The Benefits of Growing Potatoes in Containers

comments (20) March 16th, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Picture by Dr. Hemmet under the creative commons attribution license 3.0.Click To Enlarge

Picture by Dr. Hemmet under the creative commons attribution license 3.0.

Photo: Dr. Hemmet

There's any number of reasons that we gardeners might prefer to grow things up as opposed to out.

At the expense of sounding as if I like to do everything the easy way (wait, I do like to do everything the easy way), here it is: yet another incredibly simple method to growing potatoes. This time, we're planting them above the ground.

Here in suburbia, we simply don't have whole lot of land to work with. On average, we have a relatively small plot surrounding our homes and we have to make do with what the big housing developer in the sky gave us. Sometimes what we have is land with extremely rocky soil or land that is predominately concrete.

Want another good reason to grow potatoes in containers? Just when you are plumb proud of yourself and your green thumb, potatoes can succumb to a fungus called "blight" (Phtophthora infestans). Its usual place of attack on innocent potatoes is in their garden beds. So, planting potatoes in containers can also help protect your harvest.

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

One of the coolest containers to use for growing potatoes is a bushel basket. It's a great size and the basket fits into the whole farm-look nicely. If you don't have a bushel basket or never could stand the farm-look, you can use a 5 gallon bucket or a garbage can, as long as you put holes in the bottom for drainage.

You'll want to plant only one seed potato in a 5 gallon bucket, but feel free to plant 2 or 3 in a bushel basket or garbage can. First, fill the container halfway up with compost. By the way, compost is also a disease suppressor, so you have extra good measure against blight or any other fungal enemy.

Set your seed potatoes on top of the compost in the container and add just enough compost on top of the seeds to cover them. As the plants grow, add more compost to cover the tubers – always make sure the potatoes are buried. Continue to cover tubers as the plants grow up above the top of your container.

During the summer (after flowering), just stick your hand in there and harvest the potatoes that you need for your favorite recipes for side dishes, BBQs or salads. You'll harvest for months! Another idea is to simply wait for the tops of the plants to die down and turn the entire container over for an instant fall harvest.

More Potato Container Ideas

How about a big cardboard box? That'll do just fine for the season and you can compost it later! Just fold the flaps down in the inside and plant. Remember to dig a bit into the ground like 5 or 6 inches and bury the bottom edge of the box so it doesn't blow away. You can always place some big rocks at the bottom instead.

Do you have any *old tires lying around? Plant one tire with a seed potato or two and as the plants grow up and out of the first tire, stack another tire on top and fill it up with more soil. These are extra nice ideas for people living in condos or apartments, as well. Even a laundry basket makes a great container for growing potatoes.

*For the record, the jury is till out on whether or not tires leach chemicals into the soil (therefore, into the plants). So, do a little research and decide for yourself.

posted in: potatoes, containers

Comments (20)

Dallinlarsen555 writes: fabulous
Posted: 12:52 pm on October 6th
matthewtweedie writes: I love potato
Posted: 12:16 am on September 30th
Juliac4 writes: I have been using the smart pots for the last 6 years with good results. Roll the sides down so you fill with compost or garden soil about 6 to 8 inches plant potatoes when the potatoes get about a foot high roll the sides back up and fill the rest of the way up with compost. I use a 20 gallon smart pot and plant 5 to 6 seed potatoes
Posted: 10:37 pm on May 17th
ktmusher writes: I purchased heavy duty burlap bags last fall I plan to use for potatoes & beets. So did the question get answered about using organic potatoes as starters?
Posted: 11:16 am on May 15th
flsunguy writes: My question is,do I need a potato seed,or I can planting an old potato. Thanks.
Posted: 11:30 am on April 9th
firemarshall552 writes: I read with interest the ways and means of growing spuds in containers.,.I have one states to "cover the plants when they get to be 2-4 inches..the question I cover the whole plant or rake dirt up to the bottom of the leaves...
Posted: 4:47 pm on May 19th
wendyo writes: If you use a plastic laundry basket to grow potatoes, buy vinyl screen wire, cut to correct size, and use floral wire to attach to laundry basket. This ensures the well-drained soil potatoes need!
ILY, me
Posted: 5:14 pm on May 28th
OrganicGardeningZen writes: My daughter is doing a summer school project of a side by side comparison of different containers for growing potatoes. The containers being compared are:
a) cardboard box
b) 50 lb dog food bag (empty, of course)
c) homemade "grow bag" (made from landscape fabric)
d) trash can
e) plastic tote

I'll come back at end of growing season with results from the experiment.
Posted: 3:16 am on April 20th
kandella writes: Hi Chris,
Do you ever read the Garden Professors blog? They look at the actual science behind different parts of gardening and landscaping and it's pretty darn interesting. In a recent column they addressed the toxicity of using old tires, both whole or as mulch, in a garden and they came to the conclusion that it's a really bad idea. There is more leached chemicals than what most people realize. Here's a link to their blog and the article on using tires for mulch. If you scroll down to the end, there is a link to a more scientific article addressing the perils of tires, whole or mulch.
Posted: 7:38 pm on February 3rd
BonneyLemkin writes: The greatest harvest rush I ever had was when I began digging into my raised (and raised again!) potato beds and found cluster after cluster of beautiful 'taters. So cool. We harvested a month or so ago - and are still eating 'em. A relatively few square feet has yielded a couple of hundred pounds of succulent spuds. So - fear not - potatoes are easy to grow - just keep them nice and wet and don't let 'em dry out.
Posted: 12:14 pm on September 23rd
HaveGreenThumb writes: I have been growing tomatoes in Smart Pots for several years. They work great! I have a pretty good sized vegetable garden but can't rotate my crops well enough if I include potatoes in the mix. The bag gives me another spot to grow them and I just put the soil in another part of the ornamental garden after harvest.
Posted: 10:53 am on April 24th
missy85363 writes: I recently tried this. I had just tossed the starters into my container garden, and they came up! So I transplanted them into a huge bag of potting soil! I just put it on end and cut open the top and stuck them in the soil. Watered and they are growing like crazy! They are doing wonderfull. I water the as normal.
Posted: 7:56 pm on April 3rd
smart_gardener writes: Growing Potatoes in Containers
Posted: 2:34 pm on March 26th
smart_gardener writes: Now is the perfect time grow potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables in containers! I like to use Smart Pots gardening containers. They are excellent for growing potatoes too!
Posted: 2:34 pm on March 26th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Sansar: Great question! Here's what I have found about the tires. This was from a man who promotes tire-planting.

"There is no appreciable risk in using recycled tires in the vegetable garden. While it is a fact that rubber tires do contain minute amounts of certain heavy metals, the compounds are tightly bonded within the actual rubber compound and do not leach into the soil.

One of the ingredients in the rubber recipe is zinc. Zinc, in fact, is an essential plant element. I also expect that rubber is safer to use than treated lumber that contains copper and arsenic. Tires are durable. The very qualities that make them an environmental headache make them perfect for our uses in the garden. Once they are in place, they won’t rot and will likely be there for your grandchildren to use."

Charles Sanders at
Posted: 12:25 pm on March 24th
sansar writes: Is there a problem with tires contaminating the soil? Or leaching bad stuff into the potatoes?
Posted: 10:50 am on March 21st
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Delolds - Very interesting - Thanks for adding this!
Posted: 12:12 am on March 21st
Delolds writes: Be sure to use middle or late season potatoes in the basket or the potato "condo". Early season potatoes only form potatoes on the first 6-8 inches of the plant. I found out the hard way when my first attempt only made potatoes in the bottom of the basket. Found out that I had use early season potatoes. Trying with middle and late season potatoes this year.
Posted: 11:59 am on March 20th
chefwheatley writes: Thanks for the reminder about growing potatoes in baskets. I have been planning to start potatoes here (KY) very soon and was planning to do the plastic bucket. I like the idea of the basket much better. Can't wait to get started!
Thanks again!
Chef Wheatley
Posted: 11:09 pm on March 18th
Kate_Frank writes: Why am I so intimidated by potatoes?
Posted: 9:27 am on March 17th
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