You want to grow the tasty, colorful, and often heirloom potatoes you see at farmers’ markets and local restaurants but can’t find in stores. However, you do not have enough room. Why not cultivate them in nursery pots? Even if you only have a small patio, container gardening can provide you with a small bounty of spuds ready to boil, bake, fry, or roast. Homegrown potatoes are tastier and more tender than store-bought potatoes, just like homegrown tomatoes. It can also be a lot of fun for you and your children to grow them in containers.
Potatoes require a lot of space and soil in a garden for “hilling” (periodically mounding soil around all but the tops of the potato vines; this encourages tuber production). A few potato hills can suffocate a large portion of your garden. The amount of space needed in a home for a row or two can be prohibitively costly. Growing vertically in containers, potatoes Hilling is straightforward and contained within the pot. If you provide your spuds with the proper soil and moisture conditions, they will produce a bumper crop in relation to the container size.
Nursery pots allow you to experiment with various heirloom potatoes and spud colors, such as yellow Finns, purple Majesty, red Cloud, and Adirondack blue, all neatly separated in their own container. Fingerlings can be grown in one container, while late-season keepers can be grown in another. Harvesting container-grown potatoes are also easier and more exciting than digging them from the ground, which can be enjoyable as well.
Potatoes grown in pots can even add a decorative touch to patios and landscapes. Potatoes bloom in a beautiful way before the growing season is over. Sweet potato vines cascading over pots are particularly appealing. Potatoes grown in plant containers follow the same procedures as those grown in the ground. In addition to compost and soil, they can be raised in coir, perlite, and other media that make growing simple and tidy. Growers have had success with a wide range of pots and containers, including chicken wire pots, bins built from kits or from scratch, and even plastic totes and recycled buckets.
Potatoes thrive in large pots of varying sizes. They should be at least 14 inches wide at the base and deep enough to allow for hilling as the season progresses. For each start, use at least two dry gallons of soil (the Royal Horticultural Society of England recommends eight liters of soil for each potato start, which is slightly less than two dry gallons). More is never a bad thing. Overcrowding will result in smaller harvests of smaller spuds at the start. Potatoes, which are typically planted 10 inches apart, can become a little (but only a little) crowded when planted in nursery pots. A 14-inch-diameter pot with a 14-inch-diameter bottom will accommodate three starts. The greater the depth of the pot, the better, but it should be at least this deep.