You Can Grow It: Potatoes in a pot

Master gardener Jim Duthie shows us an easy way to plant potatoes.

Do you love potatoes?  There are so many ways to eat this versatile vegetable, from baked to mashed, from potato chips to french fries to hash browns. And, of course, Idaho is known worldwide for our famous potatoes.

Well, if you've ever wanted some fresh potatoes straight from your garden, the taste can't be beat, and we have a fun and easy way that you can grow it.

The lowly potato has made a significant mark in our history. Potatoes originated in South America where they were cultivated by the Incas as far back as 8,000 B.C.  New world explorers took potatoes back to Europe in the 1500s, where they quickly became popular.

In the mid-1840s, potato blight spread throughout Europe, causing an economic disaster and famine.  In Ireland alone, where the potato was a food staple, a million people starved, and a million others left their homes and migrated to America.

Today there are almost 5,000 different varieties of potatoes, although the most popular is the ordinary brown russet variety, common for baked potatoes and french fries. Potatoes are the world's fourth largest food crop, and Idaho's agricultural, and cultural, icon.

If you've ever wanted to grow your own potatoes, but don't have enough room, Here's an idea for you – grow them in a potato pot.

Some of our viewers have sent pictures of the different types of planters and containers that you've built to grow potatoes at home. There is another easy way to do it.

This method involves a couple of cheap plastic pots that easily fit inside each other.  They'll save space in the garden, and can be move them if you need to in the event of cold or severe weather, and you will be able to harvest potatoes while the plant continues to grow and produce more potatoes.

I've taken one of the plastic pots and cut large holes in the sides.  I'll make sure the other pot has adequate drainage holes.

I'll place the cut pot inside the other one, and fill it with about six inches of moist gardening soil or potting mix.  I recommend using some that already has some fertilizer mixed with it. 

Now it's time to prepare my seed potatoes.  I purchased these from a local garden center.  They only cost a couple of dollars, and even though you can use left-over store-bought potatoes, they have probably been treated to prevent sprouting, so they won't work as well. 

I'm planting two different kinds of potatoes: pontiac reds, and yukon golds.  You can also plant the common russet potatoes that we're famous for here in Idaho.

Each of the seed potatoes needs to be cut, leaving at least a couple of eyes per section.  The eye is where the potato plant will sprout.  If the potato is small enough, just plant the whole thing.

Place each potato section cut-side down in the soil in the pot, with the eye facing up.  In this large pot, I only need four or five to produce plants that will fill the pot.  Cover them with another 4 to 6 inches of moist soil, and then water them in. 

Set them in a sunny place and water them regularly.  The soil needs to stay moist for the plant to grow, but don't overwater or the growing potatoes will rot.  When the top inch or two of soil is dry, water deeply until the water runs out the bottom of the pot.

Potato plants grow very quickly, and before long the pot will fill up with bushy green potato plants, and new potatoes will start to form below in the root zone.

Within about 8 weeks, you can start harvesting your own potatoes by lifting the inner pot to expose the growing potatoes. Check their progress from time to time, and pick them when they are the desired size. The longer you leave them, the bigger they'll get. 

With this method, you can harvest potatoes while the plant is still growing.

You can grow potatoes in almost any kind of container, including large pots, bins and even bags. Just make sure there is enough drainage for the water.  You can dig around the roots with your hands and feel for the potatoes and pull out the ones you want, or wait until the plant turns yellow later in the season and harvest them all at once.

Home-grown potatoes are a fun and delicious addition to the garden, and you can grow it.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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