to happen!

My two pepper plants are doing well, and one is blooming like mad.  This may be the year I am able to grow peppers.  They like heat, and yesterday it was 88 degrees, so there ya go.

I have more cardboard to put down in the bottom of the wood enclosure to keep the grass from growing up through.  Newspaper would work for that too.  Eventually I will empty the dirt out of my pots and fill the enclosure.  But first…. I may try to dig up the grass beneath the enclosure.

I always thought I would just set up the wooden bed and fill it with dirt and I’m ready to plant.  Now I have read at EarthEasy that I should dig down a ways to loosen the ground so roots can go down into the dirt beneath the bed.  This makes sense, as some vegetables do have long roots, but I didn’t think they needed that much space.

It got me wondering what the roots of vegetables look like, and which ones need the most depth to grow well.

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Bib lettuce and carrots

The Bib lettuce needed to be thinned and the carrots were planted using paper strips.  I had never used carrot seed tape before, and I bought it by accident.  The old method of mixing seeds with sand when sowing small seeds works fine.  I still had to thin the seedlings, even when I used the tape.

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March Tomatoes!

I can honestly say I have never had tomatoes growing in my yard in March!   In fact compared to gardening in New Hampshire, growth here seems to be accelerated.

Every time I visit the garden section I keep an eye out for hydrangeas.  I haven’t seen any for sale.

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