Growing potatoes in small spaces for large harvest is possible, but you have to choose the right potato variety and select the appropriate container. The type of soil and planting preparation can also impact the yield.
Understanding the actual requirements of the plant is key to growing potatoes successfully in any environment.
Potato Growth Requirements
Whether you want to grow potatoes in containers or in a raised bed, it is crucial to learn what type of soil, sun exposure, and nutrients this plant requires.
The general factors to keep under control include:
- Sunlight: Potatoes require full sun to grow properly. This means they need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. If you are growing potatoes indoors or in a shaded area, you may need to use a grow light.
- Temperature: Potatoes are a cool-season crop and are best planted in early spring for a summer harvest or in late summer for a fall harvest. They can tolerate light frost, but you should protect the young sprouts if a heavy frost is expected. The optimal soil temperature for potato growth is between 60°F and 70°F.
- Watering: Potatoes need consistent moisture, especially during the period when their tubers are developing. Water them regularly, but avoid overwatering as this can lead to rot.
- Spacing: When planting potatoes in containers, give each seed potato enough room to grow. A general rule is to plant them about 12 inches apart to allow for adequate tuber development.
- Depth: Potatoes should be planted about 4 inches deep in the soil. As the plants grow, continue to add more soil or compost around the stems to encourage more tuber formation, a process known as “hilling” or “earthing up.”
Soil characteristics are also important.
Potatoes prefer a loose, well-draining, and slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. Heavy clay soils can lead to poor growth and increase the risk of diseases. If you’re growing in containers, a good quality potting mix is ideal.
If you don’t want to use a potting mix, test the soil pH before planting. If the soil is too alkaline, add peat moss or sulfur to lower the pH
Also, keep in mind that potatoes are heavy feeders and require a lot of nutrients. Mixing in a good amount of compost or well-rotted manure can help provide these nutrients.
You can also consider adding a slow-release organic fertilizer to the soil at planting time.
How To Grow Potatoes In Small Spaces For Large Harvest: 10 Steps
Knowing the type of environment potatoes need is the first step to successful growing. For high yields, however, there are other things to keep in mind.
The steps below can help you grow potatoes in small spaces successfully.
1. Choose the Right Potato Variety
For high yields in small spaces, you must pick a potato variety that is well-suited to container gardening. Such varieties include Yukon Gold, Russet, and Red Pontiac, among others.
Regardless of the potato variety you’re using, always start the season with fresh seed potatoes.
Reusing seed potatoes from a previous crop exposes your new crop to diseases. For the best results, use certified seed potatoes from a nursery instead of supermarket potatoes, as supermarket potatoes are typically treated to prevent sprouting.
2. Select the Appropriate Container
Picking the right potato variety is the first step to success, but you must also pick an appropriate container.
Ideally, you should grow potatoes in a container that is around two to three feet deep and wide.
You can use anything from burlap sacks to plastic bins. Containers specifically designed for potato growing also exist; these are a good choice if you want to ease up harvesting, but they are not essential.
If you decide to grow potatoes in a plastic or ceramic container, make sure it has adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging.
3. Use High-Quality Soil
We mentioned the soil requirements already, but can’t emphasize enough that soil quality is crucial.
A well-draining potting mix is ideal for potatoes, but you can enrich it with organic matter to increase your yield.
For instance, you can mix the soil with compost or well-rotted manure.
4. Chit Your Potatoes
Chitting potatoes refers to letting them sprout before seeding.
This process may require a few weeks and should take place in a cool, bright, and frost-free location. Wait until the seed potatoes develop short, sturdy sprouts.
Chitting helps the potato plants grow faster and healthier.
5. Plant Properly
Plant your chitted potatoes about four inches deep into the soil, with the sprouts pointing upwards.
Space them about 12 inches apart to give them enough room to grow – this is where the container size comes to matter.
6. Earth Up Regularly
To ensure a high yield, you must never let too much of the aerial part of the plant be exposed. Instead, you should add more soil to the container as the plants grow, only leaving the top few inches exposed.
This process is known as earthing up and encourages the plant to produce more tubers.
It also prevents growing tubers from being exposed to sunlight, which could turn them toxic.
7. Provide Enough Water
Potatoes need a steady supply of water, especially once the tubers start forming. However, be careful not to overwater as this can cause the tubers to rot.
That said, watering potatoes in a container isn’t that different from watering them in the garden.
For maximum yield, give your crops about an inch of water per week until the tubers start to form, then increase watering to an inch and a half of water per week.
8. Feed Your Plants
Water aside, remember that potatoes are heavy feeders.
For this reason, you should add a slow-release organic fertilizer or a specialized potato feed to your soil to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
9. Protect the Crop with Mulch
To maximize yield, you should also apply a thick layer of organic mulch like straw or hay around your plants.
This helps to conserve water, suppress weeds, and keep the soil cool.
10. Harvest at the Right Time
Potatoes can be harvested as soon as the plants start to flower. However, for larger (and more) potatoes, wait until the foliage begins to dry out.
After harvesting, cure your potatoes by leaving them in a dry, dark, well-ventilated area for about two weeks. This allows the skin to harden and minor injuries to heal, prolonging their shelf life.
Tips To Grow Potatoes In Small Spaces
Growing potatoes in small spaces isn’t hard, but these tips can make the process even easier.
Practice Crop Rotation
If you plan on growing potatoes regularly, remember to rotate your crops each year. This helps prevent the build-up of soil-borne diseases.
To do this, simply plant the potatoes in a container previously used for another vegetable or use new containers.
Consider Vertical Gardening
Utilize vertical space by using methods like the potato tower, where you layer potatoes and soil in a tall, cylindrical container.
As plants grow taller, continue to add more layers to increase the yield.
Practice Succession Planting
To ensure a continuous supply, plant a new batch of potatoes every two weeks.
This way, as you harvest one batch, the next one is ready to grow.
If you want to grow potatoes in a square-foot garden, plant them near beneficial companions like beans, cabbage, or corn, which can help deter pests.
However, avoid planting potatoes near carrots, celery, or tomatoes, as they attract similar pests.
Keep an eye out for common potato pests such as aphids, potato beetles, and slugs.
Also, look out for diseases like blight. Early detection can prevent a small problem from becoming a big one.
Consider Sunlight and Temperature
Ensure your potatoes get at least six hours of sunlight a day or use a grow light if you want to plant them in a shaded spot or indoors.
Also, keep in mind that potatoes prefer cooler temperatures. If you live in a warm climate, consider growing your potatoes during the cooler months.
To grow potatoes in small spaces for large harvest:
- Pick a tall and large container that provides your crop with plenty of space to grow.
- Always start the crop from new seed potatoes and allow them to sprout before planting.
- Earth-up the aerial parts of the plants as they’re growing to promote tuber formation.
- Increase watering as the tubers start to grow to promote their development.
- Rotate the crops between various containers or use fresh containers to prevent diseases and pests.