Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Growing potatoes in containers

This is a cross post from my blog over on Mother Earth News.

I've been growing potatoes in bins in our backyard for five years now. I started off using large, plastic storage containers that I drilled holes in for drainage and filled with a few inches of compost. As the potato plants grew, I "hilled" them with more soil.

Unfortunately, I have been less than attentive over the years and generally left the potato plants to get a little too tall before hilling them, which just meant that I probably wasn't getting the optimum yield. Last year, I didn't even really bother with getting potato "seeds" from the nursery and just let what was leftover in the bins grow. Needless to say, we hardly got anything from that experiment.

One thing I did notice, however, due to the paltry amount of potatoes, was that the bin got really soggy. The drainage holes I made just weren't doing their job and the potatoes that did grow were squishy and waterlogged.

Using grow bags
Instead of growing the potatoes in the containers again this year (one completely had degraded due to years of weather and sunlight), I decided to try growing potatoes in grow bags. The bags I ended up getting are felt-like and have a porous fabric that allows excess water to drain and the roots to breathe. Quite a difference from their last environment.

Hilling with straw and soil
One additional thing I'm doing differently this year is hilling the potatoes with layers of straw and soil. In previous years I hilled with just soil and it was always a pain digging through all that dirt to get to the goods. Over the years I had read that you can use straw. I didn't fully believe that just straw would work so I decided to use a combination layering technique of straw and soil.

So far, the potatoes are growing like crazy, but they grew like crazy in the old bins as well. I won't know if there's going to be any improvement until I harvest them, but I'm keeping my hopes up.

Do you grow potatoes? If so, do you grow them in bins?

17 comments:

Dr. Susan Rubin said...

I'm doing the exact same thing you are. Using those sacklike containers and alternating straw/soil. I've got my fingers crossed!

Zaira said...

I want to grow some potatoes in pots! I wonder if they'd work well here in TX if I put them somewhere that's shaded post of the day?

The hilling - what exactly is the purpose of it? adding more growing space? or...?

Anisa @ the LazyHomesteader.com said...

This is our first year growing potatoes ever! We are trying them in the ground. I also want to try them in a circular upright tower thingy like I saw in a magazine, but that's only gonna happen if I get offa my lazy butt! I might even be too late with those! Here's a pic - I just like the look and we have extra seeds potatoes, so I though (if I manage to get it together) I'd try it. http://www.sunset.com/garden/fruits-veggies/how-to-grow-potatoes-in-towers-00418000068323/

eatclosetohome said...

I have not found that hilling increases my yields. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong, or not using the right kinds of potatoes? All I do now is plant the potato as deep as my trowel will go (6" deep in a raised bed), smooth the dirt over, and lay a flake of straw over the top as moisture-retaining mulch. Come back when the tops are starting to die back and harvest.

Ellen said...

I'm growing potatoes this year. Started some in a half whiskey barrel. (I hope I drilled enough drainage holes!) I had run out of room by then so I'm growing a second batch in the old compost pile. The first time I grew potatoes it was by accident, having thrown softened sprouted ones from the store into the compost pile. So hopefully the ones I purposely plant there will do as well!

Deb Fitz said...

This is my first year growing in containers ... 4 potato boxes and 3 wine barrels ... so far, so good ...all of them are up and doing well : )

Anonymous said...

Towers & buckets for potatoes:

http://onestrawrob.com/2009/10/tech/

Anonymous said...

In the past, I have grown potatoes in the ground, but this year, I also started some in a 3-foot diameter, 4-foot tall roll of poultry netting, aka chicken wire. I have been adding a 50/50 mix of straw and compost as they have grown. They are now about 5 foot tall. I can't wait to see how they yield compared to my in-ground spuds.

knutty knitter said...

We just put a couple into a straw bale and left them to it. The results were rather good :) ( on my blog kneedly knots for anyone so inclined)

viv in nz

Annie Jones said...

We tried containers 2 years ago with only modest results. We tried towers built with chicken wire, soil and compost last year and got only a handful of potatoes from 5 towers.

This year, we planted straight into the ground, hilling with straw and soil as needed. We'll see if we get better results.

Christina said...

My DH did a terrible job digging up potatoes last year, so we have another full row of volunteers where last year's were.

I went ahead with my plan to container grow this year, though. (Having the seed potatoes already!) I scavenged large plastic pots (from trees, shrubs) and am growing them in full compost. Am trying not to water them too much, and just finished adding compost up to the tops of the containers. We shall see! I did some math to calculate how many seed potatoes I could put in bins my size, based on the grow-bag recommendations...

Kelly said...

What is this 'hilling' you're all talking about? I've never grown potatoes but I'd like to try. Thanks!

Shreela said...

I tried purple potatoes in a container with lousy drainage, but did not hill. My results in Houston were dismal.

I'll try a bag, with straw, and start them earlier next year.

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

We've been growing potatoes in beds, but I was concerned about the amount of space they took up in the garden. I'm not a square foot gardener, however I like to maximize use of my beds.

This year we have 2 beds in the main garden which are chock full of potatoes, both purchased and volunteers from last year. I have 2 more beds on the other side of the house full of volunteers, plus other veggie seeds. And, we're growing potatoes in containers that I found at Home Depot. However, I am leery of using plastic. I'd love to hear more about the growing bags and hear how well they work.

Almost forgot - I am trying to hill all the potatoes more. I hate losing potatoes to sun scald which isn't very frugal!

Michelle said...

We threw some in the ground on a whim, and sure enough they started growing. Unfortunately they didn't last long enough to produce anything, but since potatoes are a staple food in my house (and organic potatoes get expensive), we want to give growing them a serious try.

Thanks for sharing your growing experience!

Peace,
Michelle @ http://greenearthbazaar.com :)

Tanya said...

This is our first year growing potatoes, and we are growing them in the ground. We also joined a local potato-growing co-op where we have a very large field. We planted about the same time in both places. Ours look bigger, although the co-op location is full sun and our location is not, but we have been watering our own, where the field ones only get it when it rains.

Brenda said...

We tried three years in a row to grow potatoes in a box where you add to the sides as the potatoes grow and you add more dirt, similar to your bins but wooden boxes instead.

Major fail every year. So much work to get more and more dirt to add to the box (the first year, anyway) and very hands on care to make sure you add the dirt before the vines get too long.

We aren't doing it anymore. Just not a good option for us but if someone finds a good way...

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