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All that digging and earthing up for a few slug ravaged spuds can put new gardeners off, but it needn't if they follow the beginners guide to growing potatoes in pots.
Growing potatoes in pots, barrels or bins take very little time and effort. The resulting crops may not produce such high yields as those grown in the open ground, but this type of gardening can be undertaken in a small space. You don't need a garden. Follow this simple guide, which gives advice on which varieties of potato to grow, as well as how and when to plant potatoes in a range of containers. Clean, blemish-free, fresh, gourmet potatoes are virtually guaranteed.
Choosing Seed Potatoes for Containers
Potatoes are classified as first earlies, earlies, second earlies, and maincrop varieties according to the number of days they take to reach maturity. First earlies take 75 days, whereas maincrop varieties take 160 days. Generally speaking, it makes sense to grow only earlies in containers to harvest in June/July, thereby avoiding a lengthy period of watering and feeding. Some gardeners who are short of ground do grow a few varieties of maincrop potatoes in containers, tending to select heritage (heirloom) types that aren't available in shops. Good ones to try include:
- Duke of York is a 1st early with excellent flavor.
- Fourmost is another 1st early, which warrants the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) bestowed upon it by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
- Swift is a 1st early with short foliage.
- Rocket is probably the fastest-growing 1st early, but not the tastiest.
- Charlotte, a 2nd early holder of the AGM, is a very popular, high yielding, tasty, waxy salad variety.
- Pink Fir Apple yields long, knobbly waxy potatoes, which are very tasty in salads. It is a late maincrop variety.
Pots, Barrels, Bins and Other Containers for Growing Potatoes
Potatoes can be grown in any container provided it has enough drainage holes and holds sufficient compost.
- Expensive bespoke potato planters can cost from $20 to $33 for a Victorian style potato barrel, which takes 5 (tubers) seeds and should last for many years.
- A much cheaper solution is to use second-hand buckets, plastic bins, or large pots previously used for growing large shrubs or trees.
- Old car tires stacked on top of each other make great potato towers.
- Sturdy bin bags with drainage holes cut in the bottom will also do.
Chitting or Sprouting Seed Potatoes
Chitting is the established practice of putting the seed potatoes (tubers) in a warm, light place to sprout them before planting. Potato experts claim that "chitting" is unnecessary and may even reduce yields. Putting the tubers in a seed tray in a light unheated, frost-free room until planting time is all that needs to be done.
Planting Potatoes in Containers
The number of tubers to plant depends on the size of the container. A container with a capacity of 50 liters will take three tubers, and an 80-liter container holds five tubers.
Put a 2.5cm layer of coarse gravel in the bottom of the container for drainage. Then a 10cm layer of multi-purpose compost on top. Space the tubers evenly on top of the compost. Cover with another 10cm layer of compost. Water the compost well.
When the shoots begin to emerge, cover with more compost and repeat until the compost is 5cm from the top of the pot.
Caring for Potatoes in Containers
Looking after potatoes is easy.
- Water regularly to keep the compost moist but not too wet.
- Apply a half-strength liquid feed every 14 days.
- Cover the emerging foliage with fleece or bubble plastic if frost is forecast.
When the potato plant tops start to turn yellow, the crop is ready to harvest. Grub around in the compost and feel any that are big enough to eat. Carefully remove these and leave the rest to grow on.
To Grow These Tasty Little Beauties Start Now
Pop along to the garden center now and buy both seed potatoes, containers, and compost, because mid to late February is the time to plant potatoes in pots in the greenhouse. From the end of February/early March pots can be put outside in a frost-free spot.
Great potato recipes we like:
- Super Easy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Instant Pot Sweet Potato Butter
- Lemon Caper Chicken Potato Casserole Recipe -4 Weight Watcher Smart Points!
- Historic German Potato Pancakes – 4 Weight Watcher Smart Points
- Easy Peasy Sweet Potato Balls
- When you have a LOT of potatoes…
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