The first year I ever grew potatoes, my then-girlfriend-now-wife and I threw some manky tats from the back of the cupboard into some recycled car tires filled with compost. We did little else, save a bit of water then and now, and within a couple of months, we had a whole heap of delicious potatoes.
Since then I’ve gone from having a garden to have a roof terrace, and the possibility of growing potatoes directly in the ground has been removed… never fear, here is a guide to growing them in containers for balconies, roof gardens and patios. It is, after all, super easy.
Get Some Potatoes
When growing potatoes, you’ve got two choices. You can get seed potatoes from the garden center or mail-order companies, or you can use homegrown or shop bought potatoes. That’s your choice, and regardless of that, the next steps are the same.
It is worth noting that if you are growing from supermarket or shop bought potatoes, these may not be free from disease and you may introduce some harmful viruses into your soil. However, that said, sometimes seed potatoes are expensive, hard-to-find, you just want to stick it to the man, or you have some self-chitters in the veg rack… give it a go, by all means, but be aware the yield might not be great.
Yep, that is not a typo. Chitting potatoes is just the process of encouraging them to throw up shoots, and can be done by placing the potatoes on a warm, light window ledge and leaving them. If that sound too complicated, follow this link to a more in depth Instructable which will give you a bit more advice.
Once your tatties have thrown up shoots, you want to plant them out. You can use almost anything for a container, from burlap bags to plant pots to old rubbish bins. My mother grows hers in blue IKEA bags, and always has an amazing crop…
Primarily you want good drainage, and space, so finds what you can and fill it with around 20cm of damp, warm compost. Then place in your potatoes, shoots up, and cover with an additional 15-20cm of damp compost. You want to keep plants around 25-30cm apart, which means that you might only get one plant per container, but don’t worry. If you don’t overcrowd the plants it means more potatoes in the long run. Ultimately, one happy spacious plant is better than two cramped in a pot, so make the decision based on the space you have available.
Once they start to grow, continue to cover the plants with compost, so that only around 15-20cm of the plant is showing at any time. Once you get to the top of the pot/bag/container, obviously stop pilling on the compost, or you are going to have a mess on your hands.
Once the plants have begun to yellow, stop watering and wait between 5 days and a week. Now, it is time to dig up your potatoes.
Carefully pull the plant out, and put that in the compost. Next, upturn the container and sort through the soil to find your tubers… You’ll be amazed at how good your potatoes will be and simply how many you can grow in a small space.
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This year I’m growing Vitelotte potatoes from the supermarket, and all things are going well at the moment. I’ll post a blog on how to store the potatoes at a later date, as well as more recipes of what to make with your homegrown crop. For now, however, get chitting and let me know how you get on!