Grow Your Own Potatoes in Containers

You don’t need 50 acres to be able to grow your own potatoes, you can grow potatoes in pots or containers on your patio, along the side of your drive or even on a balcony and growing potatoes is not nearly as complicated as most people think.

We use large buckets or tubs placed around the farm car parks to grow new potatoes for salads during the summer and in containers in the barn or greenhouse for winter (we planted the winter potato containers last week, using the pots we harvested the summer crop from).

It’s impossible to describe the taste difference between home grown and supermarket bought potatoes but once you have tried growing your own you will never buy a supermarket potato again (other than in desperation or for kids to make potato pictures with).

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know that we don’t go in for buying expensive equipment or taking the long winded route to making my own, a good example is my no patience blackcurrant jelly recipe.

The Royal Horticultural Society sets out the long winded method of going off and buying seed potatoes, then chitting them over winter … while I’m sure this works brilliantly I simply don’t have the patience.

This is how we grow our own beautiful new potatoes in containers this summer and the winter potato crop is now in.

What and When?

With over 400 varieties of potato to choose from and technical terms like “first early” and “chitting” being bandied about it’s not surprising many people don’t bother trying to grow their own potatoes but that’s all for the experienced gardener to worry about.

First early, second early and maincrop simply means the time it takes between planting and harvesting (between 10 and 20 weeks). We tend to stick to the ‘bung em in and wait til they’re ready’ approach, not very technical I admit but works for us.

It’s certainly easier to grow potatoes in summer, as potatoes are not frost hardy, but with a little care winter potatoes can grow very successfully (sometimes more successfully than summer crops).

For summer potatoes we would start planting in about March and winter potatoes go in during September. We space out the planting so we don’t end up with a bumper crop and then a famine.

Preparing the Container:

You can use a large plastic bucket, plant pot, old plastic dustbin, a large grow bag or even a sack (as you can see in the photo above we use large plastic tubs which we paid £4 each for and have lasted 5 years so far).

If you live near a farm then ask your local farmer if he has any old plastic cattle feed buckets or sheep lick buckets, they are great for growing your own.

Clean the container well before trying to plant your potatoes.

Most plastic buckets or barrels are horribly bright colours and won’t blend into the garden at all, so just slap a bit of external paint on the outside of the bucket (yes I know, ours need a recoat).

Drill drainage holes in the bottom of the tub and put about 2 inches of gravel in the bottom to help drainage.

Choosing Potatoes:

Some people prefer to leave the potatoes ready for planting in a dark place until the eyes are protruding from the potato (chitting). We have found that by putting them into the soil, even without eyes, they will grow very successfully … nature just takes it’s course.

But if you’re going to buy seed potatoes I would suggest heritage potatoes and Wiggly Wigglers have a nice variety of Heritage Seed Potatoes.

You can usually plant potatoes bought at the supermarket but for flavour and higher success rate it’s better to nip to a farmers market and just grab a few locally grown potatoes (they don’t need to be seed potatoes).

The Allotment Growing website has a super list of potato varieties for boiling, baking, roasting, chipping, mashing and salads but we tend to go by taste, if we buy some we like the taste of then we keep some back for planting.


On top of the drainage gravel place 3 inches of soil for summer crops or for winter crops place about 4 inches of prepared mulch or old leaves/straw (as this rots down it will produce heat and protect the plants from the cold weather) and then the 3 inches of soil.

If you can get to a farm then ask for some mole hill soil, we find potatoes grow really well in it.

Place 5 – 6 potatoes in a container the size of the one in the photo above and add another 5 inches of soil.

Once the plant appears above the soil add a further 3-4 inches of soil and repeat this process until the container is full.

Caring for Your Potatoes:

We don’t use any fertiliser (except the natural mulch for the winter potatoes) as we’ve found potaotes grow perfectly well without added chemicals and natural manure tends to burn the young roots.

When it’s dry and hot lightly water but don’t over do it.

Once the drum is full the plants will grow to 2 or more feet above the drum. After 2-3 weeks they will flower.

A following 3-4 weeks the leaves will turn yellow and the stalks will fall over.

At this stage potatoes can be found. Left a further 2-3 weeks larger potatoes will be found when the container is emptied.

Final Thought:

Bagged soil from a garden centred can cost up to £12 for 3 bags, which will do you for 1 and a half containers, so weigh up the costs and look for cheaper alternatives before growing your own potatoes in pots.

These are the potatoes we harvested from one container which had just 4 potatoes planted and they tasted scrummy:

Now if I can do it then anyone can, so have a bash and grow your own potatoes in containers.

Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • Bloglines
  • Squidoo
  • Ask

15 Responses to “Grow Your Own Potatoes in Containers”

  1. Maggie from Devon eco holidays at Wheatland Farm (3 comments.) Says:

    I’m really excited about the winter potatos – do you think I can grow them in the unheated greenhouse over winter? And would manure rather than leaves/straw in the bottom be a bad idea – ie burn the roots?

    I worked in the Falkland Islands once – October to Feb (their summer) and I remember someone digging into a container of spuds for a few ‘earlies’ on Christmas day. I guess that’ll be later here – when do you eat the winter ones?

  2. olly from Glass Verandas (2 comments.) Says:

    Brilliant! I cannot believe it is so easy to do!


  3. Sally Says:

    Hi Maggie

    You can use a weak manure solution but don’t pour it directly on the plants.

    Frost will kill the potato plants so it’s best to grow them in pots and move them into a warm area when you’re expecting a frosty night. I think they will grow ok in an unheated greenhouse if you use straw or fleece to keep the frost away from the pots … our barns aren’t heated and they grow fine as long as we cover the pots on very cold nights.

    For Christmas new potatoes you have to plant them in August or early September to be ready in time but you can still plant now for after Christmas.

  4. annabel from Devon Directory (3 comments.) Says:

    What a great idea! I thought potatoes would have needed more room underground than this, but this looks like a fun project for kids too. Which reminds me, I must do some potato printing with them – not with the treasured home grown potatoes though!
    annabel @ Devon Directory´s last blog ..Paignton Zoo Pilots Vertical Crop Growing System My ComLuv Profile

  5. Viv from Flower Gardening Tips (1 comments.) Says:

    What a splendid idea! I am going to have to start trying this over the weekend. Now that it is starting to cool down a little here in Florida I think this will work really well for me. I have never planted potatoes before but this looks like a great way to give it a go. Thanks for the advice.
    Viv @ Flower Gardening Tips´s last blog ..Grow Orchids Easily My ComLuv Profile

  6. jan mcculloch Says:

    You can grow carrots and beetroot this way too – they taste delicious :)

  7. lisa from life4you (5 comments.) Says:

    I’ve been thinking about growing my own potatos for ages, but was a lttle use sure what to do, and when to know they are ready – I’ll dedfinatly be comeing back to check I’m doing it right -thanks for the tips!

  8. Ruth from Cheap Wellies (3 comments.) Says:

    This is brilliant! Who knew it was so easy?!!! I am definitely going to grow some vegetables this year.

    My eldest son is really keen to get gardening so I forsee bumper crops this year.

    Thanks for this article, most inspirational!

    Best wishes,


  9. Sally Says:

    Hi Ruth

    You have to give it a go, it takes up very little space, the kids get involved and when they get to eat something they actually help to grow it gives them such a thrill.

  10. Ian Says:

    You can also use old car tyres as a container, stacking them up as you add soil. Very easy to break down and harvest, and the black tyres help with warmth early on. And its something useful to do with old tyres…..

  11. Robin from London to Paris Train (1 comments.) Says:

    Hi Sally,

    Thanks for this information. I have never thought that growing potatoes in my garden is so easy. I love gardening and I hope I can use this information.

  12. Sally Says:

    Brilliant tip, thanks Ian I will give that a go

  13. Jason Says:

    Great advice and well explained. I have just completed my third year of growing potatoes in containers. Have yet to get any potatoes. First year I attempted manure and the second year I used straw. No luck. So this year I decided to really go all out and utilized “Mel’s Mix” in the containers. This is a mixture of Peat Moss, Vermiculite and several different types of compost. Had no doubt that I would harvest a bountiful crop of potatoes. Thus far out, of three containers, we have maybe one meal. This in spite of the plants having grow very well and looking very beautiful and healthy. Gorgeous looking plants but no potatoes. If anyone has advice on what I am doing wrong I would be very grateful.

  14. Sally Says:

    Hi Jason

    Could be one of a few things or a combination.

    1. Are your containers big enough? I’ve seen people trying to grow them in plant pots!!!

    2. When are you trying to harvest? Are you waiting until the plant has totally died away and virtually started rotting? It’s the dying of the plant that fattens the potatoes.

    3. Mel’s Mix sounds far too rich to me. Potatoes are not roses, they don’t need a mass of feeding and anything like manure will simply kill off your tatties. Try a much simpler mix … finely riddled soil (I use mole hills) and a bit of old compost, with regular watering seems to do the trick every time.

    Will be dying to know how you get on next year now. Hope one of these ideas sparks some recognition for you.

  15. Grace from personal cook(new comment) Says:

    This brings me back to high school when we were forced to plants all sorts of vegetables and stuff. I only really got as far as bitter gourd and peanuts. I’d like to try planting potatoes. We are potato addicts in the family. Thanks for the informative guide :)
    Grace@personal cook´s last blog ..Easy Potato Recipes- Steamed Potatoes With BaconMy ComLuv Profile

Leave a Reply