Can potatoes be grown in a container

Potatoes do well in containers, so long as the soil medium is light, there is sufficient room, and they are kept watered.

Grow-Box gardening produces wonderful potatoes.  Grow-Boxes are containers that are usually open at the bottom, but not necessarily, if they are on a patio, roof, or driveway.

The key to having great potatoes, beyond the three elements I named in the first paragraph, is to feed them properly.

Apply Pre-Plant Mix and Weekly Feed mix to your soil before planting, and thereafter apply Weekly Feed every 7 days until your plants flower.

Potatoes in Grow-Boxes or Containers

Q.  I can’t get to ground level easily so do all my weeding by hand since I only have 4 boxes so far.  For this reason my beds are 4′ by 16′, but two are 1′ deep and two are 2′ deep. 

Since I get the weeds when they’re tiny (one of the blessings of the Mittleider Method) it hardly disturbs the soil at all, so should I cultivate a little around the potatoes? 

In the 4′-wide boxes how far apart should the potato rows be? 

A.  If your Grow-Boxes are filled with sawdust and sand there should be virtually no weeding.  It’s when people use some dirt in their boxes that they have problems with weeds, bugs, and even diseases.

We recommend using clean organic materials that are very slow to break down, along with sand, in your Grow-Boxes.  Things like sawdust, peat moss, perlite, ground-up pine needles, coconut husks, and coffee hulls are very good options.  Use 65-75% of these materials, in any combination you like, with 25-35% clean concrete sand – by volume – for best results.

We do NO cultivating around potatoes, or any other crop, except as necessary for weed control, or to get fertilizer below the soil surface if we are using urea as our nitrogen source.

Plant your potatoes 8″ apart in rows.  The outside rows should be about 1″ from the sides of the box.  The inside rows should be about 12″ from the sides of the box. 

This gives you about 2′ of clear space the full length in the center of your Grow-Box.  DO NOT plant in that space.  It is necessary as an “aisle”, to leave room for the plants to get air and sunlight as they grow and mature.

Growing Potatoes – in Containers or In The Soil

Q.  Ok I’ve searched and this seems to be the upshot on taters w/ MM.
Plant in rows, 4 – 6 inches deep, feed weekly till flowering (starts
or is done?), and don’t “hill” but mulsh or cover lightlyw/ soil to
prevent greening. My question now seems to be if it would be better to
plant them in my 12″ grow boxes or my 24″ growboxes.
 
I am curious about the hilling tho because I always thought that was
how you got more spuds, thus the tire stacking thing.  Can you say a
little more about that, please.

A.  The ideal width of a growing bed, for large plants like potatoes, is 18″.  24″ is wider than is needed, is difficult to water efficiently, and is too narrow for an extra row of plants.

Twelve inch-wide beds or boxes are too narrow to plant two rows of large plants like potatoes, and much aisle space is wasted if you only one row per box.

We plant potatoes, making sure we have at least one good eye, 8″ apart near the edge of a Grow-Box, and at the base of the ridges in a Soil-Bed, with two rows per bed or box.

We plant so that the top of the potato is 3-4″ deep in boxes, and 2-3″ deep in the soil.

We do not ridge, nor do we mulch.

In the weeding process we pull the ridges down and back up – perhaps as many as two times in the early spring.  Each time some soil falls around the stems, but NOT a LOT.  Thereafter, as we weed we pull soil from the center of the aisle up the ridges.  Again, some soil will spill over onto the stems of the potatoes.  Over the course of the summer we may have put 1-2″ of soil on thebase of the plants, but again NOT a LOT.

The close planting and healthy heavy greenery do much to keep any tips of potatoes from getting green from exposure to sunlight.

Feeding with Weekly Feed continues until your potatoes are in full flower.  That is the last time you feed.

Feeding Potatoes and Other Single-Crop Flowering Varieties

Q.  I was going through the FAQs at foodforeveryone.org, when I came across a point of feeding the potatoes five times. I believe that Mittleider’s books state four times, but the one time difference is not the point of this question.

I was forcefully instructed by my neighbor who fancies himself a devout
Mittleider devotee to NOT feed the potatoes more than four times as the extra feed will go to the plant above the ground and not to the crop below the ground.

The FAQ seems to imply just the opposite, that the difference of field crop feeding of three times vs. grow box feeding of five times, where the “expected yield is correspondingly higher.” So if five (or four) times gives a higher yield why not six, or seven?

A.  Potatoes, and other flowering single-crop plants, such as bush beans,  should be fed until the plants flower. Whether this ends up being 4 times, 5 times, or some other number, depends on factors such as water, sunlight, and temperatures. The numbers given
are meant as a guideline, and not as strict limits. In Armenia recently we fed some rows of potato plants 5 times, because the weather was still cool and they were growing slowly, and other rows, planted later, were only fed 4 times before they blossomed.

Jim Kennard

Growing potatoes in the field seems to be different than in the garden! You say to apply 240# per acre of Weekly Feed 3 times to field crops, yet you say to use 1# per 30′ bed applied 5 times in crops grown in the garden. Isn’t that quite different? Which is right and best for me to follow.

The thing we need to remember when comparing feeding a Grow-Bed or Soil-Bed (these terms are used interchangeably) with feeding field crops is that in the garden you are actually feeding 2 rows of plants at a time in a single 18″ bed. So 1 pound of Weekly Feed applied to 30 feet of row is actually feeding 60 feet of plants, since you plant your potatoes 8 inches apart on both sides of the bed, between the ridges.

Beyond that, field crops do not get fertilized as much or as often as garden crops, mainly because it is not practical to do so. In the garden we band the fertilizer in each bed – 4 inches from the plants (right between the two rows in the bed). There are 254 30-foot long beds per acre, so one application would require 254#. That is not much different from the field application rate (240#), and the plants are pretty well-fed if you can band the fertilizers, rather than broadcasting them.

Only 3 applications are given to field crops, because it is impractical to drive a tractor through a field when the plants are fully grown, since many plants would be harmed by the tractor wheels. However, in the garden, we recommend 5 feedings on potatoes, so they ultimately receive almost twice the amount of fertilizer that field-grown potatoes get, and the expected yield is correspondingly higher, which may very well offset the higher labor required.

Just a word about the benefits of Grow-Bed or Soil-Bed gardening: Dr. Mittleider has found that planting two rows of most plants together – about 12 inches apart in the 18 inch bed (the ridges take up the other 6 inches), provides several advantages. First the fertilizer is immediately available to both rows of plants and virtually none is wasted or used to feed the weeds. Second, watering is very efficient, since the ridged level beds keep the water right at the root zone of the plants, and again none is wasted. Third, weeding is much reduced, since no water is applied to the 3 1/2 foot-wide aisles, and the vegetables quickly shade any weeds that might grow in the bed area. The plants grow out into the aisles, so they get plenty of light and air, and the wide aisles make working much easier and more pleasant, without sacrificing productivity.