Growing potatoes in a barrel

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by jhr513, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. jhr513

    jhr513 Monkey+

    We are going to try to start a garden in a few raised bed this year and ran across this when doing so research and was wondering if anyone here had ever tried it.
    • [​IMG]
      Container gardening isn't only for savvy urban gardeners and folks with limited space to grow, it can also be for folks who want to maximize their yields in a controlled environment. Not only does growing potatoes in a barrel reduce the amount of weeding and exposure to pests and fungi, you don't even have to risk shovel-damage to the tender potatoes by digging them out of the ground when they're done, just tip the container over!

      After extensive research to plan my own potatoes-in-a-barrel, I've boiled all of the recommendations down to 4 simple steps to a winning potato harvest.


      1. Select and prepare a container
      You'll need to pick out a container such as a 50-gallon trash barrel or one of those half whiskey barrel planters. Alternatively, you can buy used food-grade barrels or commercially-available potato planters. Just about any 2 to 3-foot tall container will work, but be sure to select a container that either already has holes in it, or is okay to cut holes in. Next you'll want to clean your container with a mild bleach solution to get out any of the nasties that have been lingering in there. If you don't want to use bleach, you can make a bleach alternative to use instead.

      Good drainage is critical for the cultivation of healthy potatoes so you'll want to cut or drill a series of large drainage holes in the bottom and bottom sides of your container. Alternatively, you can cut out the bottom altogether and place it on a well-drained surface like your garden bed.


      2. Choose a variety and plant potatoes
      Seed potatoes can usually be found at nurseries early in the growing season, but you should only have to buy them once. If you can, “chit” or sprout your potatoes before planting them by setting them out in an egg carton, the side with the most buds facing up, and putting them in a cool light room out of direct sunlight to sprout. Putting the tubers in an open paper bag can have this same effect.

      Fill in the bottom of your container with about 6 inches of loose planting mix and compost. You'll want to use a planting mix with a peat moss-like soil amendment like this product made from repurposed coconut husks, doing so will keep the soil from becoming too compacted and help it to store moisture for the roots. Next, add some seed potatoes on the layer of soil, making certain to leave plenty of space between each cube. You can use the whole potato but I like to cut the potatoes into 1 to 2-inch cubes for planting. Loosely backfill the potatoes with another 6 inches of your soil and compost mix and water to dampen soil. Keep the soil damp at all times but be careful not to overwater.


      3. Add more soil
      When they have about 6 to 8 inches of foliage, add another layer of your soil-compost mix covering about one-half to three-quarters of the visible stems and foliage. Repeat this process of allowing the sprouts to grow and then covering the sprouts and moistening the soil as the plants grow up toward the top of the barrel.

      4. Harvest the potatoes

      After about 10 weeks or until the plants flower and start to yellow, the potatoes should be ready to harvest. Carefully dig down with your hands to inspect the top-most layer. After you've confirmed your suspicions, dump the barrel out on a tarp and inspect your bounty.


      Other tips to grow bushels of barrel potatoes
      • After the first harvest, keep a few potatoes to use as seed potatoes next year.
      • Bush beans are a great companion plant for potatoes.
      • Instead of using soil, try growing potatoes in sawdust.
      • Experiment with different containers, seed potatoes and watering regimes.
      • If the above steps aren't sufficient, do some more research. Try here.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 31, 2015
  2. USMCwife

    USMCwife Monkey++

    I haven't used the barrel method, but it looks about the same as another successful method I know of--tire stacking.
    Start with one tire and plant your potatoes. As they grow, continue to add tires and dirt until you are four tires high. Then just lift off the tires to harvest. However, not many people like having tires stacked in their garden.
  3. jhr513

    jhr513 Monkey+

    I ran across the tire method too but i dont think the mrs would go for tires stacked in the yard.
  4. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    We're going to try this method this spring. Let ya know how it turns out.
  5. dragonfly

    dragonfly Monkey+++

    I have used barrels for planting a lot of different veggies, not tried potatoes yet though. I cut some 55 gallon poly barrels lengthwise and used them for smaller crops like green onions, radishes, even carrots....seems they like that sort of thing! I gut them in half and used the deeper halves for things like greens, spinach, even zuccinni squash.
    I'm gonna go for the potatoes now!
  6. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Stacks of tires would have gone over much better when I was in TN. So would potatoes growing in discarded toilets, washing machines and old cars which seemed to be stacked around some homes just waiting for a further use.

    In a SHTF situation though, I'd think this would be a nice way to fill a some stomachs.

    Please do update if you try this.
  7. toydoc

    toydoc Monkey+++

    Don't know about a barrel. Dad just scratched the ground up a bit, put the potato sprouts on top of the ground and covered them with a thick layer of straw. We watered the straw and when we "dug them up" all we had to do was pull the straw back. The potatoes were just laying on top of the ground and were easy to harvest.
  8. malexander

    malexander Monkey+++

  9. USMCwife

    USMCwife Monkey++

    A friend of mine has been doing for a couple of years now, and he swears by it. He doesn't even cut the sidewalls off. He also said something about the tires help retain heat in the soil. I figured I would give it a shot this year. I'll let you know how it turns out.
  10. Rourke

    Rourke Monkey++

    Growing Potatoes in Buckets.....

    Via my blog - hope it is helpful: Last year I planted potatoes in several buckets and it worked out very well. I am upping the quantity this year - targeting 40 buckets to supply potatoes for a good part of the summer/fall. I had the best success with small red potatoes versus the Russett-style. For those that have never tried it - this posting is for you.

    To grow your own potatoes in a bucket - here is how I do it -

    First - things you will need:
    A bucket (at least 1 foot in diameter - bigger the better), Gravel, Compost/Rich Soil, Seed Potatoes

    Second - the steps:
    1. Get Your Seed Potatoes. A seed potato is nothing more than a potato that has sprouted. You can get these sometimes from the grocery store, online from a seed supplier, or from a local farmers market. I generally look through the potatoes at my local grocery store and will find some that are starting to sprout - and bring those home. I have had success planting potatoes that have short sprouts of only an inch or so - but is it a general rule the longer the spout the better.
    2. Prepare Your Bucket. I use orange Home Depot bucket the most - but any similar sized bucket will work (don't use black if the temperature gets hot). You need to drill several holes in the bottom to allow draining. Holes should be 1/4" to 3/4" in diameter. Next - pour a couple of inches of gravel in the bottom of the bucket. The gravel helps make certain the drainage holes do not get plugged up. Now - fill your bucket 1/2 to 3/4 full of a rich soil mixture - something like a composted soil will work very well. After watering the soil will compact down and this is to be expected.
    3. Plant Your Potatoes. Take your seed potatoes and push them into the soil in the bucket so that the upper half - the part with the sprouts - are pointing up. Now - cover with approx 6 inches of soil. Depending upon the size of the bucket and the potato - place one or two potatoes in each bucket. If the potato is large - say over 4 inches or so - you can cut it in half dividing the potato so there are sprouts on both halves and can be planted separately. One thing to keep in mind is if you do cut it in half - set the cuts in a window sill for 2-3 days to "cure" the cut surfaces - this will help reduce the chance of mold.
    4. Water. It is important that the soil remains moist - but not too much. I water the buckets about twice per week unless we have gotten rain. Generally I will provide water until I see some coming out the bottom thru the holes. I have used liquid Miracle Grow in the past - have no idea if it helped or not.
    5. Light. I always place all my buckets in direct sunlight. I actually use the buckets around the outside of my garden.
    This year I am targeting 40 buckets total - with 10 of them trialing different types of potatoes to see how they work. I am also going to start planting in the early spring as potaotes like it around 60 degrees or so. I have planted and grown potaotes in the 80's - but less success.
    Couple last tips - In my fridge right now are about 30 potatoes that I collected last fall. I wrapped them in a couple of towels and placed them in the back of one of the shelves. I just checked on them this morning and most of them look great - with the sprouts varying in length. I will try many of these in my buckets to see how they work but I will get some new ones as well. Also - once you have some greenery shooting out of the soil - filling the bucket up past the potato plant will promote more growth and higher yield. So - add soil as the plant gows until the bucket is completly full.

    Take care all - Rourke
  11. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    My potatoes have been growing for about a month now.

    I started out with organic potatoes from whole foods. They seemed to work ok. No seed potatoes anywhere to be found here in the 'burbs and the ones from the supermarket just rotted.

    First tire really took off. When the plants got to about 2.5 feet tall, I placed another tire and backfilled with dirt. They continued to grow, but now about 2 weeks later I notice that some stalks are drooping. Don't know what's up with that, or what to do besides wait it out.

    Second tire I started with supermarket potatoes. Nothing.
    So I dropped in some organic potatoes and one sprouted. It looks like it will need another tire in about 2 weeks.

    That's where I am. Will post photos ASAP.
  12. Rourke

    Rourke Monkey++

    I emptied out a few buckets today that were blanks - nuth'n in them.

    Soil looked good - not totally sure what happened. I suspect wither the soil was too damp - not enough drainage and the potato rotted (although the greens grew - they were real small). Also - potatoes do not like the hot weather my experiance tells me and it is hot here in the Southeast. I planted these potatoes in mid-April. Timing should have been OK - but all my other potatoes in buckets were planted in March in much coller weather.

    Oh well - still learning.
  13. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Did you harvest the ones you planted in March?
    I thought you had to wait for the leaves to die off.
    I'm in the Southeast too and if they really don't like heat, maybe we should have planted in September!
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