Choosing the Container
Potatoes adapt well to container growing as long as their basic requirements are met. You can use a plastic or metal trash can or a barrel of similar size. Drainage is an important factor when growing potatoes in containers. Some people drill holes in the bottom of the can. Others cut off the bottom. The latter method makes harvest easy; just lift the can and the soil and potatoes come out the bottom.
Choosing the Size
Trash cans come in a variety of sizes. An individual potato needs about 2.5 cubic feet of space. The amount of cubic space is the equivalent of 18 gallons. As long as you give it ideal conditions, you should be able to plant two potatoes in a 32-gallon trash can. A single potato plant will produce three to five pounds of potatoes, depending on size and growing conditions.
Prepping the Can
Begin by making sure your can or barrel is clean, especially if it’s been recycled. Then you should:
- Drill multiple holes three inches apart in the can bottom OR
- Cut off the can bottom entirely.
- Place a four-inch layer of gravel in the bottom to promote drainage.
- Set the can on blocks of wood or bricks.
- Place the can in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily.
Soil for the Garbage Can
Potatoes need very fertile soil that drains well. Sandy loam has the ideal texture. Amend clay soils with lots of well-rotted leaves, aged manure or organic compost. You can also use commercial potting soil or mix potting soil half and half with clean garden soil. Mix in a little granular timed-release organic fertilizer to improve fertility.
Planting and Care
Chit, or sprout your potatoes for a few weeks prior to planting. Potatoes can be grown in all USDA Zones; plant about two or three weeks before the last expected frost. Plant potatoes about four to six inches deep. When they are six to eight inches tall, cover two thirds of the plant with additional soil (hilling) – repeat once. Water to keep the soil just damp.
About three weeks after your potatoes flower, you can harvest new potatoes. Gently dig down next to the plant and remove potatoes at least the size of a hen’s egg. Eat immediately as these won’t store well. A few weeks later, the plant tops will start to die down. Mature potatoes will be ready three or four weeks later. Tip over or lift the barrel to collect your potatoes.