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How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can

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The fun of trash can potatoes!

Catherine Boeckmann

Experience the fun of trash can gardening with Janice Stillman, Editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Potatoes can take up too much room in small gardens, so planting in a large container is a great way to go! See steps to growing potatoes in a trash can.

If you’d like to grow potatoes but don’t want to devote an entire garden bed to them, try growing in containers! Trash cans are deep enough containers for potatoes so they’re the perfect solution. 

When to Plant Potatoes

Tradition holds that potatoes should be planted near St. Patrick’s Day for a successful harvest.There’s some truth to the old wives’ tale about planting potatoes on St. Patrick’s. It’s not necessarily about the exact date of March 17, but in the fact that planting in March will result in higher yields.

How to Plant Potatoes in a Trash Can

  1. Order or buy “seed potatoes” which are not seeds but tiny potatoes. For beginners, we recommend starting out by growing the smaller new potatoes. The mid or late-season varieties are better choices than early-season types.
  2. Drill holes in the bottom of the trash can for drainage. 
  3. Set your trash can in a place that gets 4 to 6 hours of sunlight every day.
  4. Fill the can with half compost and half “soilless” potting mix to the trash can. Do NOT use real soil in container growing. If you want to cut back on how much soil you add, you could put recycled water jugs in the bottom. Just make sure you have at least 2 to 3 feet of soil with a 10 to 15 gallon capacity. 
  5. About 24 hours in advance, prepare the seed potatoes. This is called “chitting.”  Plant small potatoes can be planted whole, but larger ones should be cut into smaller pieces with at least 3 “eyes” (or dimples) per piece. Then allow the cut edges to air dry before planting. 
  6. Bury the seed potatoes about 4 inches under the potting mix/compost about a foot apart. We plant four seed potatoes in each 32-gallon trash can.
  7. Water the plants and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
  8. As the plants grow, you have to keep their stems covered, and have extra potting mix to cover or “mound” over the stems so they are not exposed to sunlight. (Leave leaves exposed!)
  9. When the potatoes are ready to harvest, you dig into the trash can and pull out a sample. Then you can simply turn over the can onto a tarp and harvest your goodies!

To learn how to plant and grow potatoes, see our free Potato Guide.

Gardening Calendar

Crystal (not verified)

4 years 9 months ago

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

The Editors

4 years 9 months ago

In reply to by Crystal (not verified)

You can turn your container’s potato soil into your ground garden but try to plant with crop rotation in mind. See here (from the company that produces our Gardening Planning app) https://www.growveg.com/guides/crop-rotation-for-growing-vegetables/

betty coy (not verified)

4 years 12 months ago

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.

Chrissie (not verified)

5 years 4 months ago

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?

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 ..