Category Archives: Growing Potatoes

How To Grow Potatoes In A Garbage Can

How To Grow Potatoes In A Garbage Can

How to Grow Potatoes in a Garbage Can

What could be simpler than growing your own pesticide-free potatoes in a garbage can? Maybe growing 2 different varieties in 2 different cans!

I saw this idea in Sunset magazine probably 15 years ago and have always wanted to do it – now more than ever as we have very limited backyard space and the terrain is not conducive at all to growing potatoes. Potatoes take a lot of space to grow. I have grown them in the ground though and the yield was fantastic, the quality superb. This seems like an excellent alternative for us, as we live in high mountain dessert and our growing season can be frustrating from frost. We also have 2 very huge dogs and dogs and accessible gardens are a tough combination.

Public Domain Photo Wikicommons


It is recommended to start these potatoes around St. Patrick’s Day but in some climates, April or May is preferred. Seed potatoes can be purchased at any garden center or nursery and are relatively inexpensive. The ‘recipe’ says that just planting one batch will yield an entire trash can full of potatoes by fall.

Clean 30-32 gallon plastic or metal garbage can with lid
Drill and a 1/2 inch drill bit
Seed potatoes (you can use regular potatoes but most are treated to prevent sprouting so seed potatoes are recommended to give the most yield)
Potting soil – good quality that will drain well – 1 large bag (3 cubic feet)
1 cup per can of fertilizer of the 5-10-10 variety – you want lower nitrogen content as higher nitrogen content will give you lots of leaves but fewer potatoes
Compost, organic preferred – we buy ours in bags from the local feed store

One Variation on Planting

Drill holes in the bottom of the trash can to make sure you have proper drainage
Also drill a few holes in the outside walls of the trash can about 3-6 inches from the bottom to encourage good drainage as without proper drainage, the potatoes will rot quickly
Place about 2/3 of the bag of potting soil into the can and mix with 1 cup of fertilizer
Seed potatoes that are small can go in ‘as is’ (should have at least 3 eyes). Larger seed potatoes should be cut with no less than 3 eyes per piece. (The eye is that spot where the roots will start to grow out). Roughly use 4 ‘starts’ per can or 4 portions of potato so you don’t need a lot
Let the cut sides of the seed potatoes dry out before planting
Plant the seed potatoes in the potting soil/fertilizer mix about 5 inches apart and then cover with the remainder of the potting soil
Place your trash can in an area that receives about 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. If there is danger of frost, you can put the lid on the trash can at night but remember to take it off come morning or the plants may die
Water thoroughly – you want the soil to remain moist at all times but not soggy while they grow. If the soil dries out, it will make the potatoes have a funny shape
On really hot days, check and recheck the soil to make sure it is staying moist and it probably will need to be watered at least daily – move the plants to a shadier location if excessive heat
You will be able to see the plants start to come up through the soil. As the plants start to grow taller, now add compost around the stems but keep the leaves uncovered
As they grow a little more, add more compost – same as above. By the end of the growing season for the potatoes, you should be able to fill the rest of the can with compost, but always keep the leaves exposed
Again, keep watering and make sure the soil stays moist at all times though not soggy
In the fall, you will have flowers that begin to fade away and grow things that resemble berries. If you reach into the can and harvest a few potatoes, they will be small new potatoes – but eat them shortly after harvesting as they spoil more rapidly
Add more compost or cover the stems back up and after the green of the plant has started to dry up and die back, that means that it is time to harvest
Get a tarp and simply dump the soil of the trash can out onto the tarp and harvest your potatoes!
Store in a cool place. Recycle the soil from the trash into a flower garden – do not use it to regrow vegetables but it is fine for flower gardens after harvesting


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A Second Variation on Planting

The preparation of the trash can is the same as far as drilling holes is concerned.  This version is a layered version and goes like this:
Layer 1 – Place a layer of shredded newspaper or shredded junk mail.  This supposedly keeps the soil in from draining out the bottom when watering.  It also keeps the soil moist
Layer 2 – Put in 3-4 inches of potting soil or garden dirt.  The author of this method claims that you can even grow the potatoes without the dirt and that this layer is optional
Layer 3 – Add pieces of cut potato that have eyes.  Use 1 or more inches of potato behind and around the eye to provide plant nourishment.  This author uses store-bought potatoes and finds that they work – so add either seed potatoes here or store-bought cut to the appropriate dimensions above
Layer 4 – Cover the potato pieces with about 2-3 inches more of shredded newspaper or shredded junk mail, straw, peat moss, or whatever is available such as compost or dirt.  Water until you see water coming out of the drain holes.  You must never let layer 1 become dry! It is also important by this method not to let the potatoes sit in soggy conditions. 
Layer 5 – After the potatoes grow to 2-4 inches above the last layer, cover the plants leaving leaves exposed with more shredded paper, newspaper, straw, peat moss, compost and/or dirt – make sure 1 inch of plants is showing.  Continue to do this until the plants are growing taller than the container or trash can and then add sticks so that they will not fall over and break the plants

Points To Remember

You want an environment that is moist but not soggy – while seedlings are growing, cover with the lid at night to protect from cold but remove lid during the day
Some people add a little dirt with the newspaper or straw layers
Some people add fertilizer – the author claims to have grown potatoes without fertilizer and they grew just fine
Add wheels to the bottom of the trash can for ease in moving
When you see potato flowers, that is when you can harvest some ‘new’ potatoes
When the flowers start to fade and the stalks turn to yellow, then die down, your potatoes will be ready to harvest – at end of summer/early fall
You should have a full trash can full of potatoes – just pour out onto a tarp and harvest.  Dispose of the trash and store in a cool, dry place

In summary, I think I may combine both of these ideas and see how it turns out. I think I will make a bottom layer of shredded paper or newspaper to assure that the soil does not leak out and then proceed with the dirt and compost variation though I may mix in some shredded newspaper, paper and straw to create more air and space within the trash can.

I plan on using some of the fertilizer on mine as long as it is a good organic fertilizer and will use potting soil and compost that are clean or organic if possible.

This idea supposedly also works in other containers but for ease of use and portability, etc. I think the trash can sounds like a winner. Also putting wheels under it for easy moving on extremely hot days sounds perfect.

You can purchase seed potatoes in several varieties as well. This does take the land requirement out of growing your own organic potatoes and it seems like a relatively easy way to do it! I dug potatoes last fall and they lasted us through the entire winter. They were delicious but were a lot of hard work to dig. They also were pretty expensive though well worth the effort and the price in taste and quality.

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More on How to Grow Potatoes

The Benefits of Growing Potatoes in Containers – Vegetable Gardener
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How To Grow Potatoes In Containers With Videos

How To Grow Potatoes In Containers With Videos


Growing your own potatoes is a great way to learn to grow your own vegetables. For very little money and outlay of time, you can grow your own vegetables. Potatoes are just one of the many possibilities and are very easy to grow.

While traditionally potatoes are grown in the ground in a hill, there are some super easy ways that you can 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…such as pests, weather changes, leaf diseases, etc.

I have always grown my potatoes in the ground or gone to dig them at a local farm. However, when you grow potatoes 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, usually with a pitchfork. This ultimately ends up piercing or breaking some of the potatoes because it’s hard to find where the sprawling vines of potatoes are underground.

To understand how potatoes grow and how they can be successfully cultivated in containers, let’s look at the basics on potatoes. Then I’ll show you 3 different ways you can successfully grow them in little to no space.

See all 17 photos
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Growing potatoes in containers is really no different than growing potatoes in the ground. The principles are the same.

You start with a seed potato (although 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 and mulch, water and wait for the plant to grow.

Potatoes are tubers and 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.

The image below demonstrate how potatoes grow under the soil but also flower above ground. The above-ground changes are the clues as to what part of the cycle the potatoes are in.

See all 17 photos
Source: Manitoba Department of Agriculture


Seed potatoes (at least 5 per container)
Space or medium (see below)
Shredded paper or newspaper (optional)
Potting soil
Sterilized manure (optional)
Mulch or compost (can be straw, chipped bark, pine needles or combination)
6+ hours of direct sunlight per day
Harvest time = 2 to 4 months
Pick out new potatoes when foliage is about 1 foot high


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 & Rebar
2 tires to start + rebar pole (5-6 tires)
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
See all 17 photos
Source: Audrey Kirchner
See all 17 photos
See all 17 photos
Non-raw manure is fine for gardening
See all 17 photos
See all 17 photos
Make sure you drill your holes
See all 17 photos
See all 17 photos
Dry seed potatoes out for 24 hours
See all 17 photos
Trash can roller


Cure your seed potatoes before planting for at least a day at room temperature.  If they are large, cut into pieces so that only 2-3 “eyes” remain per piece.
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)
Drill holes in the bottom of the trashcan and along the sides 3-6 inches from the bottom every few inches to promote drainage.
Crumple newspapers or add shredded paper as the bottom layer in your trashcan.  (Optional – this step keeps the dirt from draining out the drainage holes though)
Mix potting soil, manure and mulch in a proportion to give you 1/2 potting soil, 1/4 manure and mulch each.  Mix in a wheelbarrow or in a large trashcan – you will use later as the plants sprout.
You can add in time release fertilizer here such as Osmocote or you can fertilize when you water. 
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. 
Water but do not make soggy. 
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 under the can.  You can cover at night with the lid to prevent freezing.  (I move our can to the garage when I’m worried about cold temps)
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.
When plants are 6-8 inches, add another layer of your soil mixture being careful to leave leaves/top of plant exposed.  Mound around the stems. 
Keep adding soil as the plants poke through. 
As the growing season progresses, the plants will develop as normal plants do.  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.
How to harvest your potatoes?  Spread a tarp out, simply tip your can so that the soil and contents all spill onto the tarp.  Gather your potatoes!

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

See all 17 photos
Source: Wikimedia Commons
See all 17 photos
See all 17 photos
See all 17 photos


Growing potatoes in a garbage bag is similar to growing potatoes in a garbage can except of course, instead of using a trash bin, you will use a 30+ gallon garbage bag.

The same ingredients apply as for planting your potatoes in a garbage can, however, your method will be slightly different.

You can also use a mixture of potting soil mixed with vermiculite, peat moss and compost rather than the above soil mixture.

Steps for growing potatoes in a garbage bag:

Place a layer of crumpled newspaper or shredded paper in the bottom of the bag. (Optional but this does keep soil from draining out drainage holes)
Fill the garbage bag with about 4 inches of your soil mixture.
Roll your garbage bag down to within 2 inches of the soil.
Using scissors, poke stab holes in the bag below the soil level to create drainage holes.
Plant your potatoes – about 5 per bag – 1 in the center and 4 around it in a circle.
Potatoes need to be covered with the soil so press them down below the surface.
Water but do not make soggy.
When the plant sprouts are about 4 inches high, add soil again until the plant is almost covered.
Roll out the bag to keep up with the soil addition. Water.
Keep doing this until the shoots reach the top of the bag.
Let the plants bloom, develop berries and die off.
Once the withered leaves are brown, place a tarp nearby and dump out your trash bag full of potatoes – or simply cut open and harvest.

See all 17 photos
Soil and compost
Source: Wikimedia Commons
See all 17 photos
Source: Flickr
See all 17 photos
Source: Flickr


This method is basically the same concept as growing potatoes in a trash can or growing potatoes in a garbage sack. It is a great way to grow them in a small area and an interesting way to use old tires.

You will need the same ingredients that you would use for growing potatoes in a garbage bag or growing potatoes in a garbage can. However, you will need the following to start out growing potatoes in old tires.

2 old tires to start
Piece of Rebar (optional)

Steps for growing your potatoes in old tires:

Prepare your potatoes exactly the same way as for the methods above.
Find a spot in your yard that receives 6-8 hours of full sun per day.
Place 1 old tire on top of the ground.
Pound piece of rebar into the ground.
Fill the tire with your dirt mixture.
Plant your potatoes (about 5 per tire “tower”) – plant 1 in the center and 4 around in a circle.
Make sure potatoes are covered with 3-4 inches of soil mixture.
Water but do not over water to make soggy.
After some growth of the potato plants, add another tire. Add another layer of dirt just leaving the tops of the plants exposed.
Keep adding tires and more soil mixture until the plants grow, bloom, develop berries, and then wither.  Plan on using 4-6 tires max.
Once the plant has died off up top and withered, the potatoes are ready to harvest.
How to harvest your potatoes grown in old tires? Simply take apart and harvest your potatoes.

TIP:  You can reach in and grab out a few of your new potatoes just before the plants wither and die.

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Growing Healthy Potatoes

Chewed or depleted foliage
Use eco-friendly spray
Use eco-friendly spray
Scab on potatoes
Low pH
Plant scab-resistant varieties
Misshapen potatoes
Red wire worm
Rotate crops, don’t reuse soil
Black foliage
Late blight
Burn leaves, harvest in 2 weeks
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As you can see, there are many options for growing potatoes in a relatively small space. The yield is incredible and the effort minimal.

There are many great varieties of potatoes out there to try. I love growing white potatoes or Yukon golds but the new rage is the Peruvian purples (for their antioxidant properties).

I’m going to be ordering some seed potatoes of the purples to give those a try this month but for now, I’m planting my old standbys. By fall, I hope to have enough potatoes to put away for the winter.

For planting potatoes in small spaces, try the method you think will work best for you. In my case, I’m going to be trying all 3 this year just to see which one works the very best.

If you have more suggestions or comments on growing potatoes, please leave your comments in the space provided below.


If using the methods above, you should have no broken or pierced potatoes but if any are broken, use right away.
Wipe as much dust and dirt from the potatoes as possible but do not wash
Store in a cool, dry place out of the light to keep your potatoes the longest
Wash only as you use them

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