Growing potatoes can be a fun project, even if they’re not the most cost-effective vegetable to grow. One of the main draws – particularly for people with limited space – is that they can be grown in very compact environments.
In this article, we’ll cover a few ways to grow potatoes when you’re short on room. The basic steps are the same regardless of where your setup is.
Choosing the Best Potatoes
The first thing to consider is what type of potato to grow. Considering you can get several pounds of potatoes for a few dollars, there’s not much point in planting ‘normal’ varieties.
For planting in containers and in limited spaces, focus instead on new potatoes. Some good varieties include:
- Yukon Gold
- Irish Cobbler
- Dark Red Norland
- Red Gold
New potatoes (also called baby potatoes) are simply young potatoes that you dig up before they’re fully grown. You can harvest them in as little as 7 weeks and you’ll fit more into a container.
Another option is fingerling potatoes. These are long and skinny rather than round, again meaning more will fit into a container. Popular types include:
- French Fingerling
- Rose Finn Apple
The Basics of Growing Potatoes in Limited Space
Potatoes are incredibly easy to grow in a compact environment. While you could grow most root vegetables in a similar setup, the advantage of potatoes is that you get more than one off the same plant. On the other hand, planting something like carrots, you get one per plant.
Unsurprisingly, when you plant a potato in the ground, it’ll grow downwards. When growing in a container, you basically reverse this process by forcing the plant to grow upwards. It’s as simple as that.
We’ll cover a basic method here that you can adapt to different environments or growing containers. Some of the best are suggested below, and they all work with this method.
1. Add around 4-6 inches of soil to your container.
2. Put in your potatoes. If growing more than one in a container, space about 6 inches apart.
3. Cover with another few inches of soil and water well.
4. You’ll see the potatoes sprout after a week or so. Let the plant get about 6 inches tall and then cover with soil up to the top leaves.
5. Repeat this process every 2-3 weeks until your container is as full as possible.
6. Once the leaves start turning yellow, you can harvest your potatoes. Either dig them up all at once or start at the bottom of the plant and work your way up.
Tips for Growing Potatoes in Limited Space
As you can see, the process is pretty simple. But here are some tips to help you get the most from your potatoes.
- Seed potatoes aren’t necessary. You can grow plants from store-bought potatoes; just let them sprout a bit. The advantage of seed potatoes is that you know they’re disease-free and ready for planting.
- Depending on the size of your container and length of grow time, you should expect an average of 8-14 potatoes per plant. This is why it’s not cost-effective to grow them at home – this would cost you very little at the store.
- Potato plants are poisonous to humans and animals. Keep the leaves, stems, seeds and flowers out of reach of kids and pets.
- Potato plants need quite a lot of water. Expect to give them 2-3 inches per week in standard conditions, or more in hot areas or indoors.
- Stop watering the plants once they turn yellow. Give it a few days and then you can begin harvesting.
- If possible, use the bottom potatoes first. Because you’re effectively growing the plants in reverse, the ones at the bottom will be the largest.
- You can easily grow potatoes indoors. Put the pot near the sunniest window and expect to provide a bit more water to compensate for the dry air. Providing you keep the light and temperature constant, you could grow them indoors year-round.
Different Ways to Grow Potatoes in Limited Space
All the options below use the same growing method. The main difference is the container in which you plant the potatoes. You can use most of these indoors, too, but we’ll note those that are meant exclusively for outdoors.
By far the best option for growing potatoes in limited space is a grow bag. These are designed specifically for potatoes and most will even have a flap so you can access your crop.
The advantage is that you can then leave the ones higher up to mature. Note, though, that the bags are designed to drain and provide air to the roots. As such, water will leak out of them. They’re fine to use indoors but you’ll want to place them on a tarp, or even in a kiddy pool.
Do you have a hook-up for food-grade 5-gallon buckets? If so, they’re perfect for growing smaller potato varieties. The best place to find these buckets is in commercial kitchens – they’re used for sauces, marinades, etc.
For safety, don’t reuse paint buckets or similar. You never know what’s in the product or whether something will leech into the soil and then into your potatoes.
The buckets will need drainage holes, so make sure you stand them on a plate or something to catch the water (if growing inside).
Wire Potato Towers
This method is exclusively for outdoors because it’ll make a bit too much mess indoors. It’s still a great option for space-saving crops but it’s a bit more DIY than a grow bag. The advantage is that you can make the towers as big as possible.
- Fine-gauge chicken wire or mesh
- Wood posts
Basically, you need to build a cylinder out of mesh, using the wood posts as supports. You can assemble this on the ground by zip-tying the posts to the mesh and then rolling it up.
Line the bottom 6 inches of the tower with newspaper, fill with soil, and then follow the instructions above. You could make the tower a few feet tall and get loads of potatoes from it.
Much like the mesh tower, this is an outside-only option. In short, you’ll use old tires as the pot, stacking more on as the plants grow. Start with 3 or 4 tires as the base pot, and then add one each time you add soil. Be sure to line the tires with straw or newspaper before adding the soil.
Really DIY Options
If you want to get really DIY with your potato planting, you could effectively use anything that’ll hold soil. Some options include:
- Laundry basket
- Coffee bean sacks
- Cardboard box
- Tote bags or other cloth sacks
- Grow bags made from recycled fabric (denim works amazingly)
There’s not much to say about these materials. If using them indoors, always put down something waterproof. You don’t want your potato-growing material itself to be waterproof, as it’ll increase the chances of rot.
There are plenty of crafty ways to grow potatoes if you’re short on space. Whether indoors or outdoors, potatoes are one of the most forgiving crops to grow using this semi-vertical method, so have fun!