How to Successfully Grow Potatoes in Containers

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Potatoes growing in buckets on a patio

What could be better than unearthing handsome nuggets of potato from a chocolate-brown soil? It’s the epitome of the grow-your-own experience, an irresistible representation of everything that’s wholesome about growing good food at home. Personally I wouldn’t be without my annual crop of spuds. Straightforward to grow and yielding buckets full of tubers, the potato crop is easily my most eagerly anticipated moment of the kitchen gardening year.

Needless to say not everyone has the space to devote to this often rambunctious vegetable. With rows requiring a leg-stretching 45cm (18in) between them, a few bags of seed potatoes hanging invitingly on the garden centre shelves can soon turn into a space-planning headache. Surely just one more bag of spuds can be fitted in somewhere? Don’t count on it!

Pots o' Spuds

The solution for many space-starved gardeners is to grow their potatoes in containers, and not just pots but sacks, stacked tyres, old potting soil sack, the kitchen sink – you name it. Given its vigor the humble potato is happy to call just about anywhere home, so long as a few basic rules are followed. An eruption of lush foliage, courtesy of a few carefully positioned pots, can even become a feature, particularly on the patio where they would make the perfect foil for showier specimens.

Potatoes growing in old tyres

Of course, growing out of the ground like this isn’t just for the chichi inclined. There are sound practical benefits to trapping your tubers within the confines of a container, including freedom from soil-borne pests and diseases such as eelworm and scab (an all-too-common setback for many), the chance to give the back a rest from digging, and the opportunity to try lots of different varieties of potatoes without (a) getting them mixed up and (b) worrying about things like crop rotation. Container spuds are also great fun for the kids. Have I convinced you yet? I hope so!

Some 'Ground' Rules for Container Potatoes

Don’t worry, there aren’t many of these. The most important rule is to match the number of seed potatoes to the size of container you are growing them in. As a rough guide each potato plant needs about 10 litres, that’s just over 2.5 US gallons, to grow into. Cramming your potatoes in is a false economy, the result being very small spuds, if you’re lucky enough to get any at all. A typical garbage can-sized container would hold around four plants. Potato growing sacks sold specifically for this purpose, would house three. It really doesn’t matter what container you use, so long as it has adequate drainage holes at the base to allow excess water to freely drain away.

Spacing is important when planting potatoes in containers
Spacing is important when planting potatoes in containers

Almost as important is what type of potato you grow in your container. First and second early varieties work best and have the added advantage of being done and dusted before the ever-present threat of potato blight arrives on the scene later on in summer. Salad potatoes work especially well and I love the variety ‘Charlotte’ for its firm-yet-creamy, oval tubers. Others worth seeking out are flavorsome ‘Lady Christl’, the appropriately named ‘Rocket’ and quirky, nutty-flavoured ‘Anya’.

The final rule is to keep your potatoes well watered. While ground-grown plants have the luxury of reaching down to chase valuable soil moisture, their container cousins have no such luxury. Be on hand to water plants as they grow and particularly once the foliage has filled out. Actively growing plants will also benefit from a couple of liquid feeds during their growing time; use a balanced organic fertilizer such as seaweed extract.

Chitting seed potatoes
Chitting seed potatoes

Growing Potatoes in Containers

Buy your seed potatoes as soon as you can and break them free of their nursery bag or net. We’re going to sprout them first – a process known as ‘chitting’ by the potato gurus. Lay your tubers with the majority of ‘eyes’ facing up. Place them into a supportive container such as an egg box and keep them in a light but relatively cool place to produce stubby, dark green shoots. Don’t obsess too much about this process – the idea is simply to keep the tubers fresh until you are ready to plant them. This can be from very early spring if you can offer some protection from frost, or mid spring if not.

Add some additional drainage material such as crocks or broken up polystyrene to the base of your container then fill with about 10cm (4in) of your growing medium. You have a few options here. Multipurpose potting soil works well, but I bulk this out (mainly to save money!) by mixing it with good garden soil and some of my own garden-made compost. You can also add a couple of handfuls of organic fertilizer, such as chicken manure pellets, for good measure if you wish.

Earth up potatoes as they grow to increase the harvest
Earth up potatoes as they grow to increase the harvest

Space your seed potatoes, sprouts uppermost, evenly throughout the container. Cover with another 10cm (4in) layer of growing medium then sit back and wait. As the shoots grow continue to add further layers of potting medium until you reach within a whisker of the rim of the container. Remember to water and feed once or twice with your liquid feed.

When to Harvest Your Potatoes

It’s hard to judge the size of your potato crop from above, so plunge your hand in and have a root around! The first tubers will be ready to enjoy soon after plants come into flower. Feel for the tubers, pulling free any that have reached the size of a hen’s egg, or allow them to grow on to your preference. As soon as the foliage begins to die down it’s time to tip out the contents of your container and gather the stragglers. By feeling about like this you will be able to prolong the period of eating, while allowing plants to grow on and swell those tubers that remain.

The best way of serving them? That’s entirely up to you and partly governed by what variety you plant. My absolute preference is firm new potatoes served steaming hot with a curl of butter sliding over them, all topped with a generous sprinkling of garden-grown parsley. Pure heaven!

By Benedict Vanheems. Potatoes in buckets photo courtesy of Dobies.

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Comments

 
"I have tried this in tires before, without success. I am confused. When your plants start to grow, and you add more soil, do you cover up the plant, or just underneath its head? "
Sherry Newman on Friday 2 March 2012
"Keep the leafy part of the plant above the soil. I use straw instead of "hilling up" the soil. I've gotten lots of potatoes for several years. Good fortune with yours!"
Melanie on Friday 2 March 2012
"Hi Sherry. Yes, Melanie is right - you 'earth up' by adding your compost/soil (or straw)so that just the top couple of inches of foliage is poking out. You want to leave a bit of leafy growth for the stems to carry on growing, otherwise you'll smother the plants. Don't worry too much though - potatoes are very vigorous, with most of the growth coming from below."
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 2 March 2012
"So you can use straw instead of soil after you lay the 4" base of soil and the 4" cover soil? "
Crystal on Friday 2 March 2012
"When we grew them in potatoe bags last year the foliage got very leggy and tall is this normal? Or have we done something wrong."
Carolyn on Friday 2 March 2012
"I did this last year for the first time. Dig a hole in a sunny spot about 18" deep and as wide as the biggest trash/leaf bag you can find. Refill the hole with hummus.Plant spuds, usually about 5, 6" deep. water well. Stake a trash bag, bottom slit open, over the hole. Unroll the trash bag as the plants grow and continue to add compost and straw to keep them mostly covered. Continue the process until they reach the top of the bag, then cut off the head of the plant. After they flower and begin to turn brown, remove the bag and gather up the spuds.This has not been as detailed as possible, any questions, just ask. Tom "
tom on Saturday 3 March 2012
"Really looking forward to growing potatoes this space-saving way this year. Like I have mentioned in the past I do feel we should NOT be promoting the use of tyres for this. Elsewhere I did read of health risks from contaminants in tyres. "
Clare on Saturday 3 March 2012
"I tried in whiskey barrells last year. Didn't have much success. I would like to grow fingerlings. Same process ? Where would I find seed fingerlings ? "
Gayle on Saturday 3 March 2012
"I have problems with the striped potatoe beetles, no matter where I plant them. My garden is large, but I only have one more area that I can move it. I understand that tomatoes are in the same family, so that also limits my choices. any suggestions?"
Cindy M on Sunday 4 March 2012
"Beneficial nematodes"
TJt on Sunday 4 March 2012
"Sounds interesting...potatoes in containers. What about sweet potatoes?"
Bill on Friday 9 March 2012
"hi you say cut of the head after they have flower on is the head the green leavy part and when i put my spuds in do i leave the top part ponting through the soil or cover the hole tubers i have never done spuds x"
joanne on Tuesday 27 March 2012
"I used straw last year and it worked okay. This year I have some extra peat moss and am wondering if I can use that as the hill material?"
Bonnie on Sunday 1 April 2012
"thanx tom for the advice i have put my potatoes in now i wait for them to grow "
joanne on Monday 2 April 2012
"I wonder if you can maximise the growing by succession, ie start with the earliest, then turf them out to start main crops and follow that with some late spuds for Christmas, all in the same containers and more or less the same compost?"
David on Friday 4 May 2012
"I am a newbie gardener! This year I have a few vegetables in containers, and am getting ready to plant my potatoes in a trash can. The only thing I don't know is what kind of soil is best to plant them in. I have some topsoil and cow manure compost and was thinking of 4 parts topsoil to 1 part compost. Is this acceptable, or do I need a different kind of soil? ANY ADVICE APPRECIATED,,,,,THANKS! =)"
Whitney on Tuesday 29 May 2012
"Help. I planted my potatoes in 50 gallon storage tubs. They are growing fast and tall. I have added soil to them twice and I can't add any more. My plants are now so tall they are bending over the sides. Is this normal? They have not budded yet. Do they need to flower for the potatoes to grow? Any advice would be helpful."
Cyndi on Wednesday 6 June 2012
"Cut off their growing tips "
tee jay on Wednesday 6 June 2012
"Hi Cyndi. Potatoes do grow very vigorously, so no need to be concerned! They will flop over the sides of the container but you can keep them tidy by hemming them in with lines of string supporting by canes if this helps. The best way to check if your potatoes are ready is to just delve into the compost/soil with you hand and feel for the tubers. If they are small, wait a little bit longer. It is possible to harvest one or two tubers while leaving the rest to grow on."
Benedict Vanheems on Wednesday 6 June 2012
"I cut off their growing tips.This forces the plant to put it's energy into producing more and larger potatoes as opposed to producing more plant. Every gardner has their own reasoning."
Tee Jay on Wednesday 6 June 2012
"I am sadiya.Most garden blogs are about Bloom Days and other titles where they mostly post pictures. They are useful to find out names though. Few blogs that actually have help for novices.really good for vegetable gardening.http://learnlandscape.com/container-growing-landscape-design-idea also has a good blog for growing vegetables. It is called Organic Kitchen Gardening … please follow this link http://learnlandscape.com/container-growing-landscape-design-idea"
kona30 on Friday 6 July 2012
"I have had a problem with common scab on my potatoes. Do you know what causes this and how can it be prevented from next years crop. This happened to a certain type last year, 2011 and again on the volunteers that came up this summer. I know not to plant and seed potatoes in this part of my garden again. Thanks, Patricia"
Patricia Stolp on Sunday 5 August 2012
"Hi Patricia. Common scab is, unfortunately, a common problem of potatoes. It's sometimes caused when the soil is either too wet or too day, so ensure good drainage and be sure to water in dry weather. There are a number of scab-resistant varieties of potato available (eg 'Sante' and 'Hermes') so grow these next year."
Benedict Vanheems on Tuesday 7 August 2012
"I like this alternative way to plant potatoes... I believe that's quite challenging."
Becca@plumbingmelbourne on Tuesday 13 November 2012
"I have grown potatoes in containers for 2 years do I have to use new soil also when I brought the bags they tell you to put 2 layers of seed potatoes in but we only got a few potatoes out of it is it best to put 1 layer"
Carol Vockins on Monday 14 January 2013
"Hi Carol. Yes, use fresh soil/compost each year. This will ensure the planting medium isn't exhausted for the new crop and reduces the chances of any soil-borne pests and diseases being carried over to the new crop. I would stick to planting in a single layer. As the plants grow they will produce tubers in upper layers of the soil, so there's really no need to double-up the layers. This will only lead to overcrowded containers, which will ultimately reduce the size of the final potatoes that you harvest."
Benedict Vanheems on Wednesday 16 January 2013
"This year I will be growing my spuds in 30ltr poly pots that can be bought off Ebay. I will be using bog standard compost from a local garden centre, renewing it every year. A good mixture of potato fertilizer, I use Vitax q4, is mixed into the bottom 4" of compost and then just 2 seed potato's put on top and a further covering of 4" of compost. Top up with compost or straw as mentioned above. You should get between 5lb and 10lb per pot, but this does depend on weather, watering and feeding. Good luck."
Chuffa Askew on Friday 1 March 2013
"Hi Chuffa - an excellent suggestion there. Sounds like you're a potato pro! Here's to a good growing season for your spuds."
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 1 March 2013
"Hi Ben and Thanks, but I'm no pro, just love growing spuds on my lottie, mostly for taste. You can see my results if you check out my blog page at http://chuffa.wordpress.com if you or anyone wishes to."
Chuffa Askew on Friday 1 March 2013
"im trying to grow potatoes in bag for the first time,should i use some type of food to help them grow."
vicki on Saturday 27 April 2013
"Hi Vicki. If you use fresh multipurpose/general compost then you shouldn't need to add any plant food. However, as I say in the article, if you are thinning the compost out with garden soil to make it go further, or if you just want to make extra sure, there's certainly no harm in adding a general purpose organic fertiliser such as chicken manure pellets or blood, fish and bone to the compost/soil mix (make sure you mix it in well)."
Benedict Vanheems on Tuesday 30 April 2013
"I was told to plant tansy near potatoes to deter the Colorado Potato Beetle. They like Tansy better than potatoes apparently. Some, of course, will have a go at the potatoes, but I'm told the majority will head for the Tansy. Tansy is very invasive, but if controlled, better than a chemical."
Jessie on Tuesday 30 April 2013
"i started to grow some potatoes last week ,and i forgot to put stones in bottom of bag,is it too late to remove soil and put stones in now. "
vicki on Wednesday 8 May 2013
"Hi Vicki. I wouldn't worry too much - so long as the container/bag you are using has holes in the bottom of it to allow excess water to drain away you should be fine. If on the other hand the container has no drainage holes then I'd suggest it's not too late to carefully unearth the seed potatoes, add holes and additional drainage, then replant. They won't have grown too much over a week."
Benedict Vanheems on Wednesday 8 May 2013
"I am growing Charlotte potatoes in containers and have read that the same compost should not be used to grow potatoes in the containers again. Could you please tell me if it okay to recycle the compost into the garden after the potatoes have cropped as there is such a lot of compost in six containers and seems a shame to waste it."
Jayde on Monday 20 May 2013
"Hi Jayde. You can indeed re-use the compost by adding it to bare ground or as a mulch around established plants. However, I would avoid using it where you are growing potatoes and other members of the potato family - ie tomatoes and aubergines. This will avoid any pest and disease problems. The compost will be quite devoid of nutrients, so I'd see this more as a way of improving soil structure rather than adding more nutrients - these will need to be added from fresh garden compost, manures and organic fertilisers. You could also use the compost in raised beds or for containers of quick-growing salads - just be sure to mix in a boost of organic fertiliser before sowing/planting. As you say - this bulk of compost shouldn't be wasted!"
Benedict Vanheems on Monday 20 May 2013
"Hi all, I live in the UK and am new to growing veg. I have an old rabbit hutch and was wondering if this would be suitable to grow in?? I would prefer to plant potatoes in it but would be grateful for any advice if you think it would be better for something else. Thanks in advance, Nina"
Nina on Tuesday 21 May 2013
"Hi Nina. Yes indeed - anything of a reasonable volume is suitable for growing potatoes. I'd line the hutch with something like polythene, or a few layers of bin liner (garbage sacks for our American readers). Punch holes in the base so excess water can drain away."
Benedict Vanheems on Wednesday 22 May 2013
"Can you use small red potatoes from the store? Do they have to sprout before planting!"
Susan on Monday 3 June 2013
"Hi Susan. You could use potatoes bought from the store but the trouble is they may be carrying disease - seed potatoes bought from a nursery/garden centre will be guaranteed disease free and will be very vigorous. That said, there's no harm in trying (I have done so in the past). If the soil/compost mix is warm there is no need to sprout before planting."
Benedict Vanheems on Monday 3 June 2013
"I left soil and some potatoes in a grow bag last year. Potatoes are growing again in them. Will they be OK to use/eat?"
Moira on Sunday 9 June 2013
"Hi Moira. You could certainly try growing them again to harvest and eat. The only problem is that potatoes left to re-grow like this may be more vulnerable to pest and disease buildup in the soil or compost. But if they are growing again you may as well let them grow on to see what you get. They are contained within the grow bag, so this won't affect soil quality as growing the same crop from year to year in soil would. Good luck with it."
Benedict Vanheems on Monday 10 June 2013
"Thank you. The leaves look really healthy so I will wait and see what the potatoes look like. Thanks again. Great website. "
Moira on Monday 10 June 2013
"This is my 5th year growing in mineral supplement tubs discarded by local cattle farmers. They are about 30 gallon size. I use 6-8" of black dirt/sand/chicken manure compost in the bottom and push my chitted seed down about three inches. I backfill the plants to the top with a mix of 1 5-gallon pail of black dirt mixed with 1.5 5-gallon pails of spaghnum peat moss, and a half pail of chicken compost. I add a second tub with its bottom cut out, which is pushed down into the mix about 4" and is back-filled in the same manner as the bottom tub. When the plant clears the top tub, I mulch the mix to conserve water and insulate the the tub. Two tubs used in this fashion is better than 55-gallon barrels, as the top tub is easily toppled. This mix is light and easy to work with. At the end of the season, I allow the tub mix to compost over the winter, then add more dirt and sand to use as permanent fill for tubs to be used for peppers and kitchen herbs. The plant growth is so vigorous I add a 3rd tub to the top to help contain it. The tubs are nice as I can control PH for plants like blueberries by simply making changes to the mix. I use a masons cement mixer to ensure an even mix. Automatic irrigation drip systems with timers utilising mini drippers and soaker hose also allow me to customize plant needs without much cost and very little daily maintainence. Good luck to all on their garden endeavors."
Tim Johanns on Tuesday 11 June 2013
"hi, im wondering if it too late to start growing potatoes at this time."
vicki on Thursday 27 June 2013
"I'm assuming your in the Northern Hemisphere Vicki? Assuming you are, your best bet is to start off seconding cropping potatoes at the end of August. These are potatoes that have been held back to plant at this time. They're quick growing varieties that will cope with dropping temperatures. Plant them as above, then lift them later on in autumn/fall. If you're lucky you may be able to keep a few over to serve with the Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner! Good luck!"
Benedict Vanheems on Thursday 27 June 2013
"I have 5 whiskey barrels full of potatoes. The stems and leaves are very tall, bushy and heavy. I can't keep them up as they keep breaking or snapping their stems when they fall over the rim of the pots. They are wilting as well. I live in Washington state and the weather has been rainy and cold with a few hot days here and there. Can I add more soil or straw using chicken wire at the top of the barrels to help support them? They are starting to bloom. No sign of potatoes yet. Pease help! Thanks...."
Carol Martinsons on Friday 28 June 2013
"thank you for the help growing potatoes im going to continue to grow potatoes and other vegetables next year."
vicki on Saturday 29 June 2013
"Its probably a bit late in the season to do this but hey ho, I'll tell you any way. I have found that if you mix Alpaca poo with the compost for the spuds, it works a treat. Alpaca poo is weed seed free, due to the Alpaca having to get rid of its food via three stomachs. It doesn't burn the spuds and can be put straight onto crops without the need of it having to be stored and rot down."
Chuffa Askew on Saturday 29 June 2013
"Like Carol M above, I am in the pacific northwest, Victoria BC. This is my first time planting potatoes, and in a container. Like Carol, one of my two plants is blooming. I've not yet dug in to see if there are potatoes yet, as I've got my barrel surrounded by chicken wire because the deer like the foliage so much. Question....clarity on the suggestion to cut the tops/flowers of the plants. Is there a benefit to doing this and do you recommend this? Thank you"
Marie Ellis on Monday 1 July 2013
"Carol M - I'd suggest simply supporting the foliage with chicken wire - I'm not sure there's any use in earthing the potatoes up further with straw. I'm not sure why they are wilting - it could be down to dry compost (this can happen even if it's been raining - push your hand into the compost to check if it's dry or not). Equally, if the barrel hasn't got adequate drainage the compost may be too wet? If the foliage is completely collapsing very quickly your potatoes may have got potato blight. Marie E - The general rule surrounding harvesting of first early potatoes is to check the compost for potatoes once the first flowers appear, but the only real test is to feel for the potatoes. Second earlies can be harvested when quite young, following flowering, or left to grow on all summer long to produce larger potatoes for storing. The same applies to maincrop potatoes. I would say there's no benefit to cutting the flowers off the plants."
Benedict Vanheems on Wednesday 3 July 2013
"My potato plants are enormous, and have been growing for at least 8 weeks, but no flowers yet. I've tried a small red potato grown in the Klamath Valley in Oregon because they are so tasty. I'm starting to wonder if they will flower at all...some of the foliage is starting to turn a little yellow, our porch gets full sun from 7am until around 3pm...any thoughts or recommendations?"
Ben Borkovitz on Friday 5 July 2013
"Hi all from Mass, I started my potato container late May in 20 gal buckets. I used organic compost and after the plants started growing I add some compost mixed with straw. I have two problems. I've got about 13 plants growing at different sizes, so hilling presents a problem as I'm trying not to bury the smaller plants. I've seen a few buds and pinched them to avoid early flowering. Yesterday, I saw a mushroom growing out of one of the drainage holes near the bottom of the bucket. Thought?"
MaryG on Sunday 7 July 2013
"Ben - Not all potato varieties necessarily flower, so it's worth digging down a bit to see if any tubers have formed. If the foliage is turning a little yellow it does imply the plants are maturing. Have a rumble underneath and see if they're ready. MaryG - There's not much that can be done if plants are all growing at different rates in the same container. I'd accept that some stems will be buried, but that they are vigorous enough to push through in time - just so long as the majority of stems aren't swamped. Fungi can feed on organic matter - perhaps spores came in with the straw? I'd pick them off to avoid sapping too much energy from the potatoes, though I don't think they'd do that much harm to them in the grand scale of things. Let us all know how you get on with your spuds!"
Benedict Vanheems on Thursday 11 July 2013
"We were able to find some old bee boxes at a re-use it center and are trying those out this year. For those that are using garbage bags for their potatoes, I would recommend trying to find food grade plastic bags. The use of plastic trash bags for food storage or cooking is not recommended by USDA "... because they are not food grade plastic and chemicals from them may leach into your potatoes."
laurie on Thursday 18 July 2013
"Hi, we got a small yield before the plants pretty much died. They were delicious. Did the hilling like everyone recommended,but for the amount of soil used, the potato harvest was very small. Not sure if I should have fertilized better, used a different variety, or??? Seems like the first time I did this and didn't hill or use much soil, I had a way better yield in terms of cu ft of soil used, however, there are a lot of variables..."
Ben Borkovitz on Sunday 21 July 2013
"I'm a spud newbie. Wonderful find, this website! So much information! I am in Michigan and have been growing 2 reds for about 2 months. I unfortunately planted 2 the [whole] potatoes in a med sized [1 gal.] red clay pot and realized after reading here I repotted the 2 in a 4 gal pot. When i gently popped it out I noticed a massive network of small white roots. I did not disturb it and just put it in the larger pot with more soil and room. My question is about planting whole potatoes vs cut? How will it effect the yield [if any]? I saw no sign of spuds in the white root network. Can you successfully transplant like this with good results? Thanks!! :)"
Becky J on Friday 26 July 2013
"Hi Becky. Glad you like the site - there's plenty here to read! If you transplanted your potatoes without disturbing the roots you should have hopefully got away with it, though this isn't ideal, so try to avoid this next time - now you know the right size of pot to potatoes. Regarding whole versus cut potatoes, you can cut up larger seed potatoes, so long as they have at least two 'eyes' - which will become the shoots from which the foliage grows. Lots of shoots from a potato with many eyes tends to lead to lots of smaller potatoes, while a seed potato with just one or two eyes - or with the shoots/sprouts rubbed out to leave just one or two - will give fewer but larger potatoes. Make sure you always use fresh, bought-in seed potatoes. Ideally they should be about the size of a hen's egg. I hope this white roots yield some good spuds for you!"
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 26 July 2013
"Hello all, Me a spud rookie too,but `i`ve just harvest my first of 5 bags(Pound Shop) of early Charlottes and am very happy with the results.Getting about 5lbs+ per bag and some are very big. I used good quality compost with blood/bone meal sprinkled on the seed and then just earthed up and watered and very happy.They say they are a salad potatoe but these are making lovely chips and roasties. Next bags are Maris Peer seconds so touch wood,i hope these will be as good. Thank you Paul"
Paul on Sunday 28 July 2013
"Thanks Mr. Vanheems :)"
Becky J on Monday 29 July 2013
"Hello all! It's been a month since I have written and I have 2 questions. I noticed that one new little spud is poking up and turning green and has a bite out of it :o I am always battling chipmunks who love dig. I can't keep any bulbs in the ground ever! I dug up this little red spud [not even the size of an egg] and it's 1/2 green where the bite is. Was it ok to dig it up? I was super careful! I also have been starting Sevin dust [worm/insect deterrant. Will this protect from hungry chipmunks as well? Thanks for all this info!"
Becky J on Tuesday 20 August 2013
"Hi, maryG back...my 20 gallon bucket grew and now I've topped with mulch to wait for it to die off. After it flowered (at least one of the many branches did), I've noticed some purple tips and vines have a slightly green/brown tint. The plant is dying from the bottom of the leaves, as expected. Then I moved the bucket only to find lots of beetles of different types. I sprayed some garden dust under the bucket and I'll have to hope they didn't eat my spuds. Is this typical? "
MaryG on Tuesday 20 August 2013
"Hi MaryG. I'm not sure what beetles they could be - they could be one of many thousands of different types! Vine weevils are quite common in containerised plants. I would suggest that you use fresh compost for the next time you grow potatoes. It's probably just bad luck I'm afraid. Fingers crossed that next year sees no beetles in your spuds."
Benedict Vanheems on Thursday 29 August 2013
"Hello. Have a pepper plant which now has small green peppers, although one is turning yellow/red. I haven't fed this plant so will it be OK? Also, can I feed it once the peppers have actually started to develop? Thank you."
moira callaghan on Friday 30 August 2013
"Hi Moire. Peppers need regularly feeding with a high-potash feed (one labelled for tomatoes would be fine). Feed as per instructions on the container - but usually once a week, diluted in water and watered on. Feed from the moment the first flowers appear and right through fruit set and as the fruits colour up. Keep on feeding them!"
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 30 August 2013
"Thank Benedict. I'll have see what happens when I turn the bucket over and get a look at the results. @Moira: Are you in the Massachusetts area? I've had three types of peppers growing since June and I'm just now seeing small peppers popping up on what I thought would be a bust. I'm not sure they'll survive the colder temps we'll be having or how long it will take for them to grow and ripen, but what a surprise it was. I went away for four days, came back and there they were. Nice surprise."
MaryG on Friday 30 August 2013
"Hello all, My potted red potato has not flowered. When does it? It's about 2 months old and 12 inches long. I should not dig up until flowers appear but no flowers :( Thanks"
BeckyJ on Friday 30 August 2013
"Hi Becky. I'd root around in the compost to see if any potatoes have formed - they may be some already formed under there. If they're very small, must leave the plant to grow on and check again in a few weeks."
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 30 August 2013
"Thanks Mr Vanheems! I did see a bunch which looked like a bunch of grapes [bigger]. Can I take out some and the others will grow bigger? Thank you! :) "
BeckyJ on Friday 30 August 2013
"@MaryG. Hi Mary. No, I am in the UK. Good luck with the peppers. One thing about the UK, we never know what the weather will be like! Have had a good summer so far."
moira callaghan on Friday 30 August 2013
"Hi Becky. You can indeed harvest a few potatoes and allow the rest to grow on. Just take care not to disturb the compost too much as you feel around for the tubers. I'd be inclined to only do this once or twice as you check the maturity of the tubers then harvest all at once when they feel like they are the right size."
Benedict Vanheems on Saturday 31 August 2013
"I'm in Portland, Oregon. I started growing spuds two years ago. I never much cared for potatoes....until last year's harvest. My favorite is the German Butterball. I grow above ground in boxes made of cheap framing lumber 2x8's. I start with one box layer and end up with 3 layers. Seems to be working pretty well, but I need to resist the urge to overcrowd the seed potatoes. I've harvested one box thus far, it's about 4 feet x 2.5 feet, and the yield was ~ 17 lbs. In the 2nd box, most of the plants flowered and died down, but some have started growing again and it's early September. Not sure what to do with this one, let the plants go for a bit or harvest my spuds now? also, this year's crop comes from leftovers from last year that I used as seeds, seems to be OK."
Bob K on Tuesday 3 September 2013
"Hi Bob. I'd probably look to harvest those spuds now. Perhaps some have started to re-grow because they think it's already spring!"
Benedict Vanheems on Tuesday 10 September 2013
"would tomato fertilizer be suitable for potatoes in containers, if not will generall fertilizer do"
G will on Friday 13 September 2013
"Hi G Will. I'd use a general purpose fertiliser rather than tomato fertiliser, as tomato fertiliser will be high in potash in order to encourage flowering and fruiting."
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 13 September 2013
"Looking to grow potatoes in barrels or bags this year. I was wondering if when constructing the system should i include a watering tube (drilled pvc pipe, for example)down the center of the barrel to ensure watering reaches the whole plant structure? Or is this just overthinking?"
Barb on Wednesday 26 February 2014
"Hi Barb. That's not a bad idea if your barrel is particularly big as it will help get the water down into the centre of the barrel. However, in most instances this is probably verging on the side of over-engineering! I'd just give it a really good water from the top, watering a few times at one go if necessary to allow the water to seep down. The drilled PVC pipe trick works really well for strawberry planters though. "
Benedict Vanheems on Friday 28 February 2014
"Hi Ben. I,m growing using sacks do u cut the tops before flowering or after. To increase tuber size what do u do "
Manomano on Wednesday 12 March 2014
"Hi Manomano. There's no need to cut the tops off at all - just leave all foliage and flowers to grow. Simply check the size of the tubers occasionally until they reach the desired size. They will be ready when plants start flowering or soon after - it depends on the variety you are growing. To increase tuber size make sure you water regularly - this is key! You can also apply a liquid feed (such as one made from seaweed concentrate) once the plants are growing strongly. But watering to keep the compost moist is crucial."
Benedict Vanheems on Wednesday 12 March 2014
"Really helpful and detailed information about growing potatoes there. I've written a short blog post about my experiences with growing potatoes in bags: http://www.homefarmer.co/growing-potatoes-in-containers/"
Peter Turner on Saturday 22 March 2014
"Hi Ben . Thanx Ben i was confused as this sack thing is a big thing here in Zimbabwe. So the type of liquid feed is not available here but never the less thanx i appreciate for the info."
Manomano on Monday 24 March 2014
"Grateful for this resource, so thank you ! I have four containers ( flexible bags) that my potato plants are thriving in. My problem is, the plants are growing like crazy and have exceeded the depth of their containers ! I do see some flowering on them, as well. Is this too early, should I pinch back or prune back the top growth ?? All four have out grown their containers by 5-7 inches or so. I worked so hard on these, I don't want to lose them and am quite worried, SO HOPING you can help ! Thanks again~ Best Regards, Susi"
Susi on Thursday 10 July 2014
"Hi Susi. It sounds like they're doing well. Don't cut off any of the top growth - leave this intact. You can feel for the potatoes by very carefully rummaging around in the compost and checking to see if they are ready. What do you mean by outgrowth their containers? They are large plants when they get going, so don't worry if they're flopping over the rim of your containers and looking a bit gangly. This is normal!"
Ben Vanheems on Friday 11 July 2014
"Yes, the plants are quite large ! I fed them with special potato plant food when I laid them in and I think that served very well for their growth. It's my first time planting "container" potatoes, but I understood you had to cover the growth with soil as the growth emerged a few inches. Now the containers are full to to brim and the greenery extends beyond the top end of the containers, so I can't cover it any more. I was concerned maybe they grew too much and that my potatoes would be ruined by so much greenery being exposed to sunlight. The greenery must be covered with soil in order to produce the potatoes, yes ?"
Susi on Saturday 12 July 2014
"Hi, I got brave (?) this year set up five grow bags with taters. The first layer was good quality compost topped off at about 8 inches (total) and add some bone meal into the mix. The second time I mulched with some straw. The third layers I added more compost and then the last layer was good potting soil. A few of the plants started to flower and I attempted to dig down and see if I had some new potatoes. The roots are so dense it's hard to dig. I'm nervous to start taring at the plant if it's still growing. Any advice? Thanks."
GardenGroupie on Sunday 13 July 2014
"Hi Susi. It sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing there - so carry on as you are! Hi GardenGroupie. I'd be inclined to very carefully expose the compost of one of the grow bags then. Tip it on its side and 'jump' the compost mix out gradually by flicking the bag and quickly yanking it back as you do so. Expose just the top of the mass of roots and you more easily see if there are any potatoes then, if not, tip the bag back upright and carefully let the compost/root mass drop back into place. My hunch is that if the plants are flowering there should be a few potatoes by now."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 14 July 2014
"I recently re-discovered vegetable gardening and have a nice raised bed and some containers this year. I'm planning on expanding next year. My question is about potatoes in containers: I planted seed potatoes, they grew, I covered them, they grew again, I covered them again, grew the third time and I covered the plants, but now its been a week or so and I don't see any growth coming up. Did I smother the plants on the last covering? I now have read that I should have left about an inch of growth uncovered. Any suggestions will help, Thanks."
Marcie on Monday 14 July 2014
"Many thanks Ben. Curious, is that level of root development that common when growing potatoes in a container? "
GardenGroupie on Monday 14 July 2014
"Hi Marcie. You need to leave about an inch or two uncovered at each earthing up, to allow the plants to photosynthesise and push on through. This may be the reason they haven't come up further. But give it a few more days - they're pretty resilient and may be about to emerge. Always earth up just a few inches at a time until you reach the top of your container. GardenGroupie - potatoes are very prolific - so yes, they can put on prodigious root growth!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 14 July 2014
"Ok think I might give this growing container potato thing a try. Spring is a bit off at this point I live in the Midwest it's early Feb. When can I Expect "seed potatoes" to be available to purchase? Or might I consider a store bought bag? As well, When might I begin the process? Thank you Potato Rookie.....Juls"
Juls on Saturday 7 February 2015
"I had very good results last year. I grew four different potato varieties in black grow bags. This time I'll be a bit more patient and wait for harvest time instead of picking around the edges for new potatoes. The red thumb fingerlings were so good roasted. Can't wait to get rid of the piles of snow and get my hands in the dirt!"
GardenGroupie on Saturday 7 February 2015
"Hi Juls. Seed potatoes, in the UK at least, are out for sale right now. Go to any good plant nursery/gardening centre and you can find them for sale. You can start the process off as soon as you get them home. Take them out of their nets/bags and lay them in trays so the 'eyes' where the shoots will appear are facing upwards. Keep them in a light, cool place (but frost free). The shoots will slowly sprout. They can be planted late spring. You're aiming for short, stubby shoots before planting."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 9 February 2015
"I've just planted my first early spuds in the poly pots and have given instructions on my blog at www.chuffa.wordpress.com if any one wants to check it out"
Chuffa on Friday 6 March 2015
"I've been gardening since I was a kid. But this year is a first on growing potatoes. I live in Utah, U.S.A... I'm getting ready to plant some in the ground and a few in a pot, is it to late to plant them now that we're out of the danger of frost, or does that matter with potatoes? I purchased my seed potatoes from a nursery, and they have a lot of white sprouts on them. When I plant them, do I plant them with the sprouts facing up or down? As I said this is my first time with potatoes! Also do I plant the potatoe whole or do I cut it into pieces? As I said they have a lot of white sprouts, should I remove some of them before I plant? Also do I add the fertilizer with both at first plant or later? It won't burn the sprouts will it? Sorry for so many questions, but I don't want to mess it up. Thanks in advance! SallySG."
Sally Suzette Gallardo on Saturday 2 May 2015
"I say...stick 'em in the ground and see what happens. We started growing potatoes 3-4 years ago and I wouldn't consider planting without them. I was never a big spud fan....until I grew my own, they are fantastic. If you face the sprouts upside-down, you'll likely just delay a tad their push through the ground. I was certain I harvested all our spuds last year. But, sure enough, now I see so many leftover volunteers from last year looking really healthy. Also, we re-use our potatoes from last year. Been doing that since we started, I find seed potatoes to be pricey. Haven't had an issue. Grow some German Butterballs, you won't regret it."
Bob K (Portland, OR) on Sunday 3 May 2015
"I cut big ones into smaller chunks, as long as each piece has a few eyes or sprouts. I then let them sit for a day or two to 'skin over'. We do nothing fancy to our soil other than throw mulch on it over the winter and keep it topped up with our kitchen-scrap compost...and an occasional topping up with horse manure compost. Our dirt is full of worms, I figure that's a good sign. If you succeed with your spuds, you will be blown away by how tasty they are!"
Bob K (Portland, OR) on Sunday 3 May 2015
"Thanks Bob K for the info. I guess my soil is gonna be good, cause I've got a lot of worms also."
Sally Suzette Gallardo on Sunday 3 May 2015
"How do you support the shoots once they're above the top of the bag? I've got several varieties ('Rose Finn Apple'...'German Butterball'...'Princess Laratte') growing in 15 and 20-gal. Smart Pots, and after just 3-4 weeks the growth is well above the top of the container. I thought I'd try containers to lessen the insect/disease problems, but How much higher will they grow? Thanks."
Alan Grossberg on Monday 6 July 2015
"Hi Alan. The foliage can grow to about 2ft (60cm) tall or more. In pots it can sometimes flop over the sides - this is perfectly normal. You can support the foliage, for neatness, if you wish, using string tied between canes pushed in around the edge of the pots."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 6 July 2015
"Hello Ben...Thanks for the reply. One more question: if I don't support them, will the stems break when trailing over the sides, or are they flexible and strong enough so that in essence it's similar to any trailing plant?"
Alan Grossberg on Monday 6 July 2015
"It seems the less we mess with our potato plants, the better our yield. My old world Portuguese neighbor taught us to mound around them a little bit a couple times when the plants are young...and then leave them alone. I do spot-check them now and then, tossing a little soil over any exposed potatoes. Love those German Butterballs!"
Bob K (Portland, OR) on Monday 6 July 2015
"Hi Alan. My experience is that they just flop over without breaking. I'd only support the stems from an aesthetic point of view - but they don't actually need it."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 6 July 2015
"Hello Ben... I'm short on potting soil but have a surplus of good straw. Can I hill up my potatoes in pots with the straw until I get more soil (and a small patch in the ground as well), or do they prefer soil around them? Thanks."
Alan Grossberg on Monday 13 July 2015
"Hi Alan. You can use straw to finish hilling up the potatoes. Good luck with your crop - hope you get lots of spuds!"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 14 July 2015
"I have grown first/second early potatoes in bags (as well as main crop in the ground) for the last few years and have been generally disappointed in the yield in bags. But having read a lot of comments on this site I reckon I may be a bit short on the watering. But this year I grew a new variety in the UK called Jazzy in the 12inch buckets that our supermarkets display flowers in. They are generally prepared to sell them for about 10p each - just drill drainage holes in the bottom. Anyway I Sowed one seed potato in each bucket in early March and each pot yielded about 1.5 kilos of lovely baby potatoes. In the same buckets I have just sown 1 Charlotte seed ready for Christmas so will watch the watering - its much easier to check watering as you can pick them up."
Alan Corbett on Monday 31 August 2015
"Hi Alan. It sounds like you're onto a winner there - great stuff! Being able to pick up the container to judge their moisture content is so handy too. Check out my latest blog entry on growing potatoes for Christmas too."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 31 August 2015
"Thanks so much for making this! I have never grown potatoes like this and look forward to doing it. I finally found the dark purple potatoes that I love at the store and I am going to stick them into egg containers right now :D I did not know about the layering of soil and I think I will try a little soil and a little straw as another person commented...it should work because I have seen where people use straw bails to plant them in too.."
Leah on Thursday 17 March 2016
"That's brilliant Leah. Let us know how you get on with the straw/soil mix. Good luck!"
Ben Vanheems on Friday 18 March 2016
"Good website"
John turner on Saturday 14 May 2016
"I live in central Texas. Growing my first batch of potatoes. Container style in a whiskey barrel. I used organic russets and last week planted three whites after allowing the cuts to heal for two days. The whites popped up and in a week were almost six inches high. Others are still green. Waiting for the brown out and hoping the first batch will be good. I buy almost all organic and hoping the chemicals are at a minimum. They sit on my back patio and get all early morning sun. "
Mike on Saturday 4 June 2016
"Hi Mike. Sounds like you've got a good system there for your potatoes. The whiskey barrel-style containers sound very attractive. Let us know how you get on with this season's potatoes."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 6 June 2016
"We tried potatoes in pots this year, and continued to earth them up as they grew. We just harvested them, and found that all of the potatoes were in the bottom of the pot - none formed in any of the earthed up areas. Any suggestions as to why this happened and what we could be doing wrong? The plants had stopped growing and were drying out when we harvested."
Susan Turner on Sunday 11 September 2016
"Hi Susan. I'm not entirely sure why this has happened. It could be down to a number of reasons. Make sure that the material you earth up with is consistent. It shouldn't be too heavy - compost/potting soil is ideal. Make sure you earth up bit by bit, to give the plants enough time to adapt between earthings up. Make sure the pots are kept well watered in dry weather too - and equally, don't let them get sodden (make sure they've adequate drainage holes in the base). Hopefully you'll have better luck next year."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 14 September 2016
"Hi there, I found your site by way of Google whilst looking for a comparable subject, your site came up, it seems good. I've bookmarked it in my google bookmarks. Hello there, just changed into alert to your weblog thru Google, and located that it's really informative. I am going to be careful for brussels. I will appreciate for those who continue this in future. Numerous people will probably be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!"
Toney on Monday 3 October 2016
"Hi Toney. Many thanks for the kind words. I hope you find the site useful."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 4 October 2016
"This is the best article I've seen regarding growing potatoes in containers. There is one point I'm confused about though. You suggest 10 litres of growing medium per seed potato then go on to say that 4 could be grown in a dustbin. I've checked my old bin and it holds a bit over 80 litres, so should it be 20 litres per seed potato? I have 10 bags measuring 22" diameter by 18" tall which would take 5 by that measure (110 litres)."
Ronald Maxwell on Tuesday 8 November 2016
"Hi Ronald. The confusion is probably down to me I'm afraid! About 10 litres per potato is correct. However, a dustbin is tall and thin, so it gives a good deep growing area, but not much room for all the foliage growth, which is why I stated four per dustbin. So yes, four per dustbin (or up to, say, five) would probably be the limit, but the extra 'room' for the tubers will result in a bigger-than-average harvest."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 8 November 2016
" I think I'll stick with 5 for mine then. Thanks Ben, for your guidance."
Ronald Maxwell on Tuesday 8 November 2016
"Given that you should cover the leggy stems to encourage tuber growth, what if they're in a tower and the greenery is extending from the sides? "
Carla on Sunday 9 April 2017
"Hi Carla. Aim to earth up the potting soil as far as you can possibly go. As long as there is plenty of volume of potting soil in the tower for the tubers to develop, you should have yourself a nice little crop."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 9 April 2017
"Regarding the question earlier about common scab. I've heard that growing in a more acidic medium avoids scab, is that okay for potatoes? I've planted some in ericaceous and others in general purpose to see what happens."
Ronald Maxwell on Monday 10 April 2017
"Just out of interest, I have planted potatoes in 8 bags, each 18” square with 100 litres of compost, but varied growing medium to compare results. 6 tubers are in each bag in 2 layers except one which has a single layer of 3. One bag with Swift is in general purpose peat free, one of Swift in ericaceous peat free. One bag of Charlotte is in ericaceous peat free, one in peat based ericaceous. The others are maincrops, one in general purpose peat free, the rest in ericaceous peat free. They will all be treated the same, so we will see what difference growing medium and for one, the number of tubers, makes."
Ronald Maxwell on Monday 10 April 2017
"Southeast Mass, I had a nice crop of red potatoes last year, then I cut one of them, there was a worm inside. How do I prevent this from happening again? When is the best time to start planting potatoes in pots? Thank you"
Marie M Valcy on Tuesday 11 April 2017
"Hi Ronald. I understand that alkaline soils are more prone to scab, so tending towards a more neutral or mildly acidic soil may work, though I fear an ericaceous soil could be too acidic. Nevertheless, in the spirit of scientific enquiry it's definitely worth an investigation, and it will be fascinating to learn of your results - please do share them with us."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 18 April 2017
"Hi Marie. Now (i.e. mid spring) is an excellent time to start planting potatoes in pots. As soon as the weather is a bit warmer. I'm not sure what your 'worms' could have been in the potato tubers. Possibly wireworm? "
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 18 April 2017
"You can read about treating/avoiding wireworms here: bigbughunt.com/bug-guides/us-and-canada/wireworm/"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 18 April 2017
"Hi, i live in western arizona, along the colorado river, (hot summers), last year my lady and i grew, purple, small new pots, and some yukon gold, from some store bought that started sprouting in the pantry. i do not live in the same place, my garden is much smaller, my problem, nobody in this town sells seed potatoes, so im going to use the store bought and see if i can get them to grow in containers, wish me luck, as the weather gets warmer i do have to put a sun shade to keep my vegetables from getting sunburned."
joe parisia on Thursday 20 April 2017
"Hi Joe. Good luck with this year's potatoes. I think a sun shade is a good idea to keep them cool and happy."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 20 April 2017
"I was in Cyprus 1995-1999 and put some sprouting shop bought potatoes into the (rich) soil at the back of our house. This was soil mixed with builders rubble and other stones etc.. To my surprise they started to grow so I just nurtured them along. I didn't know what to do next but let them continue a bit and put my hand in to dig out some early ones and they were absolutely delicious. This was the Cypriot red volcanic soil not like the U.K. so they were 'proper'. i haven't tried again until this year in the U.K. so I'm hoping my Mozart seed potatoes (10 in all) and 5 Anya seed potatoes show me I'm doing it all right. The foliage is growing well - no flowers yet but hopefully soon - earthed up and now just sat waiting for 2 x 35 litre pots and 1 smaller plant pot (anyas). "
Rocky on Saturday 20 May 2017
"Hi Rocky. That's brilliant. Please let us know how they get on. Some recent warm and wet weather in the UK should be helping them along."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 22 May 2017
"Hi, I"ve been reading up a little about 'hilling' potatoes. I am growing Yukon Gold potatoes - and from what I read it seems like these are 'determinate' potatoes and therefore I won't get anymore potatoes if I hill up the plant. Does that mean I planted the wrong type of potatoes in my garbage bin container? I only filled the bin up with 7 inches of soil and was planning on hilling it later on as the plant grows - will this work or do I need to start over? Any advice would be appreciated. "
Sam on Monday 22 May 2017
"Hi Sam. I wasn't aware that some types of potatoes do not require hilling. The whole reason behind hilling is to create more soil volume for the tubers to grow in to, without turning green when they hit the light. I would be inclined to hill up your potato plants as you planned and as advised in the article. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 5 June 2017
"My leggy tub potato plants are being propped up with wire netting but no sign of flowers yet. Will this happen soon?"
Patsy on Saturday 1 July 2017
"My leggy potato plants are being propped up with chicken wire in a tub but no flowers on them yet. Will they produce potatoes?QG9Q8"
Patsy on Saturday 1 July 2017
"Where can I find an answer to my potato query above please."
Patsy on Saturday 1 July 2017
"Hi Patsy. It's important your potatoes get enough sunshine to really thrive. Are they growing in a very shady area, which could explain the leggy foliage. The compost/potting soil needs to be kept moist but never overly wet, which can cause plants to rot and encourage pests such as slugs. Plants take varying periods of time to flower, depending on the variety of potato you are growing, so it flowers may be imminent or a few weeks away yet. But as long as plants are growing strongly I wouldn't worry too much about the flowers. You can always dig down to check on the size of the developing tubers."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 3 July 2017
"Firstly congratulations! This post is having messages for almost 5 1/2 Years and still active. My query is instead of repeated hilling, what if the container is filled to the brim the first time the seed potato is sowed. Will it work or you need to hill 4 inch a time waiting for the leaves to show up and grow taller?"
Vignesh on Saturday 12 August 2017
"Hi Vignesh I recently harvested my first ever crop of potatoes from containers about 18-20 inches high. I religiously put 4 in soil then the seeds then another 4in then each time the foliage reached 8in added another 4in of soil. Might as well not have bothered as I got a good crop in a single layer and nothing at all above it. No side shoots."
SteveP on Saturday 12 August 2017
"I tried growing potatoes in containers this year (really large pots). After planting them in the bottom of the pot, I added soil in layers as the plants grew. I harvested them after the plants died back, but all the potatoes were in the bottom 1/3 of the pot. Is that normal? What can I do to help encourage them to take up more vertical space in the container? It would be nice to get a bigger crop next year."
Alexandra on Sunday 13 August 2017
"My 2nd earlies (Charlotte) produced 4.3kg from 2 bags which were 18" square and 24" deep, a very good harvest. I filled them to 1/3 then planted 3 seed potatoes, another 1/3 on top then 3 more seed potatoes placed so that they weren't above the others then added the final 1/3 compost. I have tried the grow and top up method, this worked much better."
Ronald Maxwell on Sunday 13 August 2017
"I find Rocky's comment interesting. I suspect volcanic soil would be somewhat acidic due to the presence of elements like Sulpher. I grew using ericaceous compost this year and so far it has been a success. I also found peat free gave better results than peat based compost. I suspect potatoes like the more open structure."
Ronald Maxwell on Sunday 13 August 2017
"Thanks for your comments Vignesh, Steve, Alexander and Ronald. Hilling/adding soil in stages is important so you don't swamp the plants and overwhelm them. The foliage needs to get enough light, and tubers planted too deep will have a delayed start as they struggle to reach the surface. Adding the potting soil/compost in stages means the foliage can play catch up quickly each time. Ronald - I like your idea of planting another layer of seed potatoes, I may well have to give this a go next year!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 14 August 2017
"Thanks, Ben. I tried it because people were saying how well it worked and it seems to be true. "
Ronald Maxwell on Monday 14 August 2017
"Potatoes Grown in Ericaceous Compost. The main purpose is to test the yield of potatoes grown in bags using ericaceous compost. Secondary tests are to compare peat based and peat free composts. Eight polypropylene bags were used each measuring 18” square and 24” deep. Each had 4 drainage holes made at ground level. Each was filled with 100 litres of compost. All but one had 6 seed potatoes planted in two layers of 3, the first layer a third of the way up in the compost from the bottom, the second two thirds of the way up. 5 of the 8 bags contained ericaceous peat free compost. The bags were planted up during the 4th week of March 2017 having been chitted in a cold greenhouse for 6 weeks beforehand. There were some losses due to mice with Sarpo Kifli which is why only 3 seed potatoes remained. Sarpo Axona was infected with blight but half of the plants escaped it so there was still a harvest, though smaller than otherwise might have been expected. Six different varieties of seed potato were used including one first early, one second early, two early main crop and two late main crop. In the case of the first and second earlies, direct comparisons were made by planting the same variety in two bags with different composts. The table below shows the initial planting conditions and the eventual yield. # Variety Maturity Compost seeds harvest Yield 1 Swift 1st Early Ericaceous Peat Free 6 10 1kg 2 Swift 1st Early General Peat Free 6 10 1kg 3 Charlotte 2nd Early Ericaceous Peat Free 6 16 2.5kg 4 Charlotte 2nd Early Ericaceous Peat Based 6 16 1.8kg 5 Sarpo Kifli Early Main General Peat Free 3 18 1.8kg 6 Blue Danube Early Main Ericaceous Peat Free 6 18 2.7kg 7 Cara Late Main Ericaceous Peat Free 6 20 2.0kg 8 Sarpo Axona Late Main Ericaceous Peat Free 6 20 1.1kg There were, of course, too few plants to make this a reliable trial but nevertheless there were indications from which I have tentatively concluded that potatoes grow in ericaceous compost at least as well as they do in general purpose neutral compost. At least in the case of the 2nd earlies, peat free compost gave a better result than peat based perhaps due to the looser texture. "
Ronald Maxwell on Tuesday 15 August 2017
"Hi Robert. Thank you so much for sharing your results. It's great to carry out trials like this and see first-hand what works best. As your results suggest, there may be a slight bias towards peat-free ericaceous compost. It may be worth repeating the test next year, perhaps using just one variety and have four bags each of the general peat-free and four bags of the ericaceous peat-free for a more rigorous comparison. It's really useful to see your results. I would imagine peat-free is better as it is looser and wouldn't slump down as easily as perhaps peat-based composts might. It's also a lot better for the environment - peat locks in carbon and is home to a very complex habitat. Thanks again for sharing."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 16 August 2017
"Thank you, Ben. I will do as you suggest next year. For the effort involved I don't think it was worth growing Swift so will concentrate on 2nd earlies and main crop, 4 bags of the former and 8 of the latter. All will be peat free, half will be ericaceous, half will be neutral compost."
Ronald Maxwell on Wednesday 16 August 2017
"Just out of interest, as far as potato varieties are concerned when growing in bags, by far the best results were obtained with Charlotte and Sarpo Blue Danube. This was not just by yield but the size of the tubers as well."
Ronald Maxwell on Wednesday 16 August 2017
"Homebase are selling off 60 litre Flexitubs for £3.50 each. Just bought 10 view spuds"
SteveP on Wednesday 16 August 2017
"Ben, your advice would be appreciated. If I am going to grow just one main crop variety I need a good all rounder for cooking. From what I can see online, King Edward seems to be the favourite. Maris Piper and Arron Victory might be contenders but King Edward's disease resistance seems better. What are your thoughts?"
Ronald Maxwell on Thursday 17 August 2017
"Hi Ronald. King Edward is a very common variety for a very good reason - it's a really solid performer that consistently gives good results. Make sure you source seed from a good, reliable stockist. In the UK, seed potatoes are often grown in Scotland where there seems to be less of a problem with disease etc, so it's easier to guarantee good, clean seed potatoes."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 25 August 2017
"My sole venture in spud growing (see above) was with some unknown variety forgotten in the bottom of a small sack from Morrisons. They seemed to do fine except they had not read the book about multi layers when I earthed up. Do I really need to buy seed?"
SteveP on Friday 25 August 2017
"Hi Steve. The advantage of using seed potatoes is that they are guaranteed to be clear of any disease, and are primed to do really well. That said, you can sometimes get away with using sprouted potatoes from the supermarkets. But I would generally recommend using seed potatoes, as you'll get better results, so worth the money."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 25 August 2017

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