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The potatoes don't grow until the plants are mature. If you covered them every time they grew 3 inches then they never were allowed to grow potatoes. Leave them alone. The potatoes need nutrition only provided by the plant. If you don't allow the plant itself to grow there's nothing there to nourish the fruit.

Now that they're out in the sunshine just leave it alone until the plant has grown and then toppled all on it's own. That's when you will find potatoes down in the dirt.
 

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My guess is, you did not leave them long enough. They also did not have the right nute balence unless you used a specialist fert. That, and you used 'eating potatoes' rather than 'seed potatoes'

Nutes

To much nitrogen and they will just keep growing folliage. Store bought compost will be higher in Nitrogen than Phosphorus and Potasium. The compost you had will have been defecient in potasium, unless it was branded as 'soil for growing potatoes' - I have never seen such a product however.

Time

As has been said, you did not give them enough time. A good sign development of tubers is underway is flowering. Be advised that not all crops will flower however. A better indicator however, is the type of potatoes you are growing - first earlies, second earlies or maincrop. Each has different planting to cropping times, first earlies being the fastest, maincrop being the longest. When the number of weeks is up for the type you are growing, if the folliage still looks good and you are confident the potatoes will not be being damaged to much by slugs and the risk of blight is low, leave them.

When the folliage yellows and goes over, the potatoes cannot be taking on much more growth. Have a root around then and see what you have.

Me, well, I sit down inbetween the hills and work my hands in when the first plants are starting to go, or when they ar at the time they should have produced by and take some. Only when all of the foliage goes over do I harvest, or when I know blight is in the area.

Seed

Buy seed potatoes. Conventionally grown 'Food' potatoes have been bred to suit conditions on a farm - a very regulated fertilizer and spraying regime. I have heard it said that conventially grown potatoes are sprayed 12 times on average in the UK over the growing season. I do not spray at all. Store bought are 'athletes' they need vey specific conditions and diet to perform.

That is not to say some do not have some success, far from it, but you will have much easier success with seed potatoes. That, and store bought may contain viruses that can harm your yeilds, your crop and you soil for a couple of years to come. Seed potatoes should be certified to be virus free.

Other

I would have also used larger containers. Growing them in soil for near 30 years, I know their roots will have not liked a 5 gal bucket, watering would have been hard on them, in all likelyhood, they would either be too wet or too dry.

Keep on going tho, Rome was not built in a day. Knowledge is built from problems.
 

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So a few months ago I planted some potatos in a 5 gallon bucket. I started it in my basement as it is still pretty cold here in Indiana. Here is what I did.

Drilled 3-4 holes in the side of the bucket about 2-3" from bottom
2"-3" of rock in bottom
3" of potting soil placed potato with eyes pointing up
Covered the potato with dirt so it was about 1" under the surface.

Watered, grow lights(8-10 hours a day), and covered them when ever they got about 3" above the surface.

When the bucket was full I stopped watering and placed them out in the sun light for a week. Then my impatient got the better of me so I checked and no potato other then the one I started with.

At first I thought I didn't wait long enough but there where no signs of small potato growth. Maybe too much light?
A hundred days to get a crop. A hundred days. A week is a little too early.

3 inches of soil under your potato is nothing like enough. It has to grow feeder roots. It needs far more soil.

Also: did you have a moulding variety or one that doesn't like moulding and won't grow up the plant?

Next time just plant your potatoes about 4" under the surface, put them outdoors and go away. Water when they're thirsty, feed once a fortnight with liquid fertiliser, and WAIT 100 DAYS! :D :D :D
 
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