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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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?

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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!

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

Good in theory but bad in

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

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

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

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.

i had extra wire cage and the

i had extra wire cage and the I cut strips of gardening cloth and I wrapped the cylinder from top to bottom and covered the whole cage. Then I put in about ft and a half of miracle grow potting soil. Then i put in about four potato eyes and then put so more soul on top. First attempt at growing spuds. Good drainage and should breath alright. Now wait and see.

What are the ratios for the

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

We've never actually used a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

We leave our pot. in the

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

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

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

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

Oh... the eyes go...down? No

Oh... the eyes go...down? No wonder.....

This is GREAT!! I DO grow trash bucket plants on my balcony -- in 11 gallon Rubbermaids -- holes on the bottom, clean (from store, in 50 pound bags) rocks (actually mine are cheap marble pieces) and NON-treated charcoal briquets on the bottom, a good soil mix and... I have fringe trees, paw paws, blueberries, serviceberries, gingkoes (from seed!) maples (ditto!) and some comestibles all on my (large) balcony --

The video shows that you

The video shows that you should plan these with the cut side down, and the eyes should be up!

When planting my potatoes; I

When planting my potatoes; I wished I had made notes. I did forget which end goes up or down... after reading other gardening forums- I planted my potatoes in cheap laundry baskets (eliminating the need to punch holes).

I do find a large laundry basket with a smaller frame (did find one at the local dollar store); better as far as soil not seeping through.

Unfortunately, due to poor soil conditions and inability to continue adding soil as the plants grow - I am worried.

I do have some healthy looking potato plants coming out of my baskets.
But if your cheap laundry basket is small; then I guess once it is filled, will need to wait for the fruits of labor. :)

I am small family of 3 right now: whatever I get out of my garden, I am happy with.
New Gardener.

What purpose were the

What purpose were the briquets on the bottom underneat the marble pieces. Just for extra drainage?

Should the drainage holes be

Should the drainage holes be just at the bottom or all the way around and up the sides of the can?

Hi Mary, You can drill a

Hi Mary, You can drill a couple holes in the sides as well but stick to the bottom six inches or so of the barrel. Whatever you do, don't skip making the holes--drainage is necessary so your potatoes won't rot!

Do you plant more potatoes

Do you plant more potatoes every 7 inches when you add the next soil?

No, the original plants will

No, the original plants will continue to grow taller and produce potatoes all the way down their root systems. One good sized seed potato quartered will be all you need to grow a whole trash can full of potatoes.

Have grown potatoes in large

Have grown potatoes in large plantar for couple years. Last year had 46 potatoes in one pot. Will try the trash can this year.

do you continually get

do you continually get potatoes or get them all at once? does same plant cont. to produce?

I have heard of people

I have heard of people digging down (gently!) into the container during the growing season to pull out a few small potatoes to use immediately, but generally you wait until at least 2 weeks after the vines have died down to harvest the whole container.
The plant is finished and can be discarded. Our dead plants go into the trash (not the compost) because of the risk of transmitting plant disease.

I live in Oklahoma and for

I live in Oklahoma and for the first time, my husband and I are going to try growing potatoes in a trashcan.I love this video and it sure looks easy.

Will the entire container be

Will the entire container be filled with potatoes, from top to bottom? I live in the Houston Texas area. Is the planting and harvest time the same?

Janice, Great Video on

Janice, Great Video on growing potatoes in a Trash Can. How moist should the soil be or how often should they be watered? I live in Western North Carolina. Thank you.

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