How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can

When I was younger, I heard stories of my husband’s great-grandpa growing potatoes in a metal trash can. I had never heard of this. I asked lots of questions, and then tried it myself. It worked better than I thought it would. Growing potatoes in a trash can or barrel allows you to produce a lot of food in a very small location.

My kids loved getting involved. It’s a fun way to learn about potatoes and discuss why this method works.

Potato Trash Can in Corner of GardenHow to grow potatoes in a trash can or barrel:

I used a plastic trash can tucked away in the corner of our garden. You can also use a metal trash can or a barrel. I cut the bottom off our trash can, because that’s what I was told Great Grandpa did, so he could lift the trash can up and the potatoes and dirt and potatoes came out the bottom. This worked well for me, but most people just drill holes in the bottom for drainage.

Preparing to Plant:

Plant potatoes about 2 weeks before your anticipated last freeze date. If you don’t know when that is, check here: National Climate Data Center, select your state and look for your city.

Buy seed potatoes online or at your local garden center. Cut off the eyes, along with a portion of the potato. Do not cut the potato smaller than a quarter of its original size. Allow to dry for 1-2 days before planting.

Cutting Trash Can for PotatoesDrill holes in the bottom of a 20-32-gallon plastic trash can. Or, like me, you can cut the whole bottom off.

Trash Can Cut Dirt InsidePlanting Potatoes:

Place the trash can in sunny location (needs sun 6-8 hours per day).

Mix compost, potting soil (worm castings are awesome for this), and sand together. Fill the bottom of the trash can about 6 inches deep.

Planting Potatoes in Trash CanPlace 3-6 potato pieces, cut-side down into your trash can on top of your soil mix.

Add 3-4 inches of soil mix on top of your potato pieces and water until the soil is damp, not soggy.

Potatoes Growing in Trash CanAs your potato plants grow, add 3-4 inches of soil mix for every 7-10 inches of growth. Keep watering. Do not cover the leaves with soil. The plants will continue to grow new underground stems with potatoes attached.

When your trash can is full of soil and the green stems are sticking out of the top, keep an eye on them and continue to water them.  

The tops of the plants will start to flower, then shortly after the plant will start to wilt. Stop watering them at this point. This allows your potatoes to mature and takes about two weeks.

The tops will continue to wilt, turn yellow and dry. It’s time to harvest your crop.

Harvest and Storage:

Harvest as soon as you can. If you wait too long, the potatoes may start to dry out and wither.

Potatoes Dumped from Trash CanTo harvest your potatoes, tilt your trash can or barrel over onto a tarp or large trash bag and dig through the dirt to gather your potatoes.

After harvesting, leave your potatoes outdoors for about an hour to dry. After they are dry, you may brush off the bigger pieces of dirt with a soft cloth, but do not wash your potatoes with water until you are ready to use them.

If possible, allow them to “cure” for about two weeks in a dark place that is 55-60 degrees F and about 80 to 95 percent humidity. This allows any bruising or cuts from harvesting to ‘heal.’

Store your potatoes in a dark, cool (40 degrees F is ideal), dry (moderate humidity) place with good ventilation. Store them in slotted baskets or bins.  Do not pile them more than 6-8 inches high to avoid bruising.

Check them frequently and remove any that are rotting.  A root cellar or cool basement is a good place for this. If you meet these storage requirements, your potatoes can be stored up to eight months, in some cases.

Have you ever grown potatoes in a trash can? What methods did you use?

About Nelle

I am Nelle. I grew up in rural, small town, Ohio. When I was young, I learned a lot about homesteading from my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, 4-H, FFA, and others around me.
Now, I’m all grown up, have 6 children of my own, and plan to teach them everything I know.

Here on Mama’s Homestead, we talk and write about homesteading, homeschooling, and kidsteading (homesteading with kids). We teach our kids about survival, self-sufficiency, gardening (vegetable, herb, flower), orchard, beekeeping, home keeping, soap making, harvesting, cooking, food preservation, livestock, nature, crafts, homesteading tools and wares, and more…

Welcome to my homestead…come and learn with us!


  1. Thank you. I’m going to give this a try this year because I have some extra seed potatoes that won’t fit in my garden.


  1. […] still wanted to try.  I have successfully grown potatoes in my frontyard back in the states  in 15-Gallon containers. I have also tasted the difference between home-grown and store-bought potatoes.  Also, the vast […]

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