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Potatoes are not just a crop for growing outside in fields or a large vegetable garden. While potatoes can be a common sight growing in containers or in bags on balconies, it is even a crop that is capable of being grown successfully indoors.
Anyone with a bright and sunny spot in their home, such as a south-facing window, has the right location to be able to grow potatoes indoors. It is even possible to use grow-lights to get a crop.
All of which means that the joys of growing potatoes need not be limited to people with outdoor space. Growing indoors is perfectly possible and anyone can get flavorful homegrown potatoes for all their culinary needs.
Drew is a former professional kitchen gardener and has worked in several productive gardens growing vegetables for restaurants. Potatoes were an annual crop in the vegetable gardens and he has planted, grown and harvested many varieties.
How to start growing potatoes indoors
Potatoes are traditionally started indoors via the process of chitting seed potatoes. To put it simply, chitting potatoes is the action of starting a seed potato into growth early indoors. Placing the seed potatoes in a tray on a windowsill to get lots of light activates the tubers into growing mode. They will start growing and quickly put out little sprouts. This means it is primed to grow before it has even touched any soil.
Chitting usually takes place 4-6 weeks indoors before you want to plant the potato and it is a way of getting an earlier harvest and bigger yield. It is recommended to start potatoes in this way whether you intend to grow the tubers indoors or outside in the backyard. You can buy seed potatoes from Burpee.
Expert tips for growing your potatoes indoors
Potatoes like to grow in a sunny position and ideally one that can get around six hours of sunlight a day. That means to grow potatoes indoors you need to find a good spot next to a window that can provide lots of sunlight. While natural light is best, it is possible to use artificial grow lights (available from Amazon) to supplement the amount of light if required.
John Stephens, chief editor and gardener for Totalgardener.com, recommends a south-facing window as the best location in the home. He says: ‘This will give the potato plants the full benefit of sunlight and warmth, both of which are essential for their growth. If you have windows on multiple sides of your home, choose one that receives several hours of direct sunlight per day.
‘It's also important to ensure you have air movement to prevent the plants from getting too hot and to reduce fungal infections.’
Any container for growing potatoes indoors needs to be deep, it is best to go for one that is a minimum of 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. That depth allows enough room for a decent harvest of potatoes to develop and make it all worthwhile. There are a plethora of choices for the container. It can be a plastic, clay, or terracotta pot, while potatoes can even be grown in metal trash cans, buckets, fabric bags such as these potato growing bags on Amazon, or barrels. Just make sure any container has good holes for drainage in the bottom.
Use a potting compost that drains well and, whenever growing potatoes in containers, it is recommended to add a balanced fertilizer prior to planting. Do not add manure, as this can cause a lot of foliage growth and smaller tubers.
Put around 6 inches of compost in the container and place in your seed potatoes 12 inches apart for early season types, or 15 inches for mid-to-late potatoes. Do not attempt to cram in tubers when growing potatoes in bags or pots as it will not increase the yield. Cover the tubers with another 4-6 inches of soil and water well. As the plants break through the soil surface, keep adding more compost to mound them up, and repeat until the container is full. Keep the potatoes well-watered, especially during hot and sunny spells.
How long will it take to get a harvest of potatoes grown indoors?
The exact length of time it will take to get a harvest will depend on the type of potatoes you are growing. Potatoes are a crop that can have a long growing season, though new potatoes take much shorter than other varieties.
It can take between two to three months to go from planting the tubers to harvesting potatoes. The length of time will be longer if the crop is being grown over the winter period under lights.
As well as variety, the length of time will depend on where the plant was growing and the levels of heat and light it has been subjected to. Potatoes are ready to harvest when the foliage turns yellow and dies back.
Can I grow potatoes indoors all year round?
Yes, it is possible to grow potatoes indoors in winter. Potatoes can be grown indoors all year round as they are more of a cool-season crop. However, they will need additional lighting, such as artificial grow lights like this freestanding LED version on Amazon, to supplement the lower light levels that are common during winter months. The overall growth will slow down due to the lower levels of sunlight.
Diana Cox, gardening expert and owner of TheGardeningTalk.com, claims: ‘As long as you provide them with adequate light and cool temperatures, potatoes will grow and produce tubers indoors. However, it's best to start potatoes indoors in early spring and grow them through the summer, when they will have the most time to mature and produce tubers.’
Samuel J Schmitz, display gardens horticulturist at The Gardens at Ball, warns that daylight sensitivity may require additional attention to be given to potatoes grown indoors in winter. He says: ‘Potatoes will flower under short days and try to produce seed. If you remove the flower buds, you can keep the plant vegetative and producing potatoes.'
Can I grow potatoes indoors without soil?
There is a way to start the plant without any soil, and that is to grow potatoes indoors in water. To be more precise, it is to sprout a potato in water. It is a simple and easy way to grow a potato from a potato. Take part of a potato that has eyes in and suspend this above a jar full of water using toothpicks, with the base sitting in the water. Place the container in a sunny spot and the tuber should sprout within weeks. It can then be planted up into a container to be grown indoors for a harvest at the end of the season. The best time to plant potatoes is in spring and summer, so the plant can have time to grow and produce good tubers.
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Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites.
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