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Growing Potatoes in a Trash Can

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View this video of a great gardening container for growing potatoes—and experience the fun of trash can gardening with Janice Stillman, Editor of The Old Farmer's Almanac.

For more potato planting and growing advice, see our free Potato Guide.

 

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Comments

Is it safe to grow them in

By Free on September 26

Is it safe to grow them in sawdust???

We can't recommend using

By Almanac Staff on September 29

We can't recommend using sawdust as a growing matter. We've never done it and we can't find a reliable source that has. Here is a story in "Chicago Livestock World" from April 24, 1906 (yes, that's 1906) that describes some success:
http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=d&d=CLW19060424.2.31
Take from it what you will. But remember that sawdust could be fraught with problems: acidity [think pine] or other composition, as well as age/freshness.
We suggest that an easy, fun experimental way to grow potatoes is in a straw (not hay) bale. Here are two links to Almanac.com for advice on doing that:
http://www.almanac.com/blog/everything-almanac-blog/forget-soil-use-straw
And here:
http://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening-blog/straw-turns-gold
We hope this helps.

I am from Idaho planting

By KCKathy

I am from Idaho planting potatoes in a tall laundry basket that has lots of holes but going to weed block all around the sides so dirt will not leak out but still have air and drainage

I am going to try a new way

By Berneice Gale

I am going to try a new way of planting potatoes this year. You put newspaper down about 5 or 6 thick, put your potatoes down and cover with peat moss. Then you water them. When potatoes come up you keep adding peat moss until about 10 to 12 inches deep. When potatoes are dried you can harvest, no digging. A couple in their 70's told me this is the way they grow their potatoes. They get about a 100 pounds out of 10 pounds.

Wondering if this method of

By Jan Bergseth

Wondering if this method of planting in peat moss worked out well for Bernice?

You need to progress grow.

By John F. Tucker

You need to progress grow. PLANT VEGGIES IN WEEKS.

kNOW THE DIFFERENCE

Can you plant a second bucket

By kuhio

Can you plant a second bucket of potatoes, I have just harvested mine in late July, there seems to be plenty of mild sunny weather left here in the Pacific Northwest and was wondering if a second planting would be viable?

It's later now then when you

By Almanac Staff

It's later now then when you wrote (it's Aug 8); sorry for the delay in responding. The thought then and now is try it. The Pacific Northwest is a huge area and your exact location is not known, but if you typically have a long summer, you might just get a few more spuds—even small ones. The only thing that you should do is change the soil. This is a form of crop rotation, when growing in containers. Use a similar mix to what brought you success. Good luck!

I have just recently learned

By Julie Hammontree

I have just recently learned about this method of growing potatoes. I have watched several videos. Some say the barrel needs to be in a greenhouse; some say outdoors. Is the greenhouse necessary just for winter months - making all year growing possible? My MAIN question is this, however: It's June. Can I start a barrel now? I'm inspired and fired up. Thanks for your response.

Hi, Julie! Great to hear your

By Almanac Staff

Hi, Julie! Great to hear your enthusiasm. You don't say where you are, so we can't be certain of your season. But get it going—even a harvest small, "new" potatoes (any picked small) would be a delicious treat. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.
As for being indoors or a greenhouse...we aren't familiar with that method. (We shot our video in a studio, which is why it appears indoors.)

I have heard about trash can

By Raj Beekie

I have heard about trash can potatoes, tower potatoes, barrel potatoes, box potatoes, etc. I have seen many people try these methods, but I have NEVER seen a great harvest. It all seems great in theory, but reality is very different. I would love to see a video of someone actually harvesting many potatoes from a trash can method. Thanks

Some of the tubers that are

By Matt Cole

Some of the tubers that are growing up are shorter than the ones that have reached the required height to add the next level of soil. Will it harm the plant if I completely bury some of the shorter tubers since they have leaves on them?

If you bury the plants that

By Almanac Staff

If you bury the plants that have leaves you might lose them (that is, they might not thrive). Are they so close in the container that you can't find a happy medium; that is, pile soil on some but not others??
Without knowing more, we can only suggest that potatoes usually need a good amount of space betw plants (some sources say 36 inches); growing in a trash can lead to more crowding than usual. If that's what you face, do what you can to keep the hardiest of the lot thriving and consider this experience if you try it again.

Good in theory but bad in

By Jimena

Good in theory but bad in practice. Plastic is toxic and growing anything in plastic is going to leech the petrol chemicals into your food. Especially using a black container that heats up more.

I've seen a similar technique but with chicken wire tied in a circle, you do the soil thing at the bottom and as it grows you put hay on top instead of soil.

I agree with the comment

By Debra Withers

I agree with the comment about the chemicals of the plastic can leaching into the potatoes. Now more than ever, it seems everything is coming from China and they are known to put harmful chemicals into things that are used even for consumption. I can only imagine what they would use to produce a garbage can. Horrible idea!

I live in a midwest climate

By KarenE

I live in a midwest climate and will be planting potatoes for the first time this year. I want to know if staggering 2 or 3 containers of potato plants--planting in one can the first week, 2nd can the 2nd week, etc., would be a good idea or do they all need to be planted at the same time. Potatoes don't last long in my house, but they don't keep very well for a long time.

Hello Karen, I am not sure

By Tracy Crosley

Hello Karen,
I am not sure when you asked the question, but I can help with an answer about storage. In order for potatoes to be stored for several months, the skin must be thicker than new potatoes. To ensure a thicker skin, stop watering the plants once they turn yellow and start dying. Wait to harvest for 2 weeks after you stop watering to allow skins to thicken. If you live in a rainy area, like I do, cover the top of the cans when it's raining so the soil stays dry. If you want new potatoes, with thin skin, harvest one can and let the others dry out for 2 weeks. Then you can store potatoes in a cool dry place for upwards of 3 months.
As far as staggering the planting schedule, I am not sure, but would assume that this would merely decrease growing time, in turn, decreasing the yield.
-Tracy

What are the ratios for the

By vhata

What are the ratios for the sand, soil, and compost?

We've never actually used a

By Almanac Staff

We've never actually used a soil recipe. You want a lot of compost; good compost is almost all you need—and lime, to achieve the proper pH (4.8–6.5)! If you have heavy, earthy soil you want to add sand to help the rain and applied water filter through; otherwise, you risk having mud and nothing can grow in mud.
You want loose, rich soil. So a lot of nutrient-rich compost, some soil to bind it together a little. And some sand to keep it loose. The proportions depend on how much soil you're mixing but figure...oh, say 10 percent sand and a rough split of the soil and compost. There is no exact formula. Thanks for your question and good luck!

In your reply, you say to use

By Dale4856 on September 28

In your reply, you say to use lime. However the video says to not use lime as potatoes do not like lime. Which is correct?

Hi, dale, Your goal/desire

By Almanac Staff on September 29

Hi, dale,
Your goal/desire whether growing potatoes or just about any edible is to have the proper pH—alkalinity or acidity—in the soil. We find that pH is something often overlooked, so we suggest checking it and the plants' needed when planting. The best way to determine pH is to do a soil test. Kits are available in nurseries and garden shops, sometimes hardware stores, are inexpensive and easy to use. Another source is coop extension services at local schools. We hope this helps.

For those of us who don't

By linh

For those of us who don't have much space in our gardens and can't or don't like to dig giant holes looking for our food, planting potatoes in a container is a workable option.

I grow my potatoes in 3ft

By JBird2

I grow my potatoes in 3ft square frames made of 2x4's. As the potatoes grow, I just stack on another frame and add more soil or compost mix. When it's time to harvest, the frames easily come apart and can be reused again next season.

Although this idea SOUNDS

By Brenda Berry

Although this idea SOUNDS good, I do NOT recommend growing things in non food grade plastics-the hot sun causes plastics to leach into the soil and the veggies. I grow mine in food grade 5 gallon buckets that I get free from the bakery in my local grocery. Plastics contain LOADS of toxic chemicals-not something you want to be growing your veggie in!!

How long does it take till I

By Diana Gricus

How long does it take till I can harvest my potatoes? If I leave them in the ground to long will they be rot? Also, what is the best fertilizer for the potato family?

Hi Diana, the potatoes should

By Almanac Staff

Hi Diana, the potatoes should be ready to harvest after about 10 weeks. Be sure to harvest them all once the vines die, or yes, they will rot in the soil. See more growing tips on our potato page! http://www.almanac.com/plant/potatoes

We leave our pot. in the

By Bob Mckee

We leave our pot. in the ground till we want to dig a few at a
time up.We have even missed a few and got them the next year.

When you add the soil as the

By pineymom2

When you add the soil as the plant grows do you cover the leaves or just add the soil around them?

Thanks, all of you, for your

By stiljanice

Thanks, all of you, for your enthusiasm. I think the outstanding questions are these:
Mary, it depends on what you mean/perceive as "entire container full." Assuming everything else goes well—your soil is good, the plants get enough water and sun—you could get a couple or a few dozen potatoes or more. So will the container be "filled"? There will still be lots of dirt in there, too.
Diana, your question is, how often do you water? At least once a week, depending on other conditions, such as rain. You don't want to drown the plants but you also don't want them to shrivel. Keep us posted as things progress—and GOOD LUCK!

My wife Ellen and I loved the

By James Shaw

My wife Ellen and I loved the video,so enthusiastic and upbeat.We found it very informative and helpful.

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