Potatoes are really easy to grow and the fresh taste of home-grown potatoes will delight you, your family and friends. You will never want to buy supermarket potatoes ever again!
All you need is a potato (sometimes called a tuber) and some soil. Sometimes potatoes start to grow in the bag, or in your cupboard. Little “eyes” start to get little, white shoots which is the potato telling you it wants soil in which to grow. This is called “chitting”.
How to Grow Potatoes Indoors
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
What you need:
- Seed potatoes – it is best to buy these from a garden center. Ones that sprout in your kitchen should not be used because they will not usually produce potatoes of a good size.
- A container or a bag to grow them in. Allow a pot big enough to space potatoes at least six inches apart. You can buy specially designed potato growing bags, made to grow 3 potatoes per bag, made from polypropylene.
- Some compost or garden soil. Add homemade compost if available or buy chicken manure pellets and add them to the soil.
A complete step-by-step guide to tasty homegrown potatoes.
- Start chitting your potatoes by putting them in a recycled egg box or on paper in a warm place. Wait until you see several shoots coming from the eyes. These will become the green leaves. The roots will form on the opposite side.
- Now, find a large pot or even a bag you can grow them in. It must have holes for drainage. You do not want potatoes to sit in waterlogged soil or they will rot or may get Potato Blight. See what can go wrong with potatoes below.
- Quarter fill the bag or container with some compost. Do not fill it completely yet.
- Next, add your potato with green shoots pointing upwards. The roots will grow vertically downwards so ensure the green shoots are looking up to the sky.
- Cover the potato with soil and water it in but do not overwater at this stage or it may rot the potato.
- As the potato plant grows, keep adding compost to cover the growing potatoes but keep the green, growing part uncovered, so it can get light.
- Water every few days and watch the green leaves grow. If you are curious, you can pull back the soil and see small potatoes starting to form.
- Usually, you start to see potatoes forming, but natural light causes them to turn green. They are poisonous if green, so before that happens, cover them with compost. Check them daily!
- Keep watering and covering up new potatoes. The bag will get fuller and fuller and the green shoots will get larger and larger. Soon the plant will flower and then wait until the plant’s leaves start to turn brown.
- When the above-ground plant starts to die back and wither, it means your potatoes are ready to pick. Now you can simply dig and find out how big they are and remove them.
What types of potatoes can I grow?
1. First early potatoes
These are usually called new potatoes. E.g. Jersey Royal potato, which used to be the earliest potato you could buy in shops, named after the island of Jersey, close to France. You plant them in the ground early in March, and you can pick them in June.
2. Salad potatoes
Plant in March and these potatoes are ready to pick in late July to early August. These are best eaten fresh out of the ground (or bag in this case!) because they do not store well. Useful for potato salad and mashing etc.
3. Maincrop potatoes
These potatoes are planted in April or later than new potatoes, and this type stay in the ground until August to September. These are excellent for baking, roasting, and mashing. These can be stored for longer, although I bet you eat them as soon as they are dug out of the container!
What is the best soil for potatoes?
Potatoes are hungry for rich, fertile soil and this is what produces big potatoes. Add some garden soil, some compost – homemade if possible and you can increase fertility by using chicken manure pellets or comfrey leaves.
However, potatoes are also known in allotments for “clearing” the ground. This means that if the soil has never had vegetables growing there before, you can clear the toxins and make it a bit better by first planting potatoes.
After potatoes, you can then plant peas or beans, which benefit from the clearing the potatoes have done.
How often should I water them?
It is a mistake to overwater in the first few weeks. Water the potato in when you first plant it, then wait to check that the roots are growing. Give the pot or bag a watering every 2-3 days and in summer, be generous. Water again when really dry in hot weather.
How many potatoes can I put in a pot?
It depends on the size of your container. Allow 3 for shop-bought potato growing bags and space them at least 6 inches apart. Think of how big a bag of potatoes from the supermarket usually is and then allow that much space around your potato.
How long do potatoes take to grow indoors?
Plant in March or April and expect to pick July or August. If you chit potatoes and plant later, then you can leave them in the pot-growing until your potatoes are ready. There are no frosts indoors so continue to grow while the light is strong enough. When the plant flowers, that is a signal it is almost finished. Then you can get picking!
Why are the leaves dying on my potato plant?
- Usually after flowering, the plant has decided to stop growing so the leaves wilt.
- It could be that you have not watered a plant enough and this is its complaint. Water generously. And allow it to recover!
- A final horrible possibility is potato blight – see what can go wrong below.
What can go wrong with potatoes?
- The potatoes are tiny! Try adding some chicken manure pellets to the top of the soil and water these in. They will add to the fertility of the soil available for the potato. They are hungry plants!
- Potato Blight is a fungus that attacks potatoes, tomatoes and other plants in this family. If you get it, the potatoes are squidgy and covered in fungus and smell bad so discard them.
- Do not compost them as this will spread the fungus. It can come from tomatoes. Do not grow potatoes or tomatoes in the same soil for at least 3 years because the fungus can last that long.
Can I grow potatoes indoors in winter?
You can if you have artificial light and good soil. However, Mother Nature normally decides the best time for plants to grow, so your potatoes may not reach optimum size out of season.
Did you know?
- The skin of the potato contains a lot of nutrients. If they are homegrown, you don’t need to peel them! Just wash them gently and cook without peeling. They also provide you with a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin B.
- If a tiny section of your potato is exposed to light and goes green, this is poisonous so do not eat this. Cut off the green part and compost it.
- You can grow potatoes as long as they have an “eye” so try cutting a potato into several pieces with an “eye” each. They will all grow into separate plants! This is a great way to get more from once packet of seed potatoes and children will love doing this.