One of the most important vegetable crop around the world is the potato. Despite the constant health reminder that potatoes can cause diabetes, weight gain and heart disease, most of us continue to love the processed version of potatoes.
French fries, hash browns and mash potatoes equate to comfort food and snacks. However, when ingested fresh, potatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals.
Potatoes are low in calories, contain vitamins C and B6 for a stronger immune system, vitamin B3 to improve cholesterol levels, phosphorus to improve digestion and bone formation, manganese for a healthy bone structure, and vitamin B5 that can alleviate conditions like asthma, stress and hair loss.
The vitamins and minerals that a potato contains gives the body all the necessary nutrients it needs to fight of most diseases and at the same time maintain it in top condition. In a situation wherein survival is a must and there is limited source of food, potatoes are your best chance at living to see another day.
Fortunately, you don’t need acres of land to create your own potato farm. There is a way to grow them with something that can be found in your backyard or in your house: a bucket.
Benefits of Growing Potatoes
The most important benefit of growing your own potatoes in the comfort of your backyard is the fact that you’re able to make sure that they are organic, pesticide-free and fresh.
Nowadays, the danger of buying vegetables from the market is that it might not be as healthy and as fresh as it should be. In a situation wherein your priority is to survive, you cannot afford to have food that can endanger your health.
Growing your own potatoes gives you a legitimate fighting chance at surviving since it contains all the vitamins and minerals you need to avoid sickness.
To piggyback on the aforementioned benefit, you also reduce the efforts needed to weed. There is also less exposure to pests and fungi that can ruin your vegetables which means that the use of pesticide is not necessary.
One other thing that you can prevent is the damage caused by the tools you use in planting. Shoveling often carries with it the risk and possibility of harming the roots and the harvest.
Another benefit is that it gives a constant supply that is both sustainable and practical. You only need cheap materials and not a lot of effort. What better way to ensure that you have the basic need of food covered than to have the assurance that you produce your own?
Get the Right Soil
Carefully consider what type of soil you will be using. Potting soil is the best option as it is composed of loam, sand, peat, and nutrients.
If your potting soil also has fertilizer mixed in, then you have one less thing to worry about. However, if you can’t get potting soil, loam can be the next best option.
How to Plant Potatoes in Buckets
- 5-gallon bucket
- Potting soil
- Seed potatoes or small potatoes
- Fertilizer (preferably slowly-soluble or coated fertilizer)
- Optional: rocks, pebbles or broken clay pot pieces
- Choose a container for your potatoes. The most ideal choice would be a container that will allow you some drainage. If you do choose a 5-gallon bucket, make sure to drill a hole on the side or on the bottom to prevent drowning your potatoes.
- Optional: If you’d like to make sure that your plants will have drainage, put rocks, pebbles or broken clay pieces at the bottom, as this will pull and flush the water out before it can sit in the soil for long periods of time.
- Mix in the slow-release fertilizer. This kind of compost is “coated” in such a way that it allows it to release its nutrients more slowly than most fertilizers. While a slow-release fertilizer is ideal, regular ones will work as well. Whichever kind of fertilizer you choose, it’s very important to check and double check that it is organic to prevent pesticide poisoning among other things.
- Fill up your container with soil for, at most, six inches.
- Make the soil moist but not wet. This can be done by sprinkling water.
- Place your potatoes on top of the soil. If you’re using seed potatoes, those can be planted right away. For bigger potatoes, you may need to cut them to smaller pieces and make sure that it has a maximum of two eyes where the sprout will grow. To prevent overcrowding and to allow breathing, place only three to four potatoes per container. Plant them six inches away from each other.
- Cover the potatoes with two to four inches of moist soil.
Caring and Growing for Potatoes Grown in Containers
Cautiously water. Remember that the best way of watering potatoes is to make sure that you only get the soil moist. You do not need to pour water on it. To check and make sure that it is moist, bury your finger and carefully consider if it is moist or soggy.
Once your plant has grown for about six inches, cover it with more soil. Repeat this step for every six inches until you reach the brim of the bucket. Don’t forget to mix in compost and to make sure that the soil is moist.
Don’t completely cover the plant. Stop once you can only see about two-thirds of it. This process is known as “hilling” and it prevents your potatoes from being directly exposed to sunlight as it causes it to become green and bitter.
One of the best things about growing potatoes in containers is that you don’t have to worry about accidentally killing your plant during harvesting. For this, you can simply tip and gently dump the contents of the bucket.
Things to Remember
First of all, potatoes grow fast. They only take 70 to 90 days to grow before you can harvest them. If you’re in a generally cold area, the best time to plant it is during the last week of March and the first two weeks of May.
On the other hand, if you’re in the warmer areas, you can still plant potatoes up until late fall or early winter. You will need to expose your plant to at least six hours under the sun per day.
Another key thing to consider is watering. As was mentioned, the key is to keep the soil moist and not wet and soggy. Wet soil causes your potatoes to rot. You check on your plant at least once in a day.
Generally, the rule is to water your potatoes at least once a day. But if it’s very windy or hot, you may want to water them twice or thrice depending on how fast the soil will dry.
You will know when it’s time to harvest when the plants have flowered. Another useful tip is that you can actually harvest the potatoes once the stems turn yellow.
Stop watering your plant for a week before harvesting the potatoes. If you think that your crop still has some maturing potatoes, then harvest the ones that are ready by pulling it out gently and leaving those that can still grow.
The best way to pinpoint whether or not your crop can still grow more potatoes is to watch the stems and leaves. Once it stops flowering and the plants are slowly dying, your crop has reached the end of its capacity.
If you don’t have access to a bucket, you either use a stack of tires or trash bags as containers. The only setback is that you will have to be extra careful with the temperature as these containers can heat up quite quickly during hot days.
Potatoes do not do well in heat. They thrive best in temperatures ranging from 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moreover, keep in mind that plastic and rubber may release potentially toxic chemicals that can harm you and your crop. Whatever the container you choose to use, make sure that there is proper drainage.
On particularly cold nights, you can protect your plants by placing a lid over it, which you will have to remove once the sun is up.
After harvesting your potatoes, remember that it is very important that you don’t water them until they have hardened. To remove the soil that may have stuck to it, just gently brush it with your hand.
The best storage for your potatoes is somewhere cool and dark. You can also put them in tupperwares or paper bag. Make sure that the potatoes are not in any immediate risk of bruising as this will cause accelerated rotting.
Do not store your potatoes in a refrigerator. It will cause drying which will lead to shorter storage life. If you encounter potatoes that are smaller than the usual ones, don’t throw them away. Despite its size, it contains a sweeter flavor that most people enjoy.