Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Trash Can Potatoes

So I've read about this new way to grow potatoes and thought we'd give it a go.  It seems easy and efficient, and although it's a little late in the season for recommended potato planting, I figure I've only invested about $20 and definitely no more than 20 minutes if things don't quite work out.  And, since this is the season of learning, that seems a small price to pay for a little education and experimentation.  Here's the deal:  Potatoes are notorious space hogs, and we backyard and urban gardeners have to be greedy with the space we do have.  Planting potatoes in a tub or garbage can is a great alternative to using up valuable room in your square foot or row garden.  Also, potatoes can be real boogers to dig out come harvest.  The concept here is that when ready, you simply dump your tubs (hopefully full of potatoes) onto a tarp and save yourself the trouble of playing subterranean hide and go seek with your tubers.  Last, but definitely not least, potatoes infect their own soil and can cause subsequent crops to suffer blight.  I know potatoes are cheap and easy to come by, but if you're like me, the thrill of growing your own makes the above challenges worth it.  If this works, it may very well solve my potato woes.


  • Drill several holes in the bottom and/or sides of a plastic trash can (or other like-sized tub) to ensure good drainage which then ensures you don't get rotten potatoes.

  • Fill your container about 1/3 to 1/2 full with potting soil, compost, or whatever you've got.  Remember to include a little natural fertilizer.  Next year I'll look forward to using some chicken litter!
  • Cut out the potato eyes (with a small portion of potato attached) of your favorite varieties.  We decided to go for broke and planted everything we had on hand:  russet, sweet, and fingerling potatoes.  Lay on the soil with the eye facing upwards approximately 4 to 5" apart.  You can include several eyes on your seedlings, and although we did not allow ours to "cure" (dry, slightly), that is recommended.

  • Top with another couple inches of soil.
  • Water.  Wait. Water some more.  Potatoes like moist, but not overly damp, soil, and since they also like plenty of sun, keep a watch on them to make sure they don't dry out.

  • As the plants begin to grow, you'll want to add more soil or compost around the stems, but do not cover the leaves.  You'll continue to do this throughout the growing season.  Every time you notice they've grown, add a little more soil.  
  • You'll know it is harvest time when the plant withers, browns and/or dies.  At this time, tip the tub over onto a tarp and voila, potatoes!
  • The soil can most definitely be used in other beds (aka, flower beds), just be sure they don't contain vegetables or fruits.

So, there you have it.  I'll keep you posted on our potato progress.  Anyone out there tried this before?  Tips?  Suggestions?  Success stories?

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