Warmer weather means more time outdoors, but if, like me, your outdoor gardening space is limited, you may be looking for ways to garden indoors and year round. Eating your harvest can make this plant-based hobby even sweeter. If you’re ready to expand your growing horizons, the humble potato is a great place to start. Growing your own potatoes isn’t as hard as it may sound. If the idea has your curiosity sprouting, let’s explore how to plant potatoes of different varieties: red, russet, white, Yukon Gold, blue, or yellow (sorry, the sweet potato doesn’t actually count) in small spaces and indoors. With little more than patience, homegrown spuds can be a high point of your family’s mealtime.
What You Will Need:
- Seed potatoes
- A container – there are many options including buckets and potato bags
- Light (either natural light or grow lights for potatoes)
— The Chatty Gardener (@ChattyGardener) March 23, 2021
Before We Get Started:
What Is A Seed Potato?
The fastest way to get started is with seed potatoes. A seed potato is just a regular potato tuber that has sprouts – also called eyes or chits. If you look closely at a mature potato, you’ll likely see small indentations where the eyes are beginning to grow. When the eyes are exposed to moisture, darkness and warmth, they soon sprout and grow, making a new potato plant in the process.
Where To Get A Seed Potato
You should be able to purchase seed potatoes from a local farm, or even at a home improvement store garden section or on Amazon. If you’d rather not buy seed potatoes, you can make your own from organic potatoes, such as russets or fingerlings. A word of caution – most non-organic potatoes purchased at a store have been sprayed with a growth inhibitor that keeps eyes from forming. For best results, use organic potatoes.
How to Speed-Up Sprouting
Some recommend leaving a store-bought potato in an egg carton in a dry, dark place for a couple of weeks until eyes start to sprout on the potato, but there’s really no need to wait quite that long and risk rotting.
To speed up the sprouting process, cut a potato in half making two circular ends, pierce the potato with three or four toothpicks above the cut end, and suspend the potato on the rim of a glass of water so that the cut side is barely submerged. Check daily to make sure the water isn’t grey or cloudy, and refill a bit of the water if the potato is no longer submerged. If necessary, just switch it out with clean water. After about a week, you should see small sprouts (eyes) all over your halved potato, meaning it’s ready to be planted.
Step 1: Prepare Potatoes For Planting
After your seed potatoes have sprouted eyes, cut away the potato mass, leaving a section of potato holding at least two or three eyes. If you have a large potato with many eyes, you can use this method to turn one seed potato into several, maximizing your yield.
Removing large amounts of potato which do not contain eyes can help to reduce moisture and the risk of rot after your potatoes are planted. This becomes especially important when planting in a container. For this same reason, the last step is to allow your newly cut potato pieces to dry.
You can see the preparation process in action here:
Step 2: Choose Your Container
When growing potatoes indoors, it’s most common to plant them in a large bucket or planter. Your container should be – at minimum – a foot deep and a foot in diameter. Most experts recommend deeper and wider with the container sizes – all the way up to 18 inches deep and 16 inches in diameter.
Poke or drill drainage holes in the bottom. Since you’re planting inside, be sure that you have a tray to collect any excess water.
Grow bags are a great alternative to buckets. These will feature access flaps which allow you to harvest the potatoes from the side of the container. This can be less messy and more aesthetically pleasing than a 5 gallon bucket.
Step 3: Prepare Your Soil
When growing potatoes indoors or outdoors, you’ll want to place them in a loamy soil that drains well. You can make your own soil. Common ingredients include compost, peat moss, perlite and sand, and worm castings. But, you can also see great results using mix from a store. Those soil mixes, designed for raised beds and containers, will be most helpful.
Step 4: Planting Potatoes
- Add a few inches of moist soil to the bottom of your container.
- Leaving a few inches between each potato, place your sprouted potato pieces on the top of the soil with the eyes (sprouts)facing up. Or, with the most-developed eye of each seed potato upward.
- Lightly cover the potato with about 5-6 inches of soil. Do not pack the soil down, but allow it to lay loosely. These inches of soil will be where your first new potatoes will grow.
- Place in a sunny spot such as a south-facing windowsill, or under a grow light.
- Wait. In a few weeks your potato sprouts will grow up through the top soil and produce leaves. Then, it will be time to “hill up.”
Step 5: Hilling
Hilling is the process of covering the new sprouts with moist soil, in order to continue the growing process and provide more room for new tubers to develop. When the green of your potato plant is a few inches tall, loosely cover stems and leaves with soil. Allow some leaves to stick out at the top, to continue growth. Barely cover any greenery that pokes through.
Depending on your size of container, you may hill up 1-3 times. Once you’ve filled the container to the top with soil, simply wait for the leaves to turn yellow, then harvest your new potatoes!
How To Care For Indoor Potatoes
As you can see, planting spuds indoors isn’t too difficult, and keeping them alive through the growing process is pretty straight-forward. In fact, it can be much more simple to produce a disease-free crop indoors than in the garden, as your houseplants will be shielded from the harsher outdoor elements and pests. Plus, whichever types of potatoes you choose to grow, care will be much the same.
Light For Indoor Potatoes
Potatoes require full sun – at least six hours each day. When growing potatoes indoors, place them in a south-facing window to get the most sunlight. If that’s not possible, consider a grow light for potatoes.
Watering Indoor Potatoes
The soil around a potato plant should be moist but not drenched. For most plants, you’ll want to water every five days or so and add no more than two inches of water per week.
Your DIY potato crop may be ready to harvest in about three to four months, but it can vary depending on the variety. A better way to know when to harvest is by looking for the blooms on the potato plant. When you’ve seen blooms and the plants start to turn yellow, it means that the potatoes are ready to harvest. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean the potatoes are large at this point. If you’re looking for bigger potatoes, you might need to wait a week or two more before harvesting.
If planting in a grow bag with an access flap, harvesting is simple and fairly mess free. The flap also allows you to check the progress of your potatoes without disrupting the plant.
If you’re growing the potatoes in a container without a flap, you’ll need to dig them out or simply dump the container and sift through the dirt to find your potatoes.