Growing potatoes in pots is easy. Here is our guide to planting the humble spud in a pot!
No British meal is complete without the humble spud. Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) actually originate from South America but have long been cultivated around the world. And no wonder! The list of potato dishes is almost endless, from mashed potatoes to casseroles and salads to chips. And these tubers are not just a delicious treat, they are also easy to grow yourself. But what if you do not have a garden? No problem: here is our guide to planting potatoes in pots on your patio or balcony.
The right location for potatoes in pots
Potatoes grow best in a warm and sunny location, sheltered from the weather, if possible. They tolerate bad weather if their foliage can dry off soon after getting wet, but you can delay or even prevent some potato diseases with a rain shelter.
A spot next to a south-facing wall with an overhanging roof is ideal for potted potatoes. An east or west facing balcony is also suitable. In fact, potatoes can be grown inside if they are placed next to a sunny window where they can enjoy warmth and light.
Potato varieties for growing in pots
You do not need a special potato variety to cultivate the tubers in a pot. As long as the pot is large enough, all potato varieties can be grown in a container. However, if you want to grow different varieties together, you should make sure that the varieties have a similar ripening time so that you can harvest all the tubers at the same time. Purple or red potato varieties in particular make a beautiful and delicious crop.
When to plant potatoes in pots
Plant your potted potatoes at the same time as you would your garden potatoes: ideally between the beginning of April and the middle of May, after the last frost. The temperature outside should be at least 10°C, preferably 15°C, and at night, no lower than 5°C.
Best soil for potatoes in containers
Potatoes are vigorous growers, so they need a nutrient-rich, permeable soil. A tomato or vegetable compost like Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost is ideal as it contains a higher nutrient content.
How to plant potatoes in containers
Use a container that can hold at least 10, preferably 20, litres of soil. Apart from standard plant pots, planters, buckets and barrels, you can also use a “potato pot” to grow your potatoes. This specialised pot makes it particularly easy to harvest your crop.
Here is our simple step-by-step guide to making a potato pot and planting your potatoes in it.
- First, select a classic, plastic plant pot with a volume of 10 to 20 litres and walls that are as thin as possible.
- Cut out three equally sized windows on the sides of the pot with a Stanley knife or a similarly sharp tool. Be careful not to cut your fingers, and make sure that the gaps between individual windows are not too small, as this may make the pot unstable or cause it to crack.
- Put this windowed pot inside a second, windowless one.
- Now, to plant the potatoes: Use chitted (pre-sprouted) potatoes from the kitchen. If you have no potatoes at home, use seed potatoes from your local garden centre.
- Fill the inner, windowed pot about a quarter full with soil (preferably mixed with some sand and compost) and place the tubers roughly in the middle of each window. Cover the tubers with at least 10cm of soil and fill the pot almost to the top.
- Finally, sit back and relax! Check the potatoes from time to time, and make sure the soil is always slightly moist – but do avoid waterlogging. Over the next few months, the potato plants will grow until they are ready to harvest. Harvest time depends on the variety.
Care for potatoes in pots
Water your potato plants regularly so that the soil never dries out completely, but be sure to avoid waterlogging. Add a mulch layer of straw or lawn clippings to reduce evaporation. If your soil sinks after regular watering, simply add more soil.
Naturally, you can only earth up potatoes in containers to a limited extent, but have no fear – the potatoes normally grow well as long as your pot is filled with soil. However, do remember that potato plants do not usually grow as much in restricted containers as they do outside in a garden bed.
Potatoes are heavy feeders, so they need plenty of nutrients throughout their growing season. A balanced supply of fertiliser ensures healthy potato growth and higher yields. As fertilising with solid granules is tricky in containers, we recommend using a liquid fertiliser, such as our Plantura Liquid Tomato Food. For more information, read our article on potato care.
When to harvest potatoes in containers
Your first potatoes will be ready for harvest after about three to four months: from July, when the foliage is still green in the case of early potatoes, or as soon as the foliage wilts in later varieties.
To harvest potatoes from a container, you will need to get your hands dirty! For more information, read our article on harvesting potatoes. Harvesting is easiest with a “potato pot”. Instead of digging up the whole plant, you can simply lift out the inner pot and pick out the ripe potatoes through the cut-out windows. If you leave the plant in the pot, it can then recover and you can harvest the remaining smaller tubers at a later date, when they have grown to full size.
Potato grow bags: alternative to the pot?
You can also grow potatoes in plastic bags or bulk bags, which hold larger quantities of soil and are often rectangular and space-saving, giving the potato plant plenty of room to spread out.
However, planting bags are not ideal if you are looking to grow potatoes on a balcony or in a flat. They are often impermeable so excess water does not drain away, and water logs in the soil. If the bags are made of more permeable materials such as jute, the water will pour out over your balcony or floor. As such, consider how you will water your potatoes before opting to grow potatoes in bags.
Potatoes can be grafted with a close relative of the nightshade family (Solanaceae): the tomato. This allows us to harvest tubers underground, and fruit above ground! Why not find out more about the unique and wonderful pomato!