If your garden is more “postage stamp” than “grand estate,” you may think you don’t have room to grow a hearty crop of spuds. But when you want to grow potatoes in small spaces, know that it isn’t as difficult as you may think. Yes, if left to sprawl, potato plants do take up a lot of real estate, but if you grow potatoes in bins instead of in the ground, it’s easy to get a full-size harvest in minimal space.
Here are 10 steps to grow potatoes in small spaces:
Step 1: Pick the right variety
Start your tater-growing adventure by deciding what variety of potato to grow. Russets are great for baking and storing, fingerlings are perfect pint-sized spuds, and heirloom varieties come in a rainbow of colors and textures (the potato in the feature image is an heirloom called ‘All Blue‘). No matter what type you choose, be sure to purchase certified disease-free seed potatoes from a reliable source.
Step 2: Make the cut
Officially speaking, seed potatoes aren’t seeds at all. They’re fully developed potatoes that are cut into pieces and planted like a seed. Use a clean, sharp knife to cut each tuber into several sections, being sure each section contains at least one “eye” and an inch of flesh. Let the cut potatoes rest for 24-48 hours before planting. This rest period enables the cut area to callous over and helps keep soil-borne diseases from rotting the tuber before it can grow.
Step 3: Find a home
Thankfully, potatoes aren’t overly particular about where they grow, but they do produce best where they receive a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sun. Select your planting site accordingly.
Step 4: Set up the bin
Growing potatoes in a bin may just be one of the most fun things you’ll ever do in the garden. It’s easy, and the plants are surprisingly productive. Make a three- to four-foot-wide cylinder of box wire or chicken wire fencing. I like to use fencing that’s four feet tall. Line the inside of the wire bin with a layer of newspaper about ten sheets thick. Fill the bottom eight inches of the bin with a 50/50 blend of compost and potting soil.
Step 5: Plant the taters
Put the cut seed potato sections on top of the compost/potting soil blend. How many seed potatoes you add will depend on the bin’s diameter. When I grow potatoes in small spaces using this technique, I usually put eight to ten pieces per bin. Then, I cover the seed potatoes with another three inches of the potting soil/compost mix. Over the coming weeks, as the plants grow, fill the rest of the container little-by-little with the compost mix until it reaches the top. This technique serves the same function as “hilling” does – it allows more stem area below ground for potato production.
Step 6: Maintenance
The only negative when you grow potatoes in small spaces like this is the constant need to water. Potatoes need to be consistently moist, so a daily dousing during summer’s heat is an absolute must. If Colorado potato beetles become problematic, cover the plants with floating row cover.
Step 7: Digging your potatoes
The potatoes are ready to harvest after the plants turn completely brown and die. Allow the tubers to sit in the ground two to three weeks beyond the death of the plants. This resting period is necessary to harden off the skins and make them better able to withstand long periods of storage. To harvest, simply open the wire cylinder and dig through the soil with your hands to uncover the spuds.
For more on growing potatoes, check out the following articles:
Are you ready to grow potatoes in small spaces? Tell us about it!