How to Grow Potatoes in a Garbage Can

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. For city gardeners, growing potatoes in containers may be their only option. Potatoes prefer soft, well-prepared soil that's easy for them to grow in, and they are space hogs in a traditional garden. Additionally, potatoes should be planted in a different location each year so as not to spread diseases to subsequent crops. Using a container addresses each of these issues.

Things You'll Need

  • 30-gallon plastic garbage can
  • Drill with a 1/2-inch bit
  • Seed potatoes
  • Potting soil
  • Organic 5-10-5 fertilizer
  • Compost


    • 1

      Order seed potatoes online or buy them from a local garden center. You won't need many. Begin the planting process in early spring after the last frost date.

    • 2

      Turn the garbage can upside down and drill several holes in the bottom of the can. Add a few around the outside wall, 3 to 6 inches up from the bottom. Without good drainage, the potatoes rot in a hurry.

    • 3

      Fill the can two-thirds full with potting soil. Mix in 1 cup of fertilizer and set aside.

    • 4

      Cut any large potatoes into pieces with no fewer then three eyes per piece. Let the potatoes dry out on the cut side before you plant them. Small seed potatoes can be planted whole.

    • 5

      Place the cured potatoes in the can. Space them five inches apart and cover with four to six inches of potting soil. You'll only need four starts to a can. Set the can in an area that receives four to six hours of direct sunlight.

    • 6

      Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist but not soggy during the growing season. Don't let the soil dry out or you'll end up with misshaped potatoes. On the hot summer days, your potato might need to be watered daily. Move the can to a slightly shadier location on the hottest days to avoid frequent watering.

    • 7

      As the plants grow in the can, mound up compost around the plant stems, keeping the leaves uncovered. As they grow more, add more compost. By the end of the growing season, you will have filled the can to the top. Keep it watered.

    • 8

      Wait for the flowers to start to fade and grow what looks like berries when the growing season ends. Harvest a few potatoes by reaching into the soft soil and picking a few, then covering everything else back up with compost. These early potatoes are "new" potatoes and they spoil quickly, so eat them now. For bigger, storing potatoes, wait to harvest until after the green plants have turned brown and dried up or died back. Just dump the entire can over and pick out your potatoes. The soil can be collected and added to a flower garden. You just don't want to plant potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants in that potting soil and compost mix because the soil likely harbors some insects or disease from this season's crop.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean and dry the potatoes and store in a cool, dark area -- an unheated garage or attic is suitable. Don't allow them to freeze, but they last longest in an area that reaches no higher than 40 degree Fahrenheit.
  • Store for up to six weeks depending on the variety. Plant two cans of potatoes with varieties that mature at different times to extend the harvest and storage times.
  • Potatoes can pass on verticillium, Sclerotinia and scab in the soil that would infect tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other potatoes. However, cabbage, lettuce and herbs can happily grow in old potato crop soil.
  • Potatoes absorb everything around them, so start out with healthy organic soils, fertilizers, and compost. Avoid pesticides.
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  • Photo Credit Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images

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