container potatoes

tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)November 14, 2007

Hi, I'm planning to grow potatoes in a 19 Gallon Blue Plastic Tub with Rope Handles. I'll drill holes in the bottom for drainage and I'm planning to fill with a lot of compost and vermiculite and spagnum peat moss(nice acid). I'll fill the bottom about 4-5 inches deep and then place 3 red pontiac tubers on it and cover with several inches more. As the plants grows, I'll cover the stems to just under the leafs as they grow...until I get to the top of the container. I'll add slow release 7-7-7 fertilizer as the plants grow.

I'm planning on February to put inside my shed (south roof is long and glazed) for the days and nights below freezing and on good days I'll put them outside.

Does this plan sound right? Does the potting mix sound ok? The fertilizer? The timing of the year?

thank you for any advice,


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Sounds a little too early for potatoes for me. I'm not sure the day length will be long enough or sun intensity will be great enough for good growth. Why would you want to grow potatoes in a pot anyhow? They do very well in virgin soil and require almost no work.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 10:23PM
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tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)

why? If you have clay soil, no soil or very alkaline soil, or limited space, then you probably have not had a good opportunity to grow potatoes. An easy way to sneak around these obstacles is to plant your potato crop in a container. And, by the way, yields can be 200% or greater in a container than a normal garden bed with Red Pontiac potatos.

By late February, I'll have over 10 hours of sunlight per day and it will increase more than a minute each day. By the time these earlies are harvested, around May 1 (my frost free date), then I can plant more in my raised garden bed. Why? extended season. extended harvesting. If this is successful, I'll do it again for the fall.

What about the soil mix of spagnum peat moss, vermiculite and compost (all that I already have in stock)?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:55AM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

Your soil mix sounds good. Potatoes like acid and the peat will take care of that.

I am also putting potatoes in containers - a bit different than your plan. I am using 32 gallon trash cans (NEW) and sinking the bottom 12 inches in ground. The original plan was to fill 6 inches with leaves and then putting 3 mini-tubers on top of these leaves and covering this with 6 inches leaves for a total of 12 inches. The bottom and lower 6 inches of the trashcan will have 1/2 inch holes drilled for drainage. I will fill the cans as the plants grow with peat moss. I will plant my potatoes in a few days and I will put the lid on the trash can if it snows.

Now that I have read your post I have made a slight change. I will put 6 inches potting mix in the bottom of the trashcan before I add the leaves and mix HollyTone fertilizer in - acid fert that potatoes like. The leaves will compost over the winter giving the potatoes all the heat they need to prevent freezing.

Have you done the potatoes in containers before?? This will be my first time doing this. Have racoons, possum and other critters that will surely dig my seed-potato up if I plant in ground.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fall planted potatoes

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 3:06AM
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tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)

hi dancinglemons and thanks for the encouragement. Good link and I believe you are far enough down south (zone 7?) that you can benefit from your plan. I'll have to wait for late Feb and run the container in and out of my sun shed as freezing weather dictates. My clay would be too hard to dig down below the frost line, but the link and your plan sound great. No, I've not grown potatoes in a container before but I've read a lot of info on it. If I were to add anything to your plan, it would be to dump coffee grounds with your leaves to aid the decomposition as well as acid. It has been said many places that coffee grounds are not acidic, but the grounds I collect from a coffee shop have several inches of very thick coffee that drained to the bottom of the container that I provide. That, is acid amd my blueberries confirm it!

I've read that certain varieties of potatoes will outproduce in a deep container vs. garden beds. One mentioned was Red Pontiac and it also said the finger varieties will keep growing potatoes up (more than others)as you add soil (or moss, leaves, etc) from 200 to 1000%. Large claim, but I intend to find out!
Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 8:54AM
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Do you think the trash can will initially shade your potato sprouts or will you tilt the can southward to allow sunlight to enter? I would think that as the sun moves across the sky the potatoes will be shaded pretty significantly. I've seen perforated enclosures that look a lot like compost bins used to grow potatoes. Also, I've heard of using tires to enclose the potatoes. As they grow, you fill in the tire w/ dirt and add more tires. That way you don't worry about your enclosure shading the taters.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 12:26PM
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radagast(US east coast)

Interesting - what type of yield would one get from a potato in a pot? Also, I've heard that one plants the potato deep in the pot, puts some soil over it, and then adds soil as the season progresses - is that correct?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 12:56PM
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tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)

yes, m taggart, if I used a regular sized trash container, I would lean it to the south, but I'm not using one. I bought a blue tub at walmart for about 6 bucks. It looks just like this one but 1/2 the price.

Here is a link that might be useful: tub w rope handles

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 2:22PM
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...was referring to dancinglmons plan of using a garbage can.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 4:39PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)


I am sure there will be some shade but I have seen the 32 gallon trash cans with potatoes growing inside and they were just standing straight up. This will be my first try so I will report back in mid-summer 2008. I thought about tires but since I do not know what chemicals are in tires these days I decided to go with trash can - which I hope will not leak any chemicals.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 2:42AM
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You may be able to line the tires w/ a large plastic garbage bag and use the tires for structural stability. On the other hand, the potatoes may grow fast enough to reach the top of the garbage can quickly enough.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 7:10PM
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tom n 6b zone - I think that's a great idea - I'm in 6a in NJ & could do some version of it. I have read about sweet potatoes in containers/tires - did you come accross anything about sweet potatoes in the list of varieties that would work well (or not well) for winter growing? (b/c family likes sweets better than whites :)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 7:52PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

Hi Tree,
Most any of the sweet potatoes will grow in a LARGE container. Just be sure to have good drainage and a nice loose potting medium. I do have experience in sweets in containers because we like sweets better also. I would recommend a Rubbermaid Roughneck of at least 24 inches tall and drill holes in bottom for drainage, fill to within 4-5 inches of top with good potting medium (I have used Miracle Grow with 3 month fertilizer mixed in) Put the lid under the container to be your "saucer". I put 2 plants per container and get lots of good sized potatoes. I can not say how many pounds because I never weigh them. I usually add a good amount of worm castings to the potting mix. If you only put one plant in each container you will just get larger potatoes.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 2:52AM
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tom_n_6bzone(Western Maryland 6b)

Hi Tree, I agree with DL. I've grown Beauregards but I don't recall the mix...I'm sure it was very light with a lot of vermiculite because I'm usually using that. Beautiful foilage.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:17AM
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I grew red taters last yr and they looked great and tasted great. I bot organic taters at supermarket and used one for seed stock. Red taters are generally smallish but some of these grew to a huge size that resembled idaho white except the some of the reds were even wider. many were the size of reg reds and some were quite small. I used organic fert and I did not make soil acidic at all.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 3:14PM
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I have an excellent containe

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 8:35PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

I am on the lookout for two containers for my potatoes. I have a family of 4 and we like potatoes, so I thought I would get a big crop and store them.

That said, I figure the best container would be roughly 3 feet wide to plant multiple plants roughly 6 inches apart. Further it would be at least three feet high because it's my understanding that you get about 3 potato layers per foot. That yield would be perfect.

My problem is that I cannot find a good (inexpensive) three by three container. The best I could find was an expensive 44-gallon plastic garbage can, but they're not cheap. Does anyone have a suggestion?


    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 11:11PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)


Do not know where you can find a 3 x 3 but how about a 2W x 3L x 2H ?? WalMart and Home Depot now have the Rubermaid Roughnecks on sale for $3.88 each. I purchased 10 of them and they are perfect for sweet potatoes AND regular potatoes. These are the 18 gallon size. Be sure to get the lids when you purchase them. You can use the lids as your "saucer" under each container. I would think you would need more than 2 containers for a family of 4 - since you really like potatoes.

Let us know how you make out.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 2:51AM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

I have searched high and low for 3x3 plastic canisters for potatoes and have come up empty. I can get close for around $100 from a specialty store, but for less that the price of one I can get three regular garbage cans that will produce the same if not more than 2 of the big ones. I'd much rather have two containers, one for each variety, but for economy sake, I will go with three cheap ones.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden in progress...

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 8:00PM
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I want to grow sweet potatoes this year. How much soil will I need to fill one of those 18 gal Rubbermaid Roughnecks? I already have one of those. I usually buy 2 cu. ft. bags of Miracle Gro Organic Soil for my other container vegetables. Will I need 2 of these?

What other ingredients should I mix with this soil? I have read some people use spaghum peat moss, vermiculite and compost. What's the right combination and the right amount of each?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2008 at 1:28AM
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I've been growing potatoes in containers for a about 5 years now. So far I've used a container that's only 16" across and only got enough potatoes for one meal but they sure were delicious. This year I plan on using a rubbermaid 14 or 18 gal container.

Here's what I do: I use whatever potatoes I have hanging around the house that are starting to sprout and grow roots.

Then I cut them up so there's at least 1 growth on a section and sprinkle cinnamon on every bit of the freshly cut piece. The cinnamon is an antimicrobial and keeps the potato from molding.

The next day or so when the potatoes have kinda stopped oozing I put them out in their container and cover them up. As they grow I keep adding potting mix, water, and fertilizer.

When the potato plant visibly dies, you can dig up your crop and enjoy because they will be delicious.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 2:13AM
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galcho(z8 Northwest)

What about cardboard box inside a box without bottom made out of lattice or some wood or even wrapped with some wire (this is to prevent cardboard box to fall apart before you got a chance to eat potatoes. My friend made a box without bottom out of boards from this things that stores are using to deliver bricks, box does not have boards tight to each other because cardboard will keep soil and mulch and roots are actually are doing better then in plastic.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 1:16AM
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I tried container potatoes the past 2 years with unsatisfactory results. 5 lbs of seed potatoes (Chaleur) only yielded 10 lbs. I use translucent white 50 gal. drums cut in half set in full sun. Filled container as potatoes grew but crop only at the bottom. I also grow in the garden but as my soil is clay silt I just dig a trench and cover with straw. Very good results with lots of large potatoes. Containers were for an early crop of new potatoes using a very early variety.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 1:17PM
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I grew potatoes in a cage I made from welded wire. I used composted oak leaves for the "soil". Mostly crumbly but still with some leaves as oak leaves take a long time to break down. I just sprinkled in a little 10-10-10 on occasion. I added leave compost along. Some branches grew out the side. I don't know the variety as the farm supply just sells them as "seed potatoes". A white variety I'm sure. In the end, i just pulled up the cage and all the potatoes dumped out. The only thing was kind of weird was the skin on the taters was almost white. I couldn't tell that I got "extra" potatoes, but i probably could have let them grow longer than I did.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 8:59PM
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duajones(z9 TX)

I grew potatoes in a garbage can last year. Started off with about 6 inches of soil. Container mix, compost and peat with a little osmocote thrown in. Then I added the same soil mix as needed until I got to the top. They were growing real nicely and then got some kind of foliage problem. So I harvested them a little early. Results werent great and would have been much better had they not had the foliage issue. Here are some pics of the process

Here they are 10 days after planting

5 days later

5 days later

4 days later, coming out the top already

6 days later and they still look real healthy

A month later and they look terrible

Decided to go ahead and dump the can and here is what I got

I believe the harvest would have been much better and I still have no idea what the foliage or disease problem was

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 4:37PM
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I tried growing in Tyres painted white so they dont get too hot. Used home made Compost and soil/sand.
Got couple nice ones and lots small potatoes.
Has anyone ever had a large crop of potatoes using deep container?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 6:44AM
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John Seymour (author of The Self-Sufficient Gardener--my favorite gardening book!) insists it can be done; that's where I got the idea.

Last year my husband and I tried in two types of containers--2 32 gallon trash cans and one yellow plastic tub with rope handles similar to the one posted above. The plants grew very quickly (the shade in the dark trash cans was not a problem in our south-facing, Texas yard), but at the end of it all, we only got enough potatoes for 1 meal. However our mistakes were many:

1. Filled containers with cheapest compost we could find, $2/ bag cow manure compost from HD that became impenetrably compacted. This year will use primarily peat & vermiculite, (maybe a little compost) so we don't choke the taters.

2.Drilled plenty of drainage holes in container bottoms & around lower edges, but choked them by placing containers directly on turf. Raised them onto pavers at end of season, but it was too late.

3. Used supermarket potatoes instead of certified seed potatoes. Don't know if these would have done better if the soil/ drainage had been better. We did 3 kinds-- conventionally grown purple (from California) & Yukon gold, and Organic Russets from Colorado. The Russets jumped out way ahead of the others, so I will never start a supermarket potato again that isn't organic. The purple was completely killed by the drainage issues, got 1 about the size of a quarter. Got a few russets from 1 to 3 inches long. Got 5 Yukon golds, the largest the size of my fists, and I think this was because we were able to get into the container and mix in some better draining mix and salvage a little of the plant.

All in all, It was a great learning experience (slightly disappointing but really fun) and we're eager to try again this year. We'll grow them taters yet!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 5:22PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

I planted fingerling potatoes this month. This is my first season in zone 9 in Florida. Will let you know how everything comes out.

I will try the sweets too in Spring, also in containers, this way I don't have to worried about bugs in the soil or nematodes.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 7:17AM
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i found this older post and wondered what the out-come was.
Mine are in 18 gal. totes and so far so good. They've been filled several times as the plants grew, now i'm at the tote's top but the foliage keeps going. Some are even getting flowers! I didn't know they would.
I'd love to hear any updates

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 4:52PM
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pat_123(9/SF Bay Area 17)

In mid-May, I planted 5 pieces of an organic yellow skinned potato left over from a community sponsored agriculture (CSA) delivery. I planted them in an 18 gallon rope handled tote with the 5:1:1 mix found on this forum.

I harvested yesterday. There were about 20 or so potatoes.

About 5 were as big as my hand:

Some were larger than an egg (about 7) and the rest of them (9-10) were smaller than an egg. I left the largest ones to dry out a little and plan to eat the smaller ones fresh.

As has been previously discussed re: effectiveness of hilling and early variety (i.e., Yukon Gold) vs late variety, I didn't see any effects from hilling. The potatoes were pretty much in a single layer at the bottom of the container.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 9:28PM
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I plant in containers to get more production. Using a mixture of chicken manure compost/Canadian peat/sand (1-1-1) in this 2'D x 4'W x 4'H usually yields about 150# of white potatoes. The bottom has ¼" hardware cloth to prevent mice and other vermin from digging in and consuming the tubers.

As they grow layers of wood is added to the planter then filled with the above growing mixture to the top edge. Give lots of water until they stop flowering and start to die.

To harvest just remove the end boards (they are fastened with screws) and collect your potatoes. They are then put on a wire racks in heavy shade for a few days to cure for storage. They are best stored at 34F with low humidity.

Click on link to view video of it. I will post video updates regularly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Potatoe Container 2'x4'x4'

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:45AM
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what a lovely garden! thank you for sharing! 150 lbs! do you feed thru out the season?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 8:30PM
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Feed with compost tea with kelp added every 3 or 4 days. They were planted in May and in September will be harvested. The constant 'hilling' increases their life span thereby increases the yield.

Some verities do not produce tubers up the entire plant-only at the bottom 3 to 6 inches. The common white potatoes will produce tubers up the entire plant stem that has been hilled.

There are 2 rows, 7 to 8 eyes per row.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:04PM
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This will be my second harvest of container potatoes. I used cedar crate material from my job to make a 16"x24"x 30" Tall box eerily similar to seramas' post. I have had no problems with the early lack of direct sunlight. Last year I planted Reds and got probably a 3:1 yield, but that is mostly because I dug them up too early.
This year i planted fingerlings in early May(I live in NW WA). I amended my sandbox soil with Bumpercrop. I ran out of soil about 24" deep and from there the tops grew to over 5 feet before the wnd blew them over. They are just about dea now. I will let you know how it turns out.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 3:50PM
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madferret(UK 8b-9a)

I've just looked into my compost bin (with lid) to see a 2ft high potato plant growing.

I wouldnt worry about wether they'll grow..

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 4:15AM
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I was wondering if you could plant something else on top of the container potatos once you have the dirt all the way up the container, something that you could string up to keep out of the potato leaves, like cucumbers or string beans, which arent planted until later on in the season where I live. I know beans don't have a huge root system, but I wasnt sure if they would interfere with the potatoes or even the potato plant choke out the bean seedlings.

let me know what you think or if you have tried this.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 11:11AM
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Need some ideas. Planted potatoes in a container, they grew very well, I continues to add dirt as they grew until I reached the top of the container. They flowered and after approx 3 weeks I looked forward to a wonderful harvest. Unfortunately there were NO potatoes. Does anyone know why? This was my first attempt, could it have been the soil I used? They grew very tall, fell over etc..... Ideas?


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 8:42PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

My first impression is that 3 weeks after flowering is no where near enough time for potatoes. I planted my container potatoes almost 4 months ago, and they are still growing. They flowered more than 2 months ago, and some are even starting to flower a 2nd time. I'm not sure how deep your container is, but usually it's not necessary to fill it to the top with soil. My containers are approx. 20" deep, and I might have 12" of soil in them.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 9:33PM
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I am searching for the type of potato that has bottom & side taters on the under ground stem.
I read that one type will only have taters on the bottom.
Anyone know the name or type?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 2:28PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Only a few long season potatoes will produce tubers along the stolons like people want in a potato tower. The classic one is russet Burbank, which is the most widely grown potato in the U.S. they need at least 130 days growth. Edweather had success with them last summer. I started a thread called Tale of two potato bins with photos where Ed shows how many russets he was able to harvest from his tower. I don't have the link, but you can find it by searching on the title.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 2:57PM
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Ohiofem, Thanks for the quick reply.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 8:41PM
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I know old thread...
We used to grow potatoes in food grade plastic barrels in SW NC. The each barrel sat on 4 red bricks to allow drainage. We lost our bottom layer of potatoes pretty consistently. I would cover the opening in the top of the barrel with old window screen after flowering was finished (no potato beetles that way and no need for pesticides). We simply used soil from our garden that we sieved thru a piece of hardware cloth to get the larger rocks and debris out. After a layer of soil was added, we put a layer of straw on top. We would allow the potato plants to grow about 6 inches before adding enough soil to cover all but the tips of the plants. We planted Kennebec potatoes (did well in our area/soil... used old taters left over from the previous year that sprouted). At the end of summer, when the plants died back, each barrel would yield about 50 lbs of potatoes that ranged from the size of a golf ball (newer potatoes at the top) to huge monsters towards the bottom. We would tip the barrels out on a tarp and till the soil back into one of the empty raised garden beds. All during the growing season, I would dig out a few "new taters" about once a week for supper.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 5:43PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I'm going to try growing potatoes in containers again this year with a few differences. I had pretty good luck growing six store bought red potatoes in a 19-gallon plastic tub last year. Although I did the hilling thing, all the potatoes were at the bottom of the tub. But I got over 20 pounds.

This year I'm growing long season potatoes -- German butterballs and Russian banana fingerlings -- in a 49-gallon tub that's four feet long and two feet deep. I'm going to grow them as long as possible, hopefully until our first frost or the tops are completely dead. I also plan to use more fertilizer. I'm growing in 5-1-1 mix and avoiding straw. I think the straw I used for hilling last year interfered with keeping the soil evenly moist, which cut down on the yield. Thanks for reviving this thread!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 12:59PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

Boy am I glad I came back to this thread. I did grow in the container and made LOTS of mistakes. I got a few potatoes but not large ones. I found out that in order to get potatoes I needed to grow a late maturing variety. I also found that I harvested way too early. Will make many changes this year. Wish me luck.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 2:18AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I wish you luck! Let's report back so we can learn from one another. All my seed potatoes are sprouting now. I love this time of year when there is so much promise.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:00PM
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ernie85017, zn 9, phx

Count me in on the potato experiments. I have 2 wire cages, about 3 feet high and 1.5 ft and 2 ft across. I read about growing in hay, so figured the long dried grass, leaves, compost I have might work. It's an experiment tho, because this is Phoenix, it's gonna be hot as hell, and maybe they don't do so well in the heat.
Nothing is sprouting yet. It's been nearly 2 weeks. I'm afraid to uncover the seed potatoes to see if they were bad ones. Guess I am going to have to. I hate to think the work was for nothing.
It was 100 degrees here last week. It's going to be quite a summer.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 11:18AM
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I have a 4 ft x 2 ft metal stock tank. I plan to grow potatoes in straw and wonder if I should add any soil at all or just cover them with straw. I have plans to layer them so I can get repeated digs of potatoes. I live in westen Oregon, seldom get a hard frost, but wonder if I should shelter my tank from the rain. I'm thinking about some sort of plastic tent that would let in light but not direct rain. It should also provide some solar heating. Any cautions or ideas appreciated I am a first time spud planter in straw or containers.

How many holes should I drill in the bottom and how large
Should I worry about squirrels, possums, or raccoons.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 6:52AM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Potato roots need to be in a fertile medium. They need regular feeding and can't grow in straw alone. The straw technique involves laying the tubers on soil or potting mix and piling straw on top. The roots grow down into the soil and the stolons grow at and above the level of the original tuber. They also need steady watering through the season or else they will be too small and/or have hollow spots and odd shapes. So your container needs adequate drainage. In Sourhwest Ohio I found it difficult to keep the straw evenly moist the one time I tried that technique.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 10:52AM
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I grew Adirondack Reds this year in a 20 gallon planter. I planted three seed potatoes in the bottom (5 inches of soil underneath) and continued to fill as they plants grew. I had a few extra potatoes that I just planted in my garden, and I have to say, the pot completely outdid those planted in the garden. I got about twenty pounds of potatoes from the pot. The plants themselves were far healthier, and there was no weeding to be done. I just punched out the holes on the bottom of the pot, placed the pot on the ground.... it was a fiskar 20inch planter, and let them grow. The only extra uptake was watering. The soil shouldn't completely dry out. I am buying three more planters this year and am going to try a couple of other varieties. I will definitely look into those Russet Burbanks, and maybe some fingerlings. My mother-in-law, who is a lifetime gardener, was so surprised by the yield in the planter that she gasped (proud moment). The potatoes were definitely along the bottom third of the pot, but I got some substantially sized potatoes, the biggest being about the size of two fists together.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2014 at 9:18AM
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