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Monday, January 14, 2008

Backyard Potatoes

There are many methods for growing potatoes but none is as easy or as convenient for a backyard as the container or trash can method! All you will need is a container between 20"-30" tall, a trash can works perfectly.

Start with seed potatoes. I found mine at the local garden store. They are easiest to find in January to early February. You don't want to use grocery store potatoes because they can carry diseases which will produce unhealthy plants. Seed potatoes are certified disease free and ready for planting, but if you can't find any - store potatoes may work in a pinch.

You want to cut each potato in half and then in half again - making sure there are a few eyes on each "seed". The cut pieces will then need to dry for at least 24 hours to help prevent any rotting.

Meanwhile you can prep your planting area. Drill some large holes in the bottom of your container to ensure proper drainage. We also placed ours on two boards to facilitate even more drainage.

Once your container is ready to go, fill the bottom with medium sized rocks - we used volcanic rock because it was the most economical but any rock will do. After the rock layer, add about 6 inches of an acidic soil. You can buy soil with higher acidity or add a good amount of organic material like leaves or peat moss to increase it's acidity.

After the potatoes have finished drying it is time to plant! Place the "seeds" cut side down in the soil and cover with a few inches of your soil mixture. After some time the potato vines will begin to grow up and out of your soil. Once they have reached about 6 inches tall, cover them with soil again until just about a third is sticking out. Continue this process until the plants begin to flower. Remember to water your potatoes but not so much that the soil is soggy - that will increase your chances of rot. Liquid fertilizers are also a good choice if you are so inclined. After the plants have flowered, stop watering and let them dry. Once the vine is withered and dry, let the potatoes cure in the soil for a few weeks to help them store longer. Depending on soil/weather conditions this process should take about 130-150 days and will produce a trash can filled with delicious home grown potatoes!

-Megan & Mike Knorpp


dishes and laundry said...

This is so cool!!!

How many inches of the volcanic rock did you put down?

If you keep adding soil as the vine grows, will you eventually fill up the garbage can?

Will the potatoes grow throughout the entire can, or do they stay in one specific area or layer?

Finally, we can do this in February in Utah?

megan said...

To answer your questions:

I put in somewhere around six inches of rock - one whole bag from Lowe's.

You will eventually fill up the can with soil - or at least get close.

The potatoes will grow throughout the ENTIRE can - people often harvest by pushing over the container and letting the potatoes fall out all over the ground!

Potatoes do like to grow in cooler conditions and can withstand, with protection, a little frost. But keep in mind they will not begin to grow until the soil is at least 45 degrees.

I hope that helps!


Unknown said...

My husband grew up on a potato farm. He said that you will want to plant your potatoes after your last frost.

He said it was also fun to harvest the potatoes early to get baby potatoes. The potatoes will be smaller, more moist, and more tender. You will want to harvest 60 days after planting.

We will be doing 2 cans of potatoes this year. One will be harvested early for the baby potatoes, the other we will wait for the large potatoes.

Jennifer said...

I did try this once, after reading a similar article in Family Fun magazine. They recommended also mixing sand into the soil (1:1) to improve air flow.

Sadly I did not reap a harvest. The potato vines did flower, but did not produce. Looking back, though, I don't think we had true seed potatoes -- just some from the bottom of the bag. So for sure use seed potatoes.

Still, all was not lost. I liked the idea so much of the compactness of the drilled-hole garbage can that I used it for our compost bin. It worked great in our small space. Every once in a while I'd firmly attach the lid to the can and have the kids help me kick it around the yard to stir the compost.

I will for sure try the potatoes this season. Marisa, will you post when you start yours?

Kathy said...

i love taters - i'll have to try this one out for sure :)

Anonymous said...

at all times the trash cans are open or uncovered, I assume. Where can you get seed potatoes?.

Unknown said...


Yes, you will want to have the garbage cans uncovered in order for them to get as much light as possible. Make sure they are in a very sunny spot. The only time you would want to cover them is if you are getting a lot of rain, I've heard of them getting too wet and molding.

clumsyraine said...

I have to question the potato farmer's comment earlier to plant them after your last frost. I'm growing bucket-potatoes this year for the first time but I did TONS of research and everything I read told me to plant them as much as two months BEfORE the last frost date, the same time as onions and peas and other cold weather veggies. So do some research or call your local agricultural extension office to find out when the recommended planting date is in your area just to be sure! :)

Unknown said...

this is only a test,

You are correct, I just talked to my Father in law who was a potato farmer for years up in Idaho. I don't know that you want to plant potatoes 2 months before the last frost, but you can plant them before the last frost. You want to make sure the leaves of the plant do not freeze, once the leaves freeze, they drop the growing potatoes and you end up with extra small potatoes. I would worry if you plant 2 months before the last frost, you are going to get frozen leaves. Be prepared to cover them if you plant that early. Idaho potato farmers plant the last week of April, I just planted mine this week (April 24). For my area, I think it is accepted that May 15 we are safe from any more freezing.

Thanks for catching that, next time I will ask the farmer, and not the farmers son!

Anonymous said...

I heard that you can store potatoes in sand, is this true?

Unknown said...

I've never stored potatoes in the sand, but here is a website that claims you can:


The most important thing to remember when storing potatoes is to keep them out of the light.

Christy said...

I am so bummed. I did almost everything you have suggested to do. Though I did not find your blog till today. Right after we dumped our garbage cans to reap a harvest. It was a dismal failure! I am not sure what happened. One thing that might have lead to the failure was that we did not put any rocks in the bottom for drainage. Even though we did drill holes in the bottoms. I may have rotted the seed potatoes out. I think we will try it again next year, only remember the rocks.

Unknown said...

Christy, I'm so sorry it didn't work out for you. I"m going to harvest mine this week, we will see how it goes.

Unknown said...

I've got my seed potatoes, garbage can, 2x4's, and Miracle Grow gardening soil ready to go tonite! The only thing I'm lacking is a hole saw bit which I will bring from work tomorrow. I'll post throughtout my Potato season with the results. Thanks so much for this cool idea and all the related comments.

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Very innovative!

Elliott Broidy said...

Home grown! My favorite!


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