Producing Potatoes In A Small Area

Potatoes in boxes by Chiot's Run
Image by Chiot’s Run

Do you love potatoes but only have a small garden space? If your garden is a few pots on a balcony or just a small plot, this article will discuss how to grow lots of potatoes in a small area by following some of these suggestions.

In a small space, potatoes can be grown in cages, potato grow bags, 5-gallon buckets, bags of purchased soil, right in the compost bin, or any other box, bin, or laundry basket that you have on hand.

If you don’t have a very big garden, you can still grow large quantities of potatoes. The key is vertical growing in containers. How you grow your potatoes is only limited by your creativity. Here are a few ideas that work very well to get you started.

  1. Potato grow bags
  2. Bags of potting soil
  3. Potato cages
  4. 5-gallon buckets
  5. In the compost bin
  6. Anything and everything

1. Potato Grow Bags

Potato grow bags are a very popular, and convenient, idea. You simply grow your potatoes in dirt inside a bag. Grow bags can be purchased from many garden centres, or on Amazon. Or you can use a cloth shopping bag. This is a great way to upcycle an already reusable product that has served its time.

To grow potatoes in a grow bag, position the bag in a sunny spot and put an 8cm (3″) layer of soil in the bottom. Put your seed potatoes on top of the dirt, and cover with another 8cm of soil. Plant 3 to 4 potatoes per bag.

Potatoes in a grow bag by Ruth Hartnup
Image by Ruth Hartnup

When your potato plants are 30cm (12inches) tall, add 15cm (6inches) of soil. Let your plants grow another 30cm, and then hill them again with another 15cm of soil.

When it comes time to harvest your mature tubers, simply dump out the bag and collect the potatoes. Some potato grow bags have flaps that allow you to “steal” new potatoes from the bottom of the bag for an early harvest.

2. Bags Of Potting Soil

This is a slight variation of potato grow bags that will save you a lot of work. Instead of buying soil to put in a grow bag, why not grow your potatoes right in a bag of purchased potting soil? Simply lay the bag of potting soil flat on the ground, cut a large hole in the top side, and plant your potatoes.

3. Potato Cages

Potato cages, or potato boxes, are basically a frame that you build that can fill with dirt as your potatoes grow. Set the potato cage in a sunny location in the garden where you want your potatoes to grow, put the seed potatoes on top of the soil inside the cage, and cover them with about 8cm (3inches) of soil. As the plants grow, just add more soil to your cage. When your potatoes are ready for harvest, simply lift off the care or open one side, and you can easily sift through and find the potatoes.

Potato cages can be purchased as kits, or they can be made from nearly anything, and they can be any shape and size you want. Poultry netting works very well as it is lightweight, and allows good drainage and air circulation. Put 3 or 4 stakes in the ground to form a square about 40cm to 60cm (15-24 inches) across, and wrap the poultry netting around them.

Potato cages by Marleigh
Image by Marleigh

You can build them out of wood, too, to create a more attractive addition to your garden. We had some pieces of lattice left over from our fence that made a very simple and effective potato cage. Potato cages can be made from anything to fit any space and budget.

Potato cages work very well with companion planting. Companion planting is growing two or more crops together so they will benefit each other in some way. In our case, potatoes and peas or beans. Potatoes require lots of nutrients to grow large, healthy tubers, especially nitrogen. Peas and beans take nitrogen from the atmosphere and put it into the soil in a phenomenon called nitrogen fixation. These legumes will feed the potatoes while the potato cages act as a trellis to support their vines.

4. In The Compost Bin

If you are lucky enough to already have a compost bin in your garden, why not use it to grow your potatoes? Hilling potatoes in well-rotted compost is a common practice and you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by planting right in the compost. Just dig a small hole in the compost and lightly bury your seed potatoes as if you were planting them in the garden. When it comes time to hill the potatoes, simply pile more of the compost on the plant.

It is very important that your compost is well-rotted. If your heap is still composting, the heat of the process will kill the potatoes. Or if there is too much decomposing matter that is still rotting, your potatoes will rot right along with it.

After you have dug your potatoes in the fall, you can then add the compost to your garden like you usually would.

5. Growing In 5-Gallon Buckets

5-gallon buckets make great potato cages, and they can be purchased at almost any home or hardware store. The best part is that they are portable, so you can move the bucket around as needed. You can even carry the bucket inside overnight if there is a chance of an early frost. (Make sure you put a tray underneath to catch water since we are going to drill drainage holes in the bottom).

When choosing a bucket for growing potatoes, find a food-grade bucket. If it is not food-grade, it might leach toxic chemicals into the soil and into your potatoes. To make sure the bucket is food-grade, look on the bottom for a recycle symbol. If it contains the numbers 2, 4, or 5 then it is good to go. Alternatively, it might have a knife and fork symbol instead.

Potatoes in 5-gallong buckets by Ruth Hartnup
Image by Ruth Hartnup

The first step is to drill drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket, otherwise your soil will become waterlogged and your plant will probably rot instead of grow. Drill about 10 holes that are roughly .5cm to 1cm in diameter (1/4-1/2 inch).

Grow potatoes in a 5-gallon bucket similar to a grow bag (see above), but only put 2 seed potatoes in each bucket. Growing potatoes in buckets works better with early and mid-season varieties since they are usually smaller when they mature. Late season potatoes will generally grow too big and won’t have enough space to adequately mature.

6. Anything And Everything

You can pretty much grow potatoes in anything. Old tires, laundry baskets, garbage cans, or anything else you have lying around can be used to grow potatoes when you have limited garden space. Even a few potato plants can produce a lot of potatoes if you give them the time and care they need, and you will be on your way towards self-sufficiency.

Growing potatoes in tires by Tony Buser
Image by Tony Buser

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.