Growing Potatoes in a Trash Can

June 12, 2009

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.



Reader Comments

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I'm growing potatoes in pots this year. Can I use the soil from the pot's into my ground garden, without compromising next years garden? Thank you for your time. Crystal

gardening containers

hi i am planning on trying some vegetables this year. i have found that fabric pots i purchased from amazon seem to take care of many concerns. they come in small, say 10", to much larger 20 something. maybe larger. they are tub shaped and have handles, in case you wish to move them for cleaning or mowing the area. i wish i had these for the arborvitaes i used in half barrels at some feral cat stations as camouflage, as the barrels only last a year or two.

Potatoes and what I did

I love gardening, but I'm really bad at it! I found a potato at the back of the fridge, and it was growing. I am currently in Economy Mode, where I try not to waste anything, so I stuck my spud into my patio tub outside and watered it. This was 2 weeks ago - mid August 2017, and ... EEK! It's actually growing! I had no thought processes about this. No soil preparation or anything I just stuck it into the tub, I don't even know if it was looking up or not. And it's growing! Sometimes, things are just meant to grow, in spite of me. Thank goodness. I'm watering it regularly, even though the rain is persisting down. It's summer here in Blighty! Of course it is. And my potato is growing!!! Woo hoo!! Wouldn't it be funny peculiar, and funny ha-ha, if I actually had potatoes on the end of this plant?

Fridgy the potato

dear Chrissie
Thanks for the funpotatostory !
i hope meanwhile you had some of a harvest from it ?
i personally , am still searching to start with a square meter vegetable garden {;og
and , case you 're interested , take a look at my reply on mushroom-in-the-lawn .
And , i wonder if it 's possible to correspond with an almanac-follower (or how do you call us) in the private e-mail ?
General question , actually ..

Rotate crops but find random plants each year

Every year I get a decent harvest. I utilize oceanic compost, plant tone organic fertilizer, and my plants are massive. Last years area sprouted some random plants, and so at first I simply cared for them thinking maybe I would have extra. However, these random plants began to have purple on the leaves. It made me nervous so I pulled them out. What does purple represent on potatoe leaves?

Purple potato leaves

The Editors's picture

When potato leaves turn purple, it’s a sign of the disease potato purple wilt top. TIt is spread by leaf hoppers, and there is no cure. You did the right thing.


I live in Pasadena, California. I want to plant potatoes and it is too late for me to start plant the potatoes?

Growing potatoes in trash can

How many pounds of potatoes product, could I expect to get in trash can the size shown in video

How many pounds of potatoes

The Editors's picture

Figure on around a couple of—maybe a few—pounds, Mike, if everything goes according to plan.

Can you do this same

Can you do this same technique for sweet potatoes ?

Hi, Jodie, We have not

The Editors's picture

Hi, Jodie,
We have not attempted to grow sweet potatoes in a container or in the ground for that matter. Sweets are not related to white, or "Irish" potatoes. They are native to tropical Central and South America and need a lot of heat (not guaranteed here in New Hampshire). Sweets prefer sandy soil that must be kept moist, esp in the first 2 to 3 weeks after planting. They have an extensive root system that would be inhibited by a container. We hope this helps!

sweets in a container

Hi Jodie, yes you can grow sweet potatoes in a container. I live in Tennessee and last year just for giggles I tried to grow them in a chicken wire container lined with straw. The sweet potatoes that I harvested where huge. I wish I had a pic to show

I have two big plastic

I have two big plastic barrels in which I planted my potatoes in, however I have lots of big hanging over leaves but very few flowers. My question is will potatoes make good even if they don't flower?

Last year my family grew

Last year my family grew potatoes in a three foot tall box with miracle grow. Worked well got a great crop of medium sized potatoes.That all so tasted great.

Is it safe to grow them in

Is it safe to grow them in sawdust???

We can't recommend using

The Editors's picture

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:
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 for advice on doing that:
And here:
We hope this helps.

I am from Idaho planting

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

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

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

You need to progress grow.

You need to progress grow. PLANT VEGGIES IN WEEKS.


Can you plant a second bucket

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

The Editors's picture

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

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

The Editors's picture

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

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

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

The Editors's picture

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.

Last year was my first year

Last year was my first year to grow potatoes, and did in my garden. I made a couple rookie mistakes, one of which is I hilled too high and buried a couple of shoots, thinking they would just continue to grow. They didn't. Like the OP, I wanted even hilling. Another was that I wasn't gentle enough when hilling, and broke a shoot. It died.

This year I've started early in FIVE trash cans...way before last frost which is early June (cover when below 41')..and they are growing nicely. It's been 3 weeks. I live in the high desert of central Oregon.

five-barrel harvest!

The Editors's picture

Good luck with this, Sally! Let us know how you do. There really is nothing quite like homegrown, just dug spuds. All the best—



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