Container Planted Potatoes for Early Crop
A few years ago, I grew potatoes in buckets on my patio at my townhouse when I lived in Springfield. I had mixed results. One of the reasons that I had problems was because I tried to grow what I later learned were indeterminant potatoes whereas what needed to grow were determinant varieties. The basic difference between indeterminant and determinant potatoes is that if indeterminant potatoes have good conditions, they will continue growing all season whereas determinant potatoes grow a short time and then die off leaving behind a specific crop to harvest immediately.
As I understand, determinant potatoes have a short growing season (as little as seventy days) and can be planted in succession throughout the growing season. That is what I want to try to happen this year.
Another problem I had was that I put too many seed potatoes in my buckets. The buckets soon became crowded, so the potatoes stayed small. This year I am planting just one potato per bucket.
I want to try to grow potatoes so that I have a continuous crop coming in all summer long. The variety of determinant potato that I will be growing is Red Norland which has a growing season of just 70 days! I want to see how many buckets of potatoes I can grow during the summer and how many I need to keep myself supplied in potatoes for the entire growing season.
If I have more than enough Red Norland potatoes to supply me with potatoes throughout the growing season, and I have more than enough to sell at Farmer’s Market, I’ll take what extras I have and can some of them. I don’t think that will happen this year, because I only bought five pounds of this type of seed potatoes.
Because I only had three buckets available this year for the early determinant potato, I planted most of them in the ground in the main garden.
How to Plant a Bucket of Early Potatoes
To plant early potatoes in buckets, begin by putting holes in the bottom 1/3 of the bucket. I only put holes in the top of that bottom third of the bucket so that water would drain out only if it reached that part of the bucket. The lower part of that bottom third of the bucket would be used as a wicking bed of sorts. This way I wouldn’t have to water the buckets of potato plants quite as often.
I fill half of this bottom third of the bucket with sawdust, add a half shovel full of aged chicken manure and then cover that with more sawdust and filling that remaining bottom third of the bucket. Over the sawdust I put a one-inch layer of soil. In the center of the bucket on top of the soil, I set the potato or potato piece so that the rose end with the majority of the eyes was facing upwards in the bucket.
Once the potato piece was in place, I filled the remainder of the bucket with soil so that only two inches of the brim showed.
Once the potato plant surfaces above the soil line, I will fill the remaining space with grass clippings. I use grass clippings at this point because the grass clippings contain nitrogen so that if gives the potato plant’s leaves a little bit of a boost early in the growing process, but not so much to prevent the potatoes from producing the root vegetable.
Companion Planting for Potatoes
I am planting a companion plant with the potatoes in the garden. Because the potatoes take up a lot of growing space, I like to plant them with bush green beans. One reason, I like to use green bush beans is because bush green beans are a legume and while legumes are growing, they store nitrogen from the air in their roots that potatoes have access.
Another reason is that potatoes and bush green beans are harvested about the same time. I am able to harvest the potatoes and harvest the bush beans together and remove them both and replace them with a later crop like cabbage or spinach.
A final reason is that potatoes and bush green beans have a symbiotic relationship where they protect one another from insect pests. Green beans repel the Colorado potato beetle and potatoes protect green beans by repelling the Mexican beetle, a nasty pest that can quickly destroy a lush crop of green beans.
A Late Potato for Winter Storage
In addition to growing determinant potatoes for use during the gardening season, I am growing an indeterminant variety as well. The indeterminant potato variety that I will be growing will be White Russets. I know that they are good storing potatoes because I stored them in a cool place in my kitchen over the winter. I am experimenting with them as well. This experiment is that I planted some in the autumn and hope that they will start growing this spring. I also have some that I planted this spring. These potatoes are considered late-growing potatoes and should keep me supplied during the winter.
I have some idea about how many potatoes I will need this next winter because this past winter I bought 100 pounds of potatoes to use this past winter and there was enough in that my husband and I were sufficiently supplied with them throughout the winter. Therefore, if I can grow at least that many for the winter, it should be a sufficient supply for the upcoming winter.
How about you? Do you grow potatoes and if so, what do you find helps you improve your potato harvest?