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rainbowgardener
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container grown potatoes

Do other people have good experience growing potatoes in containers? I have a large container, like they grow trees in, at a guess 10 gallons. I have twice tried growing potatoes in it, last year and this year. Planted potato eyes near the bottom and kept filling the container as the plants grew. It grew big healthy potato plants (last year they flowered, this year never did). But after the potato plants totally died, my harvest turned out to be about a dozen marble to golf ball sized potatoes.

The soil was very nice and loose and rich, mostly compost and leaf mould. Otherwise I didn't do anything to them, no added fertilizer and never watered because we had plenty of rain (raining again as we speak.... sigh).

Anyway, do other people have more success growing full sized potatoes in containers? What's the secret?
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TZ -OH6
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Re: container grown potatoes

Tuber bulking is inhibited by high temperatures and containers usually heat up more so than the ground. Potatoes need a lot of strong sunlight to make all of that starch, so it's a bad combination in most gardening zones.

I have had bad luck in containers, but a big factor in that is because I'm terrible at keeping up with watering needs (and the heat).


If you didn't get flowering, were you growing an early variety like Yukon Gold, which can skip flowering? If not then maybe you had too much nitrogen.

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applestar
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Re: container grown potatoes

I had really good yields using the 24" chicken wire silos a couple of year's ago. They were on north side of 66% privacy picket fence. 5 seed potato pieces in each so 2-3 ft diameter? I don't remember but I documented it in my Front Yard Edible Landscaping thread -- Permaculture forum maybe?

Keeping them watered was the biggest issue. Mostly hay, straw, grass clippings and leaves with a bit of compost for mulching.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: container grown potatoes

So I have two large containers of potatoes. They bloomed a long time ago. Now the foliage on one especially is looking poorly, flattened out/droopy, starting to yellow. My question is do you wait until the foliage is completely dead before digging them?

Thanks!
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NancyJo
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Re: container grown potatoes

they sound like they are ready, the potatoes will no longer grow without the foliage so dig around and see what you get. I dig mine at that stage, as I need the space for my cool crops. let us know what you get from your harvest.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: container grown potatoes

So when I got back from my mini-vacation (did anyone notice a few days of no rainbowgardener posts :) ), I did harvest the potatoes. I am slowly getting better at the container potatoes. This was my best harvest ever, which still makes it pretty pathetic relative to ground grown. But in the past my potatoes have ranged from marble to golf ball sized. This year I got a number of them that were more like two golf balls end to end.

I will say that even in containers, Jal_Ut is probably right that they don't need so much "hilling." I plant my seed potatoes near the bottom of large containers. As the plants grow, I keep adding soil. One of the things I did differently this year is let them grow a lot longer before I added soil and left them a lot more leaves when I did. But most of the potatoes I got, including all the biggest ones were down near the bottom. (That makes them a pain to dig and I'm sure I missed some. Really I needed to dump the container, but that is messy and a lot of work.) Above the potatoes was like at least 18 inches of bare stem. That wasn't doing anybody any good, so apparently they didn't need to be hilled up that deep.

(James, feel free to say I told you so!! :) )

So I replanted a bunch of the marble sized ones to see what will happen!
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applestar
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Re: container grown potatoes

rainbowgardener wrote:So when I got back from my mini-vacation (did anyone notice a few days of no rainbowgardener posts :) )
I did! Welcome back! You were missed. :D
I for one, was going WHERE is she? She's usually online by now, ... This is right up her (rainbowgardener's) alley etc. :wink: Hope you had a good time. :()

...so do you think you'll try planting them higher up in the container with more soil in the bottom? Would that make a difference? Maybe there is an "optimum" depth in the container -- enough for roots growths and nutrients below the seed potatoes and just enough to cover above?
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rainbowgardener
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Re: container grown potatoes

Or maybe just try smaller containers. These are like 20 gallons or so - cut down trash bins of the type you take out to the curb. Filling the bottom up with soil just seems wasteful. So plant the seed potatoes in the bottom of a container that isn't so tall (wide would still be good).
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grrlgeek
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Re: container grown potatoes

I experienced some different results than you, RBG, and I thought this post revival was as good a reason as any to start sifting through the photos on 2 phones and a camera, which I have been dreading for some time now. So, as an aside, thanks for inspiring me to get that done :P

I have 18 gallon tubs that I use for potatoes. This is the second time ever that I've grown potatoes, and last year, I planted in summer for a fall crop. Last year's results were not as good as this year's, but I was also plagued with cabbage and hornworms last fall. They decimated the plants and I don't think they ever got a fair shake. This year, things went well. Nothing got eaten by bugs or worms although I think one variety was battling early blight. All three varieties produced roughly the same amount so I'm not counting that as a negative.

Some details of how I treated them: Initial layer of soil was about 8", with the seed pieces planted about 3-4" down. I "hilled" twice by adding soil each time the plants were 8-10" above the soil line. I left as many leaves exposed as possible, but I did cut off anything that would have left the leaves on the soil. After the last hill, I mulched with hay and straw 2" deep to the top of the tub, burying the drip line at that point. I used potting soil for acid-loving plants, amended with compost and 4-6-3 organic fert initially, then just the potting soil for the hilling. They got fed compost tea every 2-3 weeks. I planted 1 tub each of "Kennebec" and "All Red," and 2 tubs of "German Butterball." 3 seed pieces per tub, pre-sprouted, and I cut out any extra eyes/sprouts. Cuts were dipped in fireplace ash (because the paper the seed came with said to) and allowed to heal for another day. Yield was roughly 1 pound of potatoes per plant (3 pounds per tub +/-). I think the biggest potatoes were about the size of a baseball, but the majority were golf ball size - plus or minus.

Here are some photos of the growing/harvesting:
growing.jpg
growing.jpg (62.15 KiB) Viewed 1444 times
I just cut off the foliage then dump the whole container onto a tarp.  I wanted to take these photos as they came out of the soil, so the extraction somewhat resembled an archaeological dig, at least for the first variety to be ready.  Cleanup is easy though.  Just pick up the tarp and dump the soil back into the tub.  (More on that later.)
I just cut off the foliage then dump the whole container onto a tarp. I wanted to take these photos as they came out of the soil, so the extraction somewhat resembled an archaeological dig, at least for the first variety to be ready. Cleanup is easy though. Just pick up the tarp and dump the soil back into the tub. (More on that later.)
As time went on, I wasn't quite as tidy about things.  :-)  But note, that on all 3 varieties, potatoes are growing from the stem, all the way up to the top of the soil line.  A potato was growing from just about every leaf node along the stem.
As time went on, I wasn't quite as tidy about things. :-) But note, that on all 3 varieties, potatoes are growing from the stem, all the way up to the top of the soil line. A potato was growing from just about every leaf node along the stem.
potato-harvest.jpg (50.49 KiB) Viewed 1444 times
I neglected to photograph the German Butterball bounty.  IIRC, they went straight into foil and onto the BBQ.
I neglected to photograph the German Butterball bounty. IIRC, they went straight into foil and onto the BBQ.
red-bec-harvest.jpg (29.58 KiB) Viewed 1444 times
All things tolled, container yield isn't that encouraging given how much it costs for certified seed and my penchant for wanting to grow everything. It is fun and interesting though, and so far everything we've grown has been extra yummy. I am going to do it again next year, and keep trying different varieties. Someday when I have more land for a garden, I can then, perhaps, devote a ground plot to the special ones that I found along the way.

I did learn that taking the old soil and using it to help fill a giant new raised bed has both pitfalls and benefits. For MONTHS in the spring I was pulling "weeds" out of the bed. They grew so big and so fast and they didn't look like the regular kind of weeds I get here... but then again, they didn't look like anything I had planted either. One day, I plucked one and a tiny potato was attached to the root! I must have pulled dozens... which means I didn't do that great a job clearing the soil from last fall's planting.

I let this one stay. I fear it has plans to swallow my house:
2014-08-03_08-55-04_35weed.jpg
2014-08-03_08-55-04_35weed.jpg (51.95 KiB) Viewed 1444 times
And this one too. My reward for this one choking my beans and squash.... tada! TPS! Not sure what I'm going to do with them yet.... but I suspect I will HAVE to plant them to see what happens!
DSCN0352seed.jpg
DSCN0352seed.jpg (39.19 KiB) Viewed 1444 times
Zone - USDA 8b / Sunset 11

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rainbowgardener
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Re: container grown potatoes

Interesting... I do think my home grown potatoes are "extra yummy," even though what I started with was grocery store potatoes (no expense, seed potatoes are ridiculously expensive when you just want a few).

I don't know why mine didn't grow more potatoes along the stem, but probably related to fertilization. I only used compost and didn't really feed them much after they were planted. The plants looked big and healthy and bloomed, but maybe it takes a lot of extra nutrients for them to make all those tubers.
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Re: container grown potatoes

Many years ago G got a 50 gallon drum. He cut it in half and put drainage holes. We planted potatoes. Kept adding soil and compost as the plants grew. We had a fairly good harvest. The potatoes near the bottom were at least egg size. some were bigger. Higher up the size dropped to golf ball size.

Mom has a loose compost pile in her back yard. One year potato peels that had been tossed in the pile sprouted and produced. She got more potatoes off her scrap plants than Dad did from his carefully planted and tended garden potatoes.
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Re: container grown potatoes

This year aside from tatoes grown in the earth, we have potatoes growing in a refregerator that is lying on it's back, with sweet potatoes in the freezer compartment. Nothing special, just used it because it was here.

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Re: container grown potatoes

I had a try at growing two types of potatoes. :D Red Duke and Charlotte. Just planted them in the two largest pots I had, also in a recycling box.
I didn't give them any 'feed' at all, just plenty of water. The end results I was pleased with. Although the Red Duke's skin was more thicker than the Charlotte. Both very tasty.

I planted them around March. Finally emptying them out at the end of June, early July.

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These I don't know the name of them, as they were given to me as the seed potatoes, but they tasted nice as well.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: container grown potatoes

Very nice harvest for containers! If you weren't feeding them, what was the soil that you started with?
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Re: container grown potatoes

Thank you rainbowgardener. :D I used the multi-purpose compost that I had bought from a B&Q store, and Asda.
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applestar
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Re: container grown potatoes

5/8 -- late ...usually/should have been more like 4/8 -- I planted TWO Adirondack Red seed potatoes in a wooden planter. This was on the patio -- morning shade until around 10am, then late afternoon shade starting around 4pm.

I should have tended to it more, I had planted it 1/2 filled and had intended to fill with compost and mulch to the top, but I have too many projects going and this got neglected. :oops: I did water it regularly -- primary reason for putting it on the patio. (...I also meant to take more progress pictures... :| )

Harvested yesterday. NOT BAD. Actually some were larger size tubers than last of the Adirondak Red harvested from the sunnier hilled bed in the ground (shown with Gold Rush to the left of web tray). I think the plants would have developed more tubers *if* the planter had been filled to the top. :roll:
image.jpg
Last of Gold Rush and Adirondack Red harvested from hilled sunny beds in K-paddy area on left, Adirondack Red harvested from patio wooden planter on the right
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