Sunday, March 14, 2010

Growing Potatoes in Containers

Last year, I experimented with growing potatoes in containers.  I have a small garden, so planting them in the ground takes up too much space.  The potatoes were super easy to grow in the containers.    I had some left over potatoes from last year that started to chit (grow sprouts), so I decided to try starting them.  I think that these leftovers are Swedish peanut fingerling potatoes and red gold potatoes.  I worry a little about disease because these potatoes are not certified seed potatoes. However, since they will be in their own containers and in a separate garden from my other potatoes, I decided that it's worth the gamble.  I figure that I have nothing to lose, and quite frankly, I need to be playing around in the garden.

It's a little early to plant potatoes in Indianapolis, but the daytime temperatures are projected to be in the upper 50s for most of the next two weeks.  If we get beastly weather, I can always bring the containers inside and store them in my laundry room temporarily.  I intend to start my certified seed potatoes soon.  Since I actually have some money invested in them, I'm going to be more conservative about when I plant them.  I can hold off for a week or two until I'm sure that the weather will be warm enough to plant them.

The leftover chitted potatoes

I'm going to grow these 'extra' potatoes in the small vacant city lot/hidden garden at the end of the alley near my house.  Last year, my neighbor and I cleaned out all the trash and tree debris, cut down diseased trees, and started a raised bed.  She tested the soil and it's fine.  This year we will add more raised beds to the garden.

The hidden garden at the end of the alley

Here's how I started:

First, I mixed together some soil and compost.

Then I put a shovel full of the mixture into a tree-sized plastic nursery pot with good drainage.  Potatoes benefit from the compost because it conditions the soil and provides some disease resistance.

Next, I added a couple of handfuls of oak and other leaves to the pots to provide a little acidity since we have alkaline soil.  The leaves also help to lighten the soil mixture.  On top of the leaves, I placed 4 potatoes about 5 inches apart.

Then I added another layer of soil/compost mixture on top of the potatoes.

Finally, I added a couple of hands full of leaves on top of the soil mixture.  

Over the spring and summer, I will add compost, leaves, and maybe a little soil on top of the potatoes as the sprouts get to be 4 inches tall. I will add enough 'stuff' to cover an inch of them stem, so that at least 3 inches of potato foliage are exposed above the soil line. I will water regularly when it doesn't rain enough so that the potatoes don't go through dry spells.  About a week after the potatoes bloom, I'll start stealing some new potatoes.  Then I will wait to harvest the full grown potatoes until after the foliage dies back.  All I have to do to harvest the potatoes is to tip the pot over and pick out the spuds.

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