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Potatoes in containers very poor yield


I don't know what we're doing wrong, but this is the second year running we've failed with growing potatoes in containers. When we had a garden we used to get loads of spuds, but containers...

We followed all the advice, We purchased seed potatoes (A variety we have been successful with in the ground) from our usual supplier and some potato planting bags, Prepared them and planted them in about 10cm multipurpose compost, adding more compost as the shoots appeared until about 10cm from the top. We watered well and were rewarded with a huge amount of growth then a fair few flowers, the plants are dying down now so I thought I'd empty one out to see what was there, we found 12 potatoes of varying size low down in the container, which probably weighed the same or less than the seed potatoes we planted, there weren't even any little baby potatoes growing higher up. 

What are we doing wrong? can anyone help please


  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,160

    No idea but I'll send you up to the top of the forum

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 21,886

    Beechgrove garden did a comparison of the results from gowing 3 spuds of the same variety in pots and in the ground and the ones in the ground had double the cropping weight.  

    It must have a lot to do with pots having restricted rot runs and needing watering every single day as well as feeding whereas the ones in teh ground can be left t get on with it except maybe in a drought.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 3,189

    Hi, Fizzer,

    You are probably doing nothing wrong, I've found this year some varieties do better in bags than in the ground and probably visa versa.   

    I'm growing spuds the other way round this year. Grew them in bags for about 4 yrs and this year in the ground on an allotment.

    Red Duke of York have cropped about the same in terms of size and weight although they have not been fed and watered as at home or been planted in multi purpose compost so were cheaper to produce.

    Pentlin Javlin were the same, cropped about the same from 10 seed spuds but I got bigger spuds.

    Maris Peer, 2nd earlies came into their own and had a bumper crop.

    All mine flowered this year and they seldom flowered in bags. Bags at home were fed on seaweed feed and planted in multi purpose compost. I've had no scab this year too, in bags some would get scab but I had no soft spuds in bags and had a few this year with Red Duke of York.       

    A plus with bags, you can try different varieties, I ran out of room to plant out the chitted spuds bought at the beginning of the year.  You can also try Christmas spuds in bags.

  • LeggiLeggi Posts: 489
    In my experience growing spuds in the ground will give better yields, providing you have the space of course. We grew some in bags at our allotment last year with the same varieties in the ground to see which would do better, the ones in the ground were by far bigger and more plentiful than the bags.
  • GardenGrower11GardenGrower11 EnglandPosts: 304

    Could be a variety of things.

    Too much nitrogen if you've been feeding them with the wrong type of food would lead to lots of green growth and not many potatoes, similar to what happens with closely related tomatoes and chillies. Might have done better with some finely broken up garden soil mixed in with the multi purpose compost, and feeding with tomato type food to increase the P and K your potatoes have available.

    The most likely reason could be lack of deep watering. It's been a pretty dry spring and summer, with only occasional heavy down pours that would have really soaked your containers. Unlike ground planted, potato bags or containers will dry out at the bottom through the drainage holes. I've put loads of water in the top of my potato bags without seeing any drainage out the bottom, so at least occasionally I keep watering until I'm sure they're really soaked.

    Depending on the varieties, is there any chance it's still too early for lifting, especially for main crops?

  • MrsT 12MrsT 12 Posts: 77

    Hi Fizzer, I grow potatoes in those green potato bags with drainage holes in the bottom. I put them in a corner on a patio which gets lots of morning sun and then goes into the shade about 4pm.

    I use about 10cm of multi purpose compost in the bottom, then sprinkle some potato feed on top of that, then 3 tubers and top with more compost. From then on it's just a good watering, top up with more compost when the new shoots appear and I never give them anymore feed. I have had a decent harvest from this method for the last few years.

    However, would not bother with International Kidney again which was a new test this year. Others I have tried and done well with are; Charlotte, Vivaldi and Sante.


  • GardenGrower11GardenGrower11 EnglandPosts: 304

    Also the pH environment the potatoes are growing in?

    Potatoes prefer a lower, more acidic pH, ideally around 5.5, which is about the same as rain water, which is where ground grown potatoes will be getting most of their moisture from.

    Tap water is much more neutral or slightly alkaline, so might have an effect, if that's what you've been using, or if the water butts have run dry.


  • FizzerFizzer Posts: 2

    Thanks for all your advice. The variety I grew were Anya;  a cross betweek Charlotte and Pink Fir apple, they are supposed to be first earlies, ready between June and August. When we grew them in the allotment, in rubbish soil, minimal feed and intermittent watering (We both worked full time so weren't always able to get to the allotment daily) they did really well, and we were giving spuds away to our family, even early on before they were "ready".

    In the bags they were well watered with rain water whenever possible, fed with tomato feed, and had sun from around 11am to 5pm daily (When the sun shone). We no longer have an allotment as we had to move with my job, and now only have a tiny garden, so I was hoping we could at least grow some veggies in pots, they haven't done as well as hoped, but we have a reasonable crop of runners, tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries, and the autumn raspberries are looking as if we will get som fruit from them in spite of a bad start. it's just the spuds which didn't do well. Maybe they don't like being looked after! 

    We have our names down for an allotment so maybe in a year or two we can start again

  • paull2paull2 Posts: 93

    Like Mrs T, I have been unimpressed with International Kidney, and yes, some varieties seem to do better in containers and bags than others. I've always had decent results with earlies from Charlotte also Kestrel. Swift also have unimpressed but this could be just me, where they're placed in the garden, amount/quality of compost, water, feed, etc, etc., so it's often unfair to generalise, perhaps.

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