10.1.12 Container grown potatoes

One of the challenges of growing potatoes in our home garden is having enough space to accommodate their needs. It’s recommended that they be planted no more than once within three seasons to avoid soil borne diseases, and shouldn’t be rotated with strawberries, tomatoes, legumes (beans or peas), since these crops can be infected with some of the same diseases that infect potatoes. Harvesting potatoes from raised beds adds another difficulty.

We were intrigued by Liz’s approach at Suburban Tomato, and started experimenting last year with growing potatoes in containers. Our first attempt yielded a meager crop, however, the ease of hilling and harvesting made it worth trying again. Armed with what we learned from last season, we set up five containers and planted them with two varieties of potatoes — Yukon Gold and Red Cloud — from Wood Prairie Farm, a small organic family farm in Maine that’s also been involved in challenging Monsanto.

The first year of using wooden containers, we placed gravel at the bottom to aid drainage, then found it difficult to separate the gravel from the used soil after harvesting. Now, in place of the gravel, all of the wooden containers have drainage holes drilled through their bottoms. The seed potatoes were green-sprouted before planting by leaving them in the basement with access to light. They are then placed whole and uncut on top of 2 inches of soil in each container, then covered with an additional 3 inches of soil. The potato plants were hilled up with a dirt-compost mix; we’ve found straw too damp, while mulch attracted mice and voles. At the end of harvest, the soil is marked to keep it from being reused in beds where nightshades are being grown.

Caution: extreme garden geekery ahead. Two of the Yukon Gold seed potatoes were planted in each of three containers — one wooden and raised on bricks; another wooden and placed directly on the ground; and the third a fabric container that we purchased at the same time as the seed potatoes. The first container — wooden and raised on bricks — yielded a total of 3 lb. 6 oz. Yukon Golds, or 1 lb. 11 oz. per seed (shown above).

The second container — wooden and placed directly on the ground — yielded 4 lb. 2 oz. of Yukon Golds, or 2 lb. 1 oz. per seed. In addition to a higher yield, the soil was filled with earthworm activity. In comparison, the raised containers seemed to drain too quickly, while the other containers seemed to benefit from being placed directly on the ground, affording them a more even moisture level by capillary action.

The third container — fabric placed directly on the ground — yielded 5 lbs. 4 oz. of Yukon Golds. This higher yield may be due to the fact that the fabric container was larger than the wooden ones. The fabric kept the soil moist but also was a barrier to earthworms.

The last two containers, both wooden, were planted with Red Cloud. The raised container yielded 3 lb. 11 oz., or 1 lb. 13.5 oz. per seed potato (shown above). The container placed directly on the ground (shown below) gave us a whopping 7 lb. 8 oz. of Red Cloud, an unfair advantage as it was planted with three instead of two seed potatoes. When this is accounted for, the yield is still a high of 2 lb. 8 oz. per seed potato.

Summary

1. Yukon Gold, raised wooden container: 3 lb. 6 oz. / 1 lb. 11 oz. per seed
2. Yukon Gold, unraised wooden container: 4 lb. 2 oz. / 2 lb. 1 oz. per seed
3. Yukon Gold, unraised fabric container: 5 lb. 4 oz. / 2 lb. 10 oz. per seed
4. Red Cloud, raised wooden container: 3 lb. 11 oz. / 1 lb. 13.5 oz. per seed
5. Red Cloud, unraised wooden container: 7 lb. 8 oz. / 2 lb. 8 oz. per seed

11 oz. of seed potatoes yielded a total of 23 lb. 15 oz. potatoes. Overall, the containers placed directly on the ground had higher yields than the raised ones, with the Red Clouds slightly higher than the Yukon Golds. This is by no means a definitive trial, but we were surprised by the total amount that we eventually harvested, cause enough to try it again next season.

Note: If you decide to save seed from your own potatoes, this tells of the lovely surprises that await >

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43 Responses to 10.1.12 Container grown potatoes

  1. Michael says:

    an absolutely brilliant post, you have inspired me to grow some potatoes this year, and i’ll definitely be trying them in a container. and i loved the garden geekery, very informative. thanks for the post, and now i’ve found you blog i’ll probably be like oxalis, hard to get rid of and keep popping up in places you wouldn’t expect

  2. Liz says:

    Love the garden geekery!!!! I do find that potatoes like a fair bit of water which I think is what you found, or thats what I am taking from this. Fabulous experiment.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hello, Liz! It stretched my high math skills, but thanks! Probably a little less water then in your climate since it’s already so damp and humid here, but yes, they need to be kept watered. We found they seemed to like an even amount — like Goldilocks, not too much and not too little…

  3. Patsy says:

    Your “garden geekery” is just what I need! Thanks for sharing this great information! Looks like you’ve done quite well with container grown potatoes!

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi Patsy — the amounts seemed so minuscule as we emptied the tubs, but added up to a good amount once we were done!

  4. Judy says:

    Interesting post because I tried container planting potatoes myself this year for the first time. I used plastic pots that I had, and they were sitting on a fabric covered mulched area. My yield was so low I didn’t even weigh them. I’ll be on the lookout for your baskets for next year.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi Judy — we’re definitely encouraged by this year’s outcome! If interested, the wooden barrels came from the mill store in Stratham.

  5. gmojustsayno says:

    Loved this post ~ and the geekery too : )

  6. Your record-keeping and geekery is admirable. Besides, somebody’s got to do it for the rest of us, who are inclined to plant, hope for the best and forget. My one attempt with container potatoes years ago was a flop. Your post encourages me to try again.
    Eleanor

  7. Norma Chang says:

    Thanks for sharing this information as I am planning to plant my potatoes and sweet potatoes in containers next year.

  8. kitsapfg says:

    You certainly got a great yield from the amount of seed pieces you used. My potato harvest was good but not my best year this year. We had a very dry summer and I just think I did not irrigate them enough during the growing phase.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hello, kitsapfg! We tried some irrigation hoses this year on the eggplant and were impressed by the difference, and plan on more for next season!

  9. Really interesting post and thank you for sharing your results-I’m a firm believer in growing potatoes in containers!
    It’s funny but this year I didn’t set out to grow potatoes because of the rather meagre crop last year but ended up having one of the best years for potatoes! All mine are in containers anyway and because I had missed some of the very little potatoes left over from last year, they went into pots for other plants this year and amazed us! I also threw in to some small pots, some potatoes bought for eating which sprouted before I could cook them. The tiny left over potatoes (Charlotte) from last year inadvertently planted with flowers in pots produced lovely huge potatoes and the sprouting potatoes bought for eating (Salad Blue and Red Duke of York) also produced masses of good and very tasty potatoes! I think the huge rainfall we had this year helped them and they drained well through the bottom of the containers and I did feed every two weeks with a seaweed feed.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hello, Green Dragonette, thanks for visiting between cookery classes! It’s encouraging to hear others having success with the containers, a far easier enterprise then what we were doing before. The yields didn’t seem like much until we tallied them up. Not enough to get us through winter, but enjoyable to have from our own garden nonetheless!

  10. Mia says:

    That´s an absolutely lovely harvest just from containers! Really good idea! Have a nice week! :) Mia

  11. Bee Girl says:

    I love all the garden geekery! What a great experiment you’ve conducted! I’m glad ot see that you’ve gotten such a good yield form so few seed potatoes! Congrats!

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi there, Bee Girl! We gave up weighing harvest after the first year growing but, in this case, diligence paid off with some useful information!

  12. Seattle Foodshed says:

    This is really great info. Going to use your research to our benefit. Thank you!

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi there! Potato mantra — even moisture, good drainage, good fertility but not too much, and hill up before it flowers…

  13. Shawn Ann says:

    very nice potato harvest! I grew mine in raised beds this year and most did well. The red did better than the white. We always seem to be learning something to improve our garden yields!

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi Shawn Ann, thanks! We seem to have found out the same thing, our reds doing somewhat better than the yukons. Always an adventure out there!

  14. Katie says:

    I love garden geekery! Containers might work for us here. It would be nice be able to move them into some shade when it gets hot.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi Katie, thanks for the suggestion about moving the containers! There were times this summer when it was so hot, we had to resort to creating canopies for shade.

  15. jenny says:

    Love that you have such detailed observation on what worked and what didn’t on potatoes.

  16. zentMRS says:

    Wonderful potatoes and useful info! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Barbara Good says:

    Great comparison. I grew spuds for the first time last year and had a really good harvest with cages built into the garden bed. I’m doing the same this year with some different varieties, hopefully they will do as well. I love the container idea so when I run out of garden beds in the rotation maybe I should follow yours and Liz’s lead to do that. I gave some seed potatoes to my brother to grow in containers so it will be interesting to see how they go. I agree with Liz about them liking quite a lot of water.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hello, Barbara, thanks for dropping by! Our raised beds are on a 4 year rotation, and trying containers was really out of necessity. Containers in general seem to need to be watered closely, and especially in your part of the world I’m imagining!

  18. What a great guide to how you did and the methods that you used. We are hoping that we have some potato success next year. Please feel free to link up in my gardening linky, Tuesday Greens. I’d love to have you join us! http://www.craftygardenmama.com

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi Becky, thanks for visiting and the invite! Having potatoes from our own garden makes the effort more than worth the while!

  19. Simona says:

    Very interesting post. I love growing potatoes, but, as with everything else I grow, I am so non-rational about the way I go about it. I am impatient to harvest them: it’s so much fun! I have Yokon Gold too, and red potatoes, but also purple ones.

  20. maryhysong says:

    what great statistics! I think besides loose acid soil the biggest potato problem is good even moisture.

  21. Wonderwoman says:

    Love this. Potatoes never seem to do well for me. I’ll be trying this next year.

  22. Super helpful post. Going to learn from this for next year.

  23. Mica says:

    How large are your containers? And how many can I plant per? Thanks for the great post!

    • leduesorelle says:

      Hi, Mica, thanks for dropping by! The wood containers come in different sizes — the ones we use are about 13″ deep x 18″ in diameter across the top, and we planted 2 to 3 seed potatoes per container. Hope this helps!

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