People often assume that container gardening is good only for growing flowers, but it’s actually great for growing other types of plants, too. It is a great method for those who want to maximize their yields in a safe, controlled environment.

Container gardening actually offers number of benefits. It can be used to control weeds and plant’s exposure to fungi, pests and other diseases. Another advantage is that with container gardening, you don’t ever have to risk to damage your plants with shoveling. Depending on the plant, even harvesting is made easy if you choose container gardening.

Growing Potatoes

Potatoes are among the plants that can do great when grown in a container. You can grow potatoes in a barrel to use all the advantages container gardening brings. Your potatoes will be weed and pest-free, and you won’t even have to worry about fungi.

Plus, harvesting from a barrel is very easy. You won’t need to use a shovel or any other complex method. Simply turn the barrel to its side and remove potatoes from the ground.

Container gardening for potatoes is made very easy. All you need to do is to follow several simple steps and you will have a perfect potato harvest and enough homegrown potatoes for all your cooking meals.

Here are the essential tips for growing potatoes in containers:

1. Prepare a Good Container

The key step to a successful container gardening is to choose an adequate container for your potatoes. A container needs to be at least 50 gallons, so it’s best to pick a nice barrel. Trash barrels and half whiskey barrel planters make a great choice. You may also buy used food-grade barrels or even commercial potato planters. It all depends on how much you want to invest in a container.

Keep in mind that almost any 2 to 3 foot tall container will work. The only thing you need to keep in mind is to pick a container that has holes in it. If it doesn’t have holes, be prepared to cut or drill the holes yourself.

The next step is to clean the container using a mild bleach solution. This will sanitize the container and remove any dirt or other nasty things that might hurt your potatoes. In case you don’t want to use bleach it’s also ok to use an alternative cleaner of your choice.

Remember: good drainage is important for potatoes so it’s vital to drill a series of big drainage holes in the bottom and bottom sides of the container, in case your container doesn’t already have holes. Or you may cut out the bottom completely and place the container on a well-drained surface, such as on your garden bed.

2. Choosing Potatoes

The next step is to choose the best potato variety for your container garden. It’s easy to find seed potatoes at any local nursery. They are usually available early in the growing season. Also, remember that you should have to buy them once and only once.

You can always sprout or “chit” your potatoes before you plant them. All you need to do is to put them in an egg carton, making sure that the side with the most buds is facing up. Put the carton with your potatoes in a cool but light room. Alternatively, you may put them in a direct sunlight to sprout. Another method is to put the tubers into an open paper bag.

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3. Planting

Once the potatoes are ready to be planted, you need to prepare the container for them. Simply fill out the bottom of the container with about 6 inches of planting mix and compost. Make sure that it’s loose enough. The best planting mix contains a peat-moss like soil amendment. A good mix is made using repurposed coconut husks. It has numerous advantages. For example, it will prevent the soil from becoming too compacted and it can help the soil preserve moisture that the plant’s roots need.

The next step is to plant your potatoes. Simply add some seed potatoes on the layer of soil. Make sure to leave enough of space between each cube so the plants have enough room to grow. While you can use a whole potato for this purpose, it’s more effective to cut them into 1-2 inch cubes and plant them like this.

Once they are in the ground, loosely fill them with a new 6 inch layer of compost mix and soil. Water so the soil becomes damp enough. It’s important to keep the soil damp but without making it too wet. Remember: overwatering is bad for your potatoes. Once you have planted them, your potatoes will start growing.

3. Adding More Soil

Once your potatoes develop about 6-8 inches of foliage, it’s important to add yet another layer of the soil-compost mix. Make sure to cover about one half (or even three quarters) of the visible foliage and stems.

Repeat this process over and over again: allow sprouts to grow and then cover them with a new layer of soil and compost. Also, make sure to always moisturize the soil enough as the plants grow.

Watch your potatoes grow to the top of the barrel and monitor how they’re doing.

4. Harvesting

You should harvest potatoes when they are ready and mature enough. It will take them about 10 weeks before they flower and start to yellow. This is a sign that it’s time to harvest them.

To harvest your potato from a barrel, it’s important to start digging carefully with your hands. Remove the top layer and inspect what’s going on inside. If you see that potatoes are ready, simply dump the barrel out on a tarp. This is the easiest way to harvest your potatoes from a container. You can simply collect all the potatoes and enjoy all the tasty meals you can make with them.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips for growing potatoes in a container:

  • You can grow potatoes in a sawdust instead of soil.
  • You can try different containers, potato varieties and watering amounts to find what works the best.
  • Always keep a few potatoes so you can use them as seed potatoes for the next year.

Photo credit: jon.hayes via photopin cc

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