Potatoes are a hearty root vegetable loved by many for their versatility. Baked or fried, mashed or smashed, potatoes are delicious and filling. This starchy edible tuber packs a punch with a mix of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Potassium, B6, and fiber. It also lacks cholesterol, making the potato a healthy any-time treat.
If you’ve ever heard of the potato famine in Ireland, you know that a disease wrecked the potatoes’ crops from the soil. Hydroponic gardening takes away any potential of soil-borne illnesses to destroy the potato crop and allows for a year-round harvest.
Still not sure if you should grow hydroponic potatoes? It truly is more manageable than planting in soil, and you can still get an excellent yield if you follow our tips below. Another reason to grow hydroponic potatoes is the crop is ready to harvest faster than growing in soil, and you can have a continuous harvest all year long!
Gather Grow Supplies
When planting your seed potatoes, use a mixture of perlite, vermiculite, and peat seed. Growers have complained that their potato yield is smaller with hydroponic growing than growing in soil. Unfortunately for them, they have not chosen the right mixture and hydroponic growing medium.
Perlite is very popular because it draws water up from the base, allowing more oxygen to flow to the roots. Vermiculite will help keep the moisture in because we do need some for optimal growth of delicious potatoes. And using peat seed gives plants support such as soil would, propping them up as they grow. Since potatoes love the earth, mimicking it with peat seed is a sound idea.
Your hydroponic system for potatoes may be a potato tower, a large bucket, or a large bin, as simple or elaborate as you wish. It comes down to each grower’s preference. Next, think about how you will regularly deliver fresh water to your potatoes. It is vital that whatever hydroponic system you use, the potatoes have adequate drainage.
You can also make a simple hydroponics system using a large bucket at least 10 inches in size. The bucket needs to have holes drilled on the sides. This is so water can drain properly, as potatoes do not like to sit in water all the time. These holes should be small, about ¼ inch, and spaced about 3 inches apart. Next, it is time to fill the buckets with your medium of choice. As we noted earlier, the best results come from a mixture of perlite, vermiculite, and peat seed.
Plant Those Tubers
To begin with, once your hydroponic system is ready to go, clay pellets on the bottom will help drainage. When planting a root vegetable such as a potato, you plant seed potatoes as a starter. Potatoes can be started from any potato with an eye, but starting with a trusted seed potato ensures diseases stay far away. Starting with an eye- a slight indentation in the potato skin- is what germinates into a new plant.
Put the potato seeds above a net pot to ensure they do not float away. Place the potato seeds about 6 inches apart and 1 inch deep under the perlite mixture. Ensure the potato seeds are deep under your selected medium and keep them covered once they begin to grow out.
Most soil-grown potatoes can be grown in anything, from a grocery bag to a bucket, but they do not require the same care as hydroponic potatoes. One thing soil-grown potatoes and hydroponic potatoes have in common is that you must constantly cover them as they rise above your medium. So, add that perlite mixture when you start to see growth peeking out. Think of it as keeping them covered and filled with nutrients. It allows the hydroponic potato to stay moist and protected from too much sunlight.
This video gives a good overview of hydroponic potato growth at every stage.
Hydroponic Potatoes: Inside Versus Outside
Outside, potatoes have direct sunlight and plenty of oxygen and CO2. Since potatoes perform best with around 10 hours of sunlight a day, it seems ideal to grow them outside. Other variants are harder to control, such as temperature and climate, and with hydroponic gardening, we take care to contain all variables when possible. For this reason, growing hydroponic potatoes inside has many benefits.
Growing hydroponic potatoes inside avoids the pests from outdoors and allows for more control of your hydroponic potatoes’ growing environment. You will need a grow light, either LED or fluorescent, to mimic the daylight hydroponic potatoes need. Place your grow lights a few inches above the vines, and as the potato plant grows, move the lights up. A great benefit to hydroponic potatoes is that they can be grown all year round.
TLC for Delicious Potatoes
A key point to remember when growing hydroponic potatoes is to keep them covered as they continue to grow. The roots don’t need direct sunlight like the plant’s leaves above ground. It is best practice to consistently cover the potatoes with either more perlite or the mixture of your choice. Before the potato plant sprouts, water every 3-5 days, checking to ensure the perlite doesn’t become dry.
Water them frequently but with careful attention not to over water. Whether with a drip system, flood & drain system, or by hand, it matters not how you water but that you water consistently!
A good tip from an experienced hydroponic potato grower is once the water is down to 50%, replace and flush out the old with a new nutrient-rich solution. This way, the plant isn’t just getting diluted water but getting a nutrient-rich dosage to ensure optimal health. After the potato plant sprouts, it’s time to mix in fertilizing with the watering. Typically, water frequency and amounts increase as the plant’s size increases. You can use an expandable hose for watering these plants as it is capable of covering a large area.
Once potatoes have sprouted, it is time to get your fertilizer on! Add 1tsp of 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer (which includes micronutrients) to 1 gallon of water once a week. Pour this mixture until it runs out of the drain holes. At this point of the hydroponic potato’s growth, it is essential to feed the potatoes a nutrient-rich solution, not just water, for a bountiful harvest. Once your hydroponic potato plant is around 20 inches high, switch over to a liquid fertilizer with potassium, such as a 10-10-20 blend of fertilizer—this aids in the growth and development of your tubers.
Hydroponic Harvest Time
Below is a video from a hydroponic potato harvest. It gives a good look into the method we describe below.
You know it’s time to harvest when the plant leaves begin to die, about 70 days after planting. What you’ll need for an easy harvest set-up is a wheelbarrow, garden gloves, and a 2×4/piece of wood. Dump your bucket of potatoes into the wheelbarrow. Then, sift through to find all your beautiful potatoes, placing them on the wood. Be very thorough as some can be itty bitty. When given proper, consistent fresh water and sunlight and using the mediums we recommend above, you will have a plentiful hydroponic potato harvest.
Now that you’ve harvested yummy homegrown hydroponic potatoes, store them in a cool dark place to maximize their shelf life. Don’t wash them until you are ready to cook with them, as keeping them dirty keeps them fresher.
What Temperature is Best For Hydroponic Potatoes?
Around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal since they are a cool-weather crop. Nutrient solution and medium should be at 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure optional nutrient and oxygen intake.
What is the Ideal Nutrient Solution and Environment for Hydroponic Potatoes?
Keep pH around 6 to keep hydroponic potatoes growing nicely in an acidic environment. Ensure nutrient-rich medium and solution maintains consistent 70-degree temperature. If growing hydroponic potatoes outside, you may need to use a heating fan or cooling inline fan to regulate the temperature. A humidifier is likely unnecessary, but it depends on your grow room conditions. If you’re growing potatoes indoors in a dry, cold climate, a humidifier or mister may be necessary.
What Do I Need to Know About Ideal Water Levels for Growing Hydroponic Potatoes?
Another critical point is to monitor water levels and never let them get low. The water in a hydroponic system for potatoes should just touch the area where roots enter the water. Never submerge the whole seedling in water. By leaving the other parts of the roots exposed to air, you facilitate oxygen uptake in the plant.
Using an ebb-and-flow system requires a watering schedule for 5-6 times a day at 10 minutes each. If growing outside, experiment to see if your potatoes benefit from more frequent waterings. Additionally, never let the water level get higher than your net pot, as too much water is not a good thing for hydroponic potatoes.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Hydroponic Potatoes?
The one drawback we quickly think of is the cost of setting up a hydroponic grow system. DIY hydroponic grow systems can be made relatively inexpensively and on a budget, as we have shared above, so try not to let price be a deterrent to homegrown hydroponic potatoes.
The yield may not be as high as growing potatoes in a field; however, hydroponic potatoes are free from soil-borne diseases and can produce a year-round harvest. Constant monitoring is required, but that is something that every grower must do, whether in hydroponics or otherwise. The benefits of growing hydroponic potatoes certainly outweigh the negatives.