It is very easy to grow potatoes. Many however prefer to use containers as this saves the digging required to harvest the potato. Pretty much any variety is suitable for growing in a container but you tend to get better results with early season ones with a shorter growing time.
You can plant any potato variety (that is sprouting) and it will grow but it is usually best to buy the treated seed potato tubers as these are more resistant to rot and disease. Our favourites for taste are Vivaldi, King Edward, Maris Piper and Anya. (Anya are very small and have a nutty taste and work really in salads.)
Preparing the tubers.
The tubers will start to sprout. As these sprouts begin to form leave them on a window sill to green up. Although not essential this will help to maximise the yield and allows an early indoor start.
There will be a cluster of sprouts at one end which is called the rose. Keep the 4 strongest sprouts at the rose end and rub off the others.
Wait for the frosts to finish. Choose a big pot, a builders bucket with holes in the bottom is ideal or you can use flower planters or a half barrel. In most areas you are looking at late march to early April to plant the tubers out. Protect them from frost and if you live in a colder part of the country it might be best to wait until May. Keep 3 to 4 tubers to a pot unless it is fairly small where you might reduce the number planted to 1 or 2.
Place the tubers near the bottom of a container with only a little soil on top. As the green leaves start to appear add more soil on a weekly basis until the container is full. Do not cover the new shoots completely, always allow them a little light and aim to keep an inch of green above the new soil level. The new tubers will form just below the soil level so topping up the soil level will increase your yield.
Keep the soil moist but not wet. If it is too wet the tubers will start to rot. Use a general fertiliser every 2 weeks.
Harvest around June-July time. The leaves will start to wilt and die back a little which is your signal that the tubers are ready for harvesting. Flowers indicate that tubers are forming and there is nothing stopping you from putting your hand in the compost to feel for the size of the tubers if there is any doubt.
You can then plant a second crop in June-July for October-December time. Your new tubers will not sprout in time so you either need to have kept some back from the first planting or get some more seed potatoes from a specialist. Do not reuse the soil for potatoes for 4 years to prevent pest infestation such as eel worm which can remain for up to 20 years in the soil! If you have an infestation of eel worm then it is also recommended that you burn and do not compost the potato plants after harvesting. The soil will need to be left potato free for eight years. Some allotments are troubled with eel worm and it has been found that planting marigolds can help with this problem.
Slugs can also be a problem on moist soil conditions