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.
How 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.
Drill holes in the bottom of a 20-32-gallon plastic trash can. Or, like me, you can cut the whole bottom off.
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.
Place 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.
As 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.
To 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.
Hi… I’ve head of growing potatoes in tires. Won’t it be too hot if the temperature gets high?
I would be afraid of the chemicals in the rubber. Try the trash can method or I have heard of a fabric container to grow them also.
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.
I am growing potatoes in a trash can and two of the plants are doing very well, grown probably 10 inches but the others aren’t as high. I need to start adding more soil but I don’t want the other plants not to grow. Any suggestions?
Thanks! I’m going to try this this year and I’m SUPER exited about it! Somewhere in the back of my mind I have the idea that this only works with a certain breed of potato (Potatoes growing on stem). Is that true? If so, what kind is it and where could I find some? Anybody have any answers and/or advice/tips for this newbie?
Thanks again everybody!!!
You could even do this indoors in a spare basement room, as long as you have proper lighting. You don’t even need expensive plant grow lights. A regular fluorescent light fixture will do, as long as it has the proper spectrum. You want a daylight bulb, which has a color temperature of 5000 to 6000 Kelvin (this will be on the bulb).
I tried this for the first time this year. I’ve been in suspense for months now, and just last night I pushed aside the wilting, yellowing growth and just under the surface I saw my first potato!! I’m so excited, it was pretty small- about the size of a golf ball. I dug around a bit more and ended up with a dozen potatoes, ranging in size from golfball to one the size of a small apple. The soil is dry. Will they continue to get bigger if I leave them? Or should I dump my trash can now that I’ve turned the top soil and essentially ripped out a lot of the roots? Also, does anyone know if I can re-use this soil after I’ve dug the potatoes out? I can’t wait to see what’s in the rest of the trash can!!! My friend did the same thing, and she put her trash can with drainage holes right on the ground and she said hers all rotted. I did put my can up off the ground onto bricks to allow drainage. So maybe I’d suggest that.
I drilled holes halfway up the side of my can as well.
It is wonderful to exchange how to’s as times could get really hard and who does not like to do things easier, affordably and to benefit their families…..together we can prosper better!! If one
has potatos one has a feast…or the beginning of one anyway!!
I live in a warm climate…will this make any difference to the potatoes growing in the trash can?
Any other ideas to grow in a trash can as well?
If you want to grow potatoes in proper way then you will be needing a grow light and grow tent which can mimic the sun light!
And boom you are ready to go! 🙂