Growing your potatoes is a satisfying and rewarding experience. But many gardeners detest the tremendous ground space needed for cultivating a potato crop. But could growing potatoes in a container be the space-saving solution you are looking for?
Let’s examine how to grow potatoes in a bucket – from start to finish!
- Why Grow Potatoes In a Bucket?
- Growing Container Potatoes In Six Easy Steps!
- Where Is the Best Place to Grow Potatoes In Buckets?
- How Do You Start a Potato In a Bucket?
- How Long Do Potatoes Take to Grow?
Why Grow Potatoes In a Bucket?
Nothing beats harvesting the first delicious homegrown organic potato crop. But if you don’t have space in your vegetable beds for a decent potato crop, those old buckets lying around might be the answer.
Growing potatoes in buckets can be beneficial in certain situations, such as:
- If you have limited space or no access to a suitable planting area in the ground, using buckets can be a convenient alternative. It allows you to grow potatoes on a patio, balcony, or indoors.
- Using buckets enables control over the soil composition, pH levels, and drainage. This control can be advantageous if the natural soil in your garden is poor or unsuitable for potatoes.
- Buckets are portable, so you can move plants to different locations based on sunlight availability or changing weather conditions. This flexibility is ideal if you have a short growing season or need to dodge those pesky late frosts.
And remember, you don’t have to commit to growing your entire crop of potatoes in containers – this method is a great way to get an early harvest of delicious new potatoes or sneak in an extra batch of spuds before the chill of winter sets in.
Do Potatoes Grow Better In Containers?
You’ll see many people boasting of their huge crops of container-grown potatoes, but how does this method stack up compared to potatoes grown in garden beds?
We can’t find any large-scale studies comparing the two methods, but small trials have revealed that yields in container-grown potatoes tend to be lower. However, the authors concluded that the benefits of container growing outweighed the reduced potato yield. So don’t let this stop you!
Growing homegrown potatoes in containers permits better soil condition, drainage, and temperature control. It also gives you a better chance of keeping potential pests at bay and can help minimize the risk of problems such as late frosts.
Regarding overall crop yield and quality, potatoes can thrive in the ground and buckets. But their basic requirements must get met. In-ground cultivation gives potatoes more space to spread their roots and (potentially) yield larger harvests. But to maximize our chances of success, it helps to choose the right size and type of bucket!
What Size Bucket Do I Need for Potatoes?
Bigger is better when it comes to growing potatoes in buckets! A more spacious bucket allows more room for the potato plants to spread their roots and encourages optimal growth.
Aim for a bucket size of at least 10 gallons (or approximately 40 liters). This size provides sufficient space for the potato plants to grow and develop tubers. Plastic buckets with more volume, such as 15 to 20 gallons, can be even more beneficial as they offer additional room for the plants to thrive. A smaller five-gallon bucket works to grow individual tubers of smaller types of potatoes.
The height of the bucket is also critical – between two and three feet tall will provide adequate depth for a decent crop. A shallower bucket than this will not give enough root space for the potatoes to thrive, while loftier buckets can result in uneven water distribution. Ensure the bucket has drainage holes. Otherwise, your potatoes will become waterlogged.
Growing Container Potatoes In Six Easy Steps!
We’ve researched how to grow potatoes in containers for years. And this is our favorite method. It involves sowing the potato tubers in only a few inches of soil. Then, as the potato plants sprout and grow, you slowly add a few more inches of soil.
It’s probably the easiest potato container-growing method that we’ve ever seen. It’s ludicrously easy to start. And – it works with a tiny bucket, a few handfuls of compost, and a little ongoing effort.
Growing container potatoes couldn’t be easier. Here’s a similar six-step method that almost always works flawlessly.
- Step 1. Add three to six inches of soil and compost mix to the container, bucket, or grow bag.
- Step 2. Plant your potatoes – eyes pointed upwards. Try to give them one foot of space each.
- Step 3. Add a few more inches of soil atop the potatoes – so they are nestled underneath.
- Step 4. Give your potatoes a fresh, cool drink.
- Step 5. Place your container in a location with at least six hours of daily sunlight.
- Step 6. Monitor your potato plants every few days. Continue to pad your potato plants with more soil as they grow. (This is called hilling!)
These growing bags are perfect for potatoes. Each bag is roughly fifteen gallons - so there's plenty of space for your developing spuds. The growing flaps on the front of the bag also make harvesting straightforward. You can also use these garden bags for growing more than just potatoes - also try carrots, radishes, onions, garlic, and other root crops.
Where Is the Best Place to Grow Potatoes In Buckets?
The joy of growing potatoes in buckets is that you can move them around to meet their ideal growing conditions. For example, I like to start a crop of my favorite variety of potato in buckets in the spring in my polytunnel, ready to move outside once the last frost date has passed.
Whether you use buckets that can get moved around or containers in a fixed location is entirely up to you. Potato buckets are not easy to move when they get full – so you don’t want to shift them that often.
Here’s what you should consider when choosing the best place to grow potatoes in buckets:
Potatoes are sun-loving plants! And ample sunlight helps their growth and tuber development. Choose a spot with at least six to eight hours of sun daily. Aim for 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 21 degrees Celsius) during the day.
(Obviously, 60 to 70 degrees F is tough to maintain in the summer. That’s okay. While potatoes are a cool-season crop, they can easily withstand temperatures up to 80 degrees. No worries!)
Protection from Frost
Potatoes are sensitive to frost, which can damage or kill the plants. If you live in an area prone to late spring or early fall frost, consider placing your buckets in a spot protected from frost, such as near a wall or under a roof overhang.
Good airflow helps prevent the development of fungal diseases in potato plants. Choose a location that allows for adequate air circulation around the plants. Avoid overcrowded or enclosed spaces that can impede airflow.
Accessibility to Water
Worthy potato crops require at least one inch of rainfall weekly. If this is unlikely, you’ll need to water by hand, so choose a location near a water source.
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How Do You Start a Potato In a Bucket?
Ask any potato grower! They’ll all tell you a different method to start potatoes. You’ll encounter words like chitting, eyes, sprouts, and more. But what does it all mean, and does it make any difference?
Well, let me tell you one thing – if you pop a potato in the ground, it will do its best to grow! I know this without a doubt – as evidenced by all the ‘volunteer’ potato plants popping up around my vegetable plots.
But many homesteaders like to ‘start’ their potatoes before planting them. This early beginning means encouraging the seed potato to grow small shoots, which conceivably helps to speed up plant growth and increase potato yields. This step is by no means necessary. So if you’d prefer to get your spuds into their containers without delay, skip this step!
How to Make a Starter Potato
Take your seed potatoes and sit them in a chilled, sunny spot. Egg trays are ideal for this purpose, and the potatoes should rest with the ‘eye’ (small dimple) facing upwards.
After a few weeks, shoots will appear around the eye of the seed potato. They are ready for planting when the plant shoots are around one-inch long.
Larger seed potatoes may have several eyes – in this situation, the seed potato can get carefully sliced to make two or three smaller sections of seed potato. Do this a few days before planting to allow the cut surface to dry out and form a protective layer.
What Is the Best Soil for Growing Potatoes In Buckets?
Potatoes like loose and well-draining soil rich in organic matter. You will need a lot of garden soil to fill those buckets, so buying compost for growing potatoes is not always cost-effective. But if you’ve got a good supply of homemade compost or well-rotted horse manure, excellent!
Here’s how to create the perfect potato growing conditions. Mix equal parts of garden soil, compost, and sand. This soil combination provides the ideal balance of nutrients and drainage for your spuds to flourish.
(If you don’t have compost prepared – no worries. Lowes sells compost for relatively cheap. We use the Black Kow brand. It’s the one in a big yellow bag. It’s affordable – and almost always in stock.)
How Many Seed Potatoes In a Bucket?
Potatoes need space to grow, and overcrowding is counterproductive. Two well-spaced plants can easily outperform four that get cramped together.
For a 10-gallon bucket, aim to plant two or three seed potatoes. Cultivating more than this not only reduces the overall yield but also the size of the potatoes. Small potatoes aren’t necessarily a problem if you want some tasty tiny salad potatoes, but they’re not ideal if giant roasters are your goal.
How Deep Should I Plant Potatoes In Containers or Bags?
Here’s how to plant potatoes in containers. Start by putting six to eight inches of your soil mix in the bottom of the bucket. Place your seed potatoes atop the soil and aim to keep them around one foot apart. Position the potatoes with the shoots or eyes facing upward.
Water the soil well, allowing any excess water to drain away. Then add another six inches of soil, water again, and patiently wait for potato shoots to appear over the next few weeks.
Do You Need to Earth Up Potatoes Grown In Buckets?
We usually hill our potatoes. Yes! Earthing up refers to adding more soil (or hilling) to your potato plants as they grow.
Earthing up potatoes has several benefits. First, it helps to protect the emerging stems from sunlight exposure, which can turn them green and make them inedible. It may also encourage more tubers to develop along the buried stems, resulting in a larger potato harvest. And finally, earthing up provides stability to the plant, preventing it from toppling over as it grows taller.
To earth up potatoes in buckets, wait a couple of weeks until the potato plants have grown to a height of about six inches and have a few sets of leaves.
Gently add a layer of soil to cover the lower portion of the stems, trying to leave the upper leaves exposed. You can use the same soil mixture you initially used for planting.
You will see some recommendations that advise earthing up potatoes repeatedly until your bucket gets stuffed to the brim. Feel free to do this if you wish, but just a few rounds of earthing up will likely be sufficient to get a good crop of potatoes.
How Long Do Potatoes Take to Grow?
It typically takes around 10 to 12 weeks for potatoes to reach maturity. During this time, your growing plants will need plenty of water to keep the soil moist – at least one inch per week. Test the soil regularly with your finger. And if it feels dry an inch or two below the surface, more water is needed.
Eventually, the lush green growth of your potato plants will start to die off – this is a sign that harvest time will soon be upon us. The joy of growing potatoes in buckets is that it is easy to rummage just under the surface of the soil for the first few delicious baby potatoes, harvesting enough for dinner without disturbing the plant.
Thanks for reading our growing potatoes in buckets guide!
We love eating potatoes. They help make the best French fries, veggie stir fry, soup, and stews. We also love eating them mashed – with garlic and butter!
What about you? Are you going to grow potatoes in containers?
Let us know how it goes – or if you have any questions.
We have tons of experience growing potatoes in mounds, hills, raised gardens, and pots. And we’re happy to help if you have questions.
Thanks again for reading.
And have a great day!