Gardening 101: Planting Potatoes in a Container

If you have limited garden space…planting your potatoes in a container is a fun option. I’ll be planting potatoes both in my garden and in a container, just so that we can have as many potatoes as possible!

There are a variety of ways to plant potatoes in a container. For me, the easiest way is to use an old rubbermaid garbage container. (Hint:  remove garbage first.)

potatoescontainer5sm1.JPG potatoescontainer3sm1.JPG

Here are the simple steps:

  1. Poke or drill several holes in bottom of garbage can.
  2. Scoop about one foot of soil into the container.
  3. Push five whole seed potatoes into the soil, spread apart evenly.
  4. Make sure the potatoes are completely covered by about two inches of soil.
  5. Water the seed potatoes.
  6. Sit patiently and wait for them to grow. You may want to take up knitting.
  7. Once the plants have grown to 7-8 inches in height…scoop more soil into the container. The soil level should be about three inches from the top of the plants.
  8. Water the plants as needed. As soon as the plants begin to flower, be sure to water generously and consistently.
  9. Each time the plants reach 7-8 inches above the soil level, scoop more soil into the container, maintaining the soil at three inches from the top of the plants.
  10. At the end of the summer, dump out the contents of your container (which will, by that time, weigh approximately 368.4 pounds). Dig all around the dumped out soil and gather potatoes. 
  11. Jump and cheer each time you find a potato. Have an “I found the biggest potato, neener, neener, neener” competition. 
  12. Go make mashed potatoes.

Don’t ask me how many potatoes you’ll be able to grow using this method. I’ve read that you can grow several pounds of them. Last year when I first tried doing this, I didn’t do a very good job of continuing to fill my container with soil like I was supposed to…therefore I didn’t have a very high yield. This year…I’m planning to do better!

By the way, with the exception of poking the holes in my container (because I had done that already last year)…this process took only ten minutes. That included digging up soil, planting, watering…and yes…stopping to take a few picture. (Wonder what my neighbors were thinking? Weird lady. Takes pictures of her dirt and trash cans.  Weird, weird lady.)

A few more things you might be wondering about…

How should I poke holes in my container?  Well…I had the kids stand back while I went to town with a pitch fork. But a much safer and more effective way is to use a drill.

What kind of soil should I put into my container?  I dug up some good soil from the compost area in our backyard. You can use packaged soil from the store…but keep in mind that you’ll need quite a bit. I remember being surprised last year with how many bags of soil it took.

Does my container need to have the left-side handle missing?  No. Your potaoes will grow just fine in a container that has both handles attached.


Will you show us updates on your blog as your potato plants grow? Absolutely! 

Will I get dirt under my fingernails?  Yes. When you push the seed potatoes under the soil, you will get dirty. But don’t worry. It will feel good. You’ll feel like a good farmer. You’ll feel like you’re working hard to feed your family. You’ll feel like you accomplished oodles of work because you got dirty. (Don’t tell anyone it took ten minutes.)


Oh…be proud of those dirty fingernails! See…I was so proud of mine I took a picture for you. (Weird, weird lady)

Do any of you have experience planting potatoes in a container? Any of you planning to give it a try this year? Anybody want to send me a picture of your dirty fingernails?

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  1. says

    I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but the reason your crop was not as abundant as you expected is indeed, are you ready for this? you must have TWO handles on your trash can in order for the potatoes to grow properly. I am so sorry I was not able to advise you last year however I believe there is still time to purchase a handle and attach it for the 2013 growing season!!! On a serious note, be sure to cut your potatoes and let them dry overnight before planting. Keep those fingers dirty!


  2. Rikki Daniels says

    How much sunlight do potatoes need? I have a very shady yard and so far have only succeeded in growing a few herbs.


    Laura Reply:

    They don’t need as much sun and heat as some plants, but they do need some sun. Not sure a shady yard would do the trick, but it might be worth a try!


  3. Rick says

    This will help keep your growing costs to a minimum. After planting the eyes of cut and dried over nite potatoes in soil. (or seed potatoes) You can use any medium that is handy (FREE) to cover the plants as they grow. My favorite is shredded leaves from the previous fall, that I just store in the shed in barrels or brown leaf bags. You may also use pine needles, saw dust or any combination of those. Dried grass clipping will work if you mix a little sand and or soil in with the clippings, hay is also an excellent medium. It has been my experience that the lighter or fluffier the medium, the better the yield. this I assume is from the smaller amount of resistance the growing tubers are up against. If you don’t mind spending an extra 10 bucks, buy a large block of peat moss and mix it in with any one of the above free mediums, it will keep everything loose and at the same time it keeps the the mixture evenly moist. If you have access to old rimless car tires, you can plant the seeds in soil in one tire (laid on its side of coarse) and then just add tires and fill as they grow.


    Jane T Reply:

    Can you tell me if this method of container gardening will work as well with sweet potatoes? Are there any variations in the planting technique? Thanks to Rick for the info about alternate growing media to use with potatoes–I will definitely try adding the peat moss. Also, can you be more specific about what a “seed potato” is and how to prepare them for planting? Thank you!


    Carrie Reply:

    You can use the same method for sweet potatoes. I have used it for two years running now and have a nice yield. I will try the hay and mulch suggested this year because I need to fill my barrells.
    Lots of fun to harvest the potatoes


  4. sawdustagain says

    I grow potatoes in square three-gallon buckets that I get from a local burger joint. I fill each bucket with six inches of dirt, lay in three seed potatoes, then cover with two inches of dirt. I continue filling the bucket with dirt as the plant grows. Harvesting is easy, just dump the bucket in a wheelbarrow. I eat the big potatoes and plant the too-little-to-eat potatoes next year.


  5. Mrs. L says

    I am excited to try this potatoes-in-a-bucket thing! Come 2015 I’d like to try sweet potatoes. One question; has anyone had a problem with potato bugs using this bucket-method?


  6. Heidi Lindenberg says

    Dear Laura, I am one of these first time (oh what the heck ) potato planters. Read every word you said and was “tickled pink” about your very funny comments. (Weird, weird lady ) With gardener pride, did I looked at the dirt under my fingernails. Was tempted not clean them and showing them off, by going to the store like this. Telling the cashier,” No lady, I wont spend money on store-bought potato’s. I grow my own. And if you don’t believe me….I will give you Laura’s website.”
    Thank you very much for your help and I must be a weird, weird lady too.
    With friendly greetings…..Heidi


    Laura Reply:

    Haha, awesome!! :)


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