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How to Grow Potatoes in Containers (From Trash Cans to Tires)

I've been successfully growing potatoes in different mediums for years, and I love sharing that knowledge with others.

This article will show you how to grow your own potatoes in various containers, including garbage bags, trash bins, and even in old, discarded tires.

This article will show you how to grow your own potatoes in various containers, including garbage bags, trash bins, and even in old, discarded tires.

Growing Potatoes in Containers

Growing your own potatoes is a great way to learn how to grow vegetables of many different kinds. You can grow your own tasty food for very little money and outlay of time. Potatoes are just one of the many possibilities and just so happen to be very easy to grow.

While traditionally grown in the ground on a hill, there are some super easy ways to plant your own potatoes even if you have relatively no space at all. Growing vegetables in containers gives you a better chance at keeping your plants healthy, as you bypass many of the common deterrents to home gardening like pests, weather changes, leaf diseases, etc.

The Advantages of Growing Potatoes in Containers

I have always grown my potatoes in the ground or gone to dig them at a local farm. However, when you grow them in the ground, you obviously need a lot of space. This is something I currently don't have.

When it comes time to harvest your potatoes, you also have to literally dig them up, usually with a pitchfork. This ultimately pierces or breaks some of the potatoes because it's hard to find where the sprawling vines of potatoes are underground. This is one of the reasons growing them in containers is so convenient.

To understand how potatoes grow and how they can be successfully cultivated in containers, let's look at the basics of potatoes. Then I'll show you three ways to successfully grow them in little to no space.

Different Methods for Growing Potatoes

Method

Space or Medium

Hill

3 x 5 foot raised bed

Trash Can

30+ gallon trash can (metal or rubber)

Trash Bag

30+ gallon black trash bag or grow bag

Tires and Rebar

2 tires to start (as many as 5–6 later on) and a rebar pole

Drums

Any drum 30 gallons or more

Giant Tree Containers

30 gallons or plant less potatoes

Barrel or Wood Box

At least 18 inches deep

Smaller Trash Can or Container

Use less potatoes but 18 inches deep

It's often best to start with a seed potato like this one.

It's often best to start with a seed potato like this one.

Growing Potatoes in Containers vs. Growing Them in the Ground

Growing potatoes in containers is not that different than growing them in the ground. The principles are the same.

  • You start with a seed potato. (Some people use potatoes right out of the cupboard and have great success with them.)
  • You plant the seed potato with 2–3 "eyes" per piece in soil about 3–4 inches under soil. Mulch, water, and wait for the plant to grow.
  • Potatoes are tubers. While they send plant growth up to reach the sun, they send out sprawling tentacles beneath the surface where other potatoes form and grow.
  • As the plant growth continues, more dirt and mulch are built up just below the top of the new growth, thus allowing the tubers to keep expanding underneath.
  • By the end of the growing season, the potato plants will grow, bloom, wither, and die. When the plants have fully withered, it's harvest time for the potatoes. This usually takes about 2–4 months.
  • The image below demonstrates how potatoes grow under the soil and flower above ground. The above-ground changes are the clues as to what part of the potatoes' cycle is in.
This illustration demonstrates how potato plants grow both above and below the ground.

This illustration demonstrates how potato plants grow both above and below the ground.

What You Need to Grow Potatoes

  • Seed potatoes (at least 5 per container)
  • Space or medium (see table above)
  • Shredded paper or newspaper (optional)
  • Potting soil
  • Sterilized manure (optional)
  • Mulch or compost (can be straw, chipped bark, pine needles, or a combination)
  • Fertilizer
  • 6+ hours of direct sunlight per day

Method #1: Growing Potatoes in a Trash Bin

  1. Cure your seed potatoes before planting for at least a day at room temperature. If they are large, cut them into pieces so that only 2–3 "eyes" remain per piece.
  2. Use an old trash can, giant tree container, or a drum. It doesn't have to be new. It should have a lid or makeshift cover. (A lid is only necessary should it get too cold or you want to protect the plants.)
  3. Drill holes in the bottom of the trashcan and along the sides 3–6 inches from the bottom every few inches to promote drainage.
  4. Optional: Crumple newspapers or add shredded paper as the bottom layer in your trashcan. (This step keeps the dirt from draining out of the drainage holes.)
  5. Mix potting soil, manure, and mulch in a proportion to give you 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 manure, and 1/4 mulch. Mix in a wheelbarrow or in a large trashcan. You will use this later as the plants sprout.
  6. You can add in time-release fertilizer here, such as Osmocote, or you can fertilize when you water.
  7. Add about 10 inches of your potting soil mix. Now plant your potatoes about 5 inches apart and 4 inches deep. They need to be under the soil to start sending out their vines.
  8. Water but do not make the soil soggy.
  9. The ideal temperature for the soil to remain at is 60 degrees. For easy moving of your potato garden, buy a trash can roller and place it under the can. You can cover it at night with the lid to prevent freezing. (I move our can to the garage when I'm worried about cold temperatures.)
  10. Keep moist but not soggy, and wait for the plants to appear. Take off the lid during hours of sunlight, and they will grow quickly.
  11. When plants are 6–8 inches, add another layer of your soil mixture, carefully leaving leaves/top of the plant exposed. Mound around the stems.
  12. Keep adding soil as the plants poke through.
  13. The plants will develop as normal plants do as the growing season progresses. Then they will flower and have berries on them. Then the entire plant will die off, turn brown, and wither. Once the plant dies off, it is time to harvest your potatoes. (Note: Pick out new potatoes when foliage is about 1 foot high.)
  14. How do you harvest your potatoes? Spread a tarp out. Tip your can so that the soil and contents spill onto the tarp. Gather your potatoes!

Tip: You can reach down under the soil close to the end of the growing season and hand pick these out for new potatoes. Use immediately, as they are best eaten right after digging.

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