No Garden? No Problem! Master Growing Potatoes in Pots

Last update: 3 weeks ago

How to grow potatoes in containers
Image source: Agenturfotografin / Shutterstock.com

The humble potato has been a staple of the British diet since the end of the 16th century. So it should come as no surprise then that, potatoes are one of the UK’s most farmed crops and have become a favourite among those who grow their own food. Normally potatoes require a lot of space to grow, at least 45 cm between each row when planted in the ground.

This space requirement is off-putting for many gardeners as it means either removing plants to make room or giving up on the idea of eating tasty, homegrown potatoes.

We are excited to introduce you to a method of growing potatoes that doesn’t require a lot of space and is, arguably, easier than growing traditionally. This method is growing potatoes in pots, as mentioned previously the biggest benefit of this method is that it does not need a lot of space.

But this is just the first of the benefits, growing potatoes in containers will allow you to harvest them without hours of backbreaking digging, and the plants are much less susceptible to disease as well as harmful pests. Let’s look into this method in more detail!

Ground rules when growing pot potatoes:

  • Understand how many plants a container can support based on its size and do not overload it. As a general guide, a 10-litre bucket can support one potato plant and adding any more will result in either tiny potatoes or no potatoes at all.
  • For larger containers like 30 litres or more, which will hold multiple plants, it is important to give each plant as much room to grow as possible so avoid placing the potatoes too close to each other or righ up to the walls of the container.
  • The type of potato you will grow also has an impact on the end result, most gardeners prefer growing early potatoes in pots. The early type are normally planted in March and should be ready to harvest by mid-summer, this means they are not affected by the late summer potato blight like other varieties.
  • The last rule is the same for all plants grown in tubs. Keep them well watered. Keep in mind that, normally, plants can extend their roots deep into the soil in search of water, but when grown in containers the roots are confined and as such are reliant on you to keep the soil moist.

What will you need?

  • A container
  • Potting soil
  • Seed potatoes
  • Fertiliser (optional)
  • Water
  • Sunlight

Growing potatoes in pots step-by-step

Now that the boring rules are out of the way, it’s time to move on to the steps that will help you successfully grow your potatoes in a pot.

Step 1: Find the right container

Almost anything can be used as a container for potato plants, 10-litre buckets, large plant pots, an old bin, tubs, etc. If you want to grow more potatoes at once, look for at least 30 – 40 litres potato buckets.

Whatever can hold enough soil can be used as a container. What’s important for your chosen container is to provide adequate drainage, otherwise, the potatoes will rot. If it doesn’t have any holes for water drainage, then make some yourself.

Step 2: Prepare the potatoes for planting

The great thing about growing potatoes at home, apart from them being tastier than usual, is that you can grow your favourite variety or a selection of different varieties. You may be thinking “How do I grow Maris Piper’s in pots?” or “How to grow new potatoes in pots?”, don’t worry. The process for growing early potatoes is the same, regardless of the variety of potatoes planted.

There are a few ways you can prepare your potatoes but none seem to have much of an effect on the eventual harvest, so choose whichever method you prefer.

  • Planting whole. This is the most common method, simply plant the whole potato once it has started to sprout.
  • Cut potatoes in half. Following closely in second place is the cutting method, this is good to use if you don’t have many seed potatoes. There is some variety within this method, some people don’t plant them for a couple of days after cutting and others plant them immediately after cutting. But as we said before, none of this has a real impact on your harvest.

Step 3: Get your soil ready

Now that your potatoes are prepared, it is time to get the container ready for the planting. Fill the bottom of your container with 8-12 cm of soil. For the best results, you should use the highest quality soil that you can find and not just rely on soil taken directly from the garden. The latter may not have the best draining qualities and could be contaminated with pests and weeds.

Look for soil which is suited for container gardening as this type allows water to drain easily. If you aren’t sure which is the best compost for growing potatoes in pots, your local garden centre will be able to help you choose the right soil.

If you are going to use a slow-releasing fertiliser, usually now is the time to mix it into the soil. Follow the product’s application and dosage carefully for best results.

Step 4: Plant the seed potatoes

Place your seed potatoes on top of the layer of soil while making sure there is as much space as possible between them. Don’t try to cram more potatoes in, otherwise you won’t get the harvest that you expect.

Cover the potatoes with approximately 5-10 cm of soil, don’t worry if this doesn’t seem like enough you will understand why it should be done like this later. Place your potato containers in an area that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day.

How many potatoes can I plant in a container?

It all depends on the size of the container that you have. As a general rule, a 10-litre bucket can only support one plant. So if you have a 30-litre plastic container you can plant a total of three potatoes. The bigger the container size gets, the larger the number of potatoes you can grow at once.

Step 5: Water

Add water until the soil is moist. An easy way to tell if you need to add more water is to stick your finger in the soil until it is around two knuckles deep. If it is moist stop watering, but if it is dry then add more water.

All living things need water to survive, however, potato plants need extra care and attention when watering. The soil should be kept at a relatively consistent level of moisture, not too wet and not too dry. If the ground is allowed to dry up the plant and foliage will die but if there is too much water in the soil your potatoes will rot in the ground.

You can stop watering at least 1 or 2 weeks prior to the harvest.

Step 6: Keep covering the potatoes with soil

So now that the potatoes have been planted that’s it, right? Wrong. There is more work to be done during the growing process. This additional work is called hilling.

When your potato plants have sprouted and grown to around 12cm in height, it is time to start hilling the soil. This is basically adding more soil to the container. See, we told you there was a reason why you should only cover the potatoes with a shallow amount of soil in the beginning.

Tip: Add 4-5 cm of soil around each plant so that they are all surrounded by a small hill which covers around one-third of the showing plant. Don’t worry about the covered leaves dying, the plant will grow more.

Repeat this process as the plants grow, and potato plants grow very quickly, so check them regularly to make sure you aren’t left behind. Keep repeating the hilling process until the soil reaches the top of the container.

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When to harvest potatoes in containers?

You will know that your potatoes are ready for harvest when the plants begin flowering, although some people wait for the foliage to start dying. After all of that hard work, care and attention it is finally time to claim your reward.

Normally, harvesting potatoes is a back-breaking task but with container potatoes, it couldn’t be easier. The best way to harvest is to lay a plastic sheet on the ground and empty the container directly onto the sheet, this way you can easily sift through the soil to pick out the buried deliciousness.

Another method is to empty the container into a wheelbarrow or simply stick your hand into the container and root around until you find potatoes.

Tip: We recommend the first option as it is the easiest and the whole family can get involved in the grand potato hunt.

When to feed container potatoes?

The decision to use fertiliser comes down to personal choice. Some gardeners prefer to mix slow-releasing fertiliser into the soil during potting, whereas others prefer to use natural liquid plant feed once the foliage has developed.

Regardless of what you choose, read and follow the fertiliser instructions and do not overfeed the plant. A common result of overfeeding is the development of high plants with small or scarce potatoes.

How long does it take to grow potatoes in a bucket?

It depends on the type of potatoes you have chosen. The early potatoes can take between 2-3 months to fully grow and be ready to harvest. Naturally, the late types will require a bit more time to mature.

Extra tip: How to grow potatoes in bags

Rigid containers aren’t the only things which can house potato plants. Bags will work just as well and the process is a little less demanding. Many garden centres carry a stock of both plastic and natural growing bags but you can also use heavy-duty bin bags, just be sure to add some drainage holes. To grow your potatoes in bags just follow these steps:

  • Fill the bag with soil until it is around 2.5 cm from the top.
  • Plant your seed potatoes at a depth of 10-12cm.
  • Cover them with soil.
  • Place the bag somewhere warm and sunny.
  • Water regularly.

That’s it, there is no need to follow up with the hilling process. Harvesting works the same as outlined above, but you can also cut the bag open if you prefer.

So there we have it, who knew that growing potatoes in pots could be so easy. By following this guide and a little bit of work you will be eating tasty homegrown potatoes in no time.

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Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips for growing potatoes in pots or bags? Let us know in the comments below or give us a shout on social media!

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The article is super complete. Thanks for sharing. Another important thing to take into account when planting potatoes, are the pests they can acquire and how to treat them. Some of these are fleas, ants, slugs and mites that can be treated with different pesticides or home remedies such as garlic spray, eggshell scattered on silver and lavender for infusions.

    • We were definitely thinking of throwing in some tips on pest control when it comes to potatoes. Thanks Emily, keep up the awesome work at Gardening Wizards!

  • This is definitely what I need – a very detailed and informative step by step process in growing my potatoes! It’s worth my time and worth sharing to friends. You did an amazing job! Keep it up!

    • Glad to hear you like it, Ella! Keep up with us, we will be publishing other vegetable growing guides this year.

  • If you use the bags specifically designed for this that I have seen at garden centres, are you likely to still need to complete the ‘hilling process’? Why is it that you would not need to do this in a bag?

    Great article though- by far the best guide I have come across in my search!

    • Hey Connor, the process of covering with layer replaces hilling. Basically hilling is the term used for containers. Thanks for the kind words, too!

  • hi there, do potatoes grow better if they are wamer? so maybe you could insulate the pots/bags or put them in a greenhouse?

  • I’ve just started to grow potatoes in a container and have visited lots of web sites on how to grow. I can honestly say that this is the most informative and the best Web site that I have visited.
    Well done.

  • I live in W/Yorkshire in the UK and I’m in a bit of a quandary , I started 2kg of maris peer seed potato in pots on August 26th with the intension of having new potatoes ready in time for Christmas. However it is currently Oct 3rd and they are beginning to flower …… surely they cant be ready to harvest after just 6 weeks?

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