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Container Gardening: Planting Potatoes in Pots

1 seed potato plant in a container/by D2M
I've taken interest in container gardening. It's a new, somewhat exciting, somewhat scary undertaking. I'm pretty sure I don't have a green thumb. I'm basically a wrecker and killer. I'm known for losing things and destroying things. I'm pretty sure I'm also into killing things. At the time of this writing, I've already killed 2 onion seedlings and 3 garlic seedlings. And the remaining 4 garlic seedlings don't look so good. I may skip growing garlic if the remaining plants die. Container Gardening

It seems though that there is hope for the potatoes I've started growing in containers. I planted the potato tubers in 2 pots on August 19 and today, one flower has bloomed, with several more to open up. I used Sebago seed potatoes from Gardenline:

Estimations tell me a 16 to 24 inches plant height. Earliest harvest at 4 months.

In planting potatoes in pots, I chanced upon lots of information. Let me share some with you: Container Gardening

1. You can grow potatoes even in smaller pots, just don't crowd a pot with many tubers. As a beginner, I didn't want to squish the life out of my potatoes so I stuck with one seed potato per pot.

2. Make sure to deep water your potted plants at least once weekly. Potatoes thrive in dry and parched conditions. It is a hardy plant. That's why I chose it, in hopes that it survives any mismanagement that I may do with it. Potatoes should never be overwatered as it may be subjected to rotting. Keep soil moist, not wet, not dry. Poke your finger into the soil halfway and if the soil is dry, do some watering. Container Gardening

3. Potatoes love a full sun. Sites suggest a minimum of 6 hours of sun. Others state 10 hours minimum.

4. Potatoes are not choosy as to containers. Any will do as long as it has good drainage. Many gardeners recommend grow bags or hessian planters for better aeration and root growth. For cold places, choose black pots and containers for longer heat retention. This site estimates that 1 potato plant needs  a 2.5 gallon sized pot. (10 liters). Container Gardening

5. Use a potting mix for container plants. Garden soil tends to compact in pots and will restrict growth. Good potting mixes gardeners recommend have blood and bone. I use Brunnings tomato and vegetable growing mix which was tested among other mixes and found to be cheap yet effective in growing a good crop.

6. Unlike potatoes planted in gardens, you may choose to hill your potatoes all at once, being in a smaller container and all. You want your crop growing fully shielded from the sun. If the container is deep (such as a large, customised garbage bin) you may hill in growth stages. Container Gardening

7. Remember to plant your seed potatoes with the largest and strongest eye on top. Here are the seed potatoes I used:

8. Some place the seed potatoes on the bottom of the container or pot. Others place about 2 to 3 inches of potting soil in the pot first. Keep spare tubers in a paper bag, stored in a dark, warm area.

9.Some place cut up seed potatoes. Others place them whole. I placed mine whole and seems to be doing fine. If you decide to cut up your tuber, dry them a bit first before planting them in potting mix. Container Gardening

10. Some potato plants flower. Others don't. Flowering clues you that tubers are forming underneath. Some believe that pinching flowers off is good to conserve energy upon the tubers. But, many who have tested this thought found minimal difference in yield. After flowering, crops mature in about three weeks. This site suggests lessening watering times once the plant flowers. Plants turn yellow after flowering, at this time you may withhold water completely. This site suggests that to ensure a dry harvest of potatoes. On another note, you may also have new or early potatoes for immediate consumption. Once all flowers have bloomed, you may unearth some tubers (gently) and leave the rest to mature. Container Gardening

11. When plants wilt and die, cut them back. After 3 weeks, you may harvest mature crops. Leave them out in the sun to dry properly. Then store and use as desired.

12. Potatoes are mature if dirt easily rubs off without scraping off the potato skin. You may do a harvest test on one before harvesting everything.

13. Potato plants may reach 12 inches of height. Others grow 15 to 24 inches tall.

14. Resist the urge to over fertilize as this may result in too many flowers and little potatoes. Container Gardening

15. Yield varies but is estimated at 3 to 5 pounds of potato tubers per potato plant and about 50 pounds per kilogram of seed potatoes. I put a large seed potato in one 5 gallon pot and it has 3 plants now. Another large seed potato is in a 3 gallon pot and it has 4 plants now. (as of Oct 9/ sown on Aug 19).

16. Perk up your container plants with banana peeling tea. You may cut up the peelings in mix them in the potting soil too. You may also sprinkle some coffee grounds before watering the soil. Container Gardening

Resources of interest:
There is a right way and a wrong way to plant potatoes
7 Ways to grow potatoes
Growth Cycles of Potatoes
Australian Information on Growing Potatoes
Australian Information on Growing Potatoes in Queensland
How to Grow potatoes in a bag (Australia)
Photo on how to grow potatoes in a bag
How to grow potatoes
Harvesting Container Potatoes
How to grow potatoes (australia)
Growing Potatoes
Questions about growing potatoes


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