How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can


September 12, 2012 by spielbee


Welcome to everything you could want to know about growing organic potatoes in a trash can! Potatoes grow from potatoes seeds, which are bred to grow new potatoes. You don’t use store-bought potatoes as they can bear disease and are sometimes sprayed with a chemical to keep them from sprouting. I order my seed from Peaceful Valley. They have a great site with excellent garden educational videos. Following is everything you need to do to grow your potatoes…it’s a little involved, but I know you can do it following these simple instructions. Have fun and I hope you get a big harvest!


This is what will be going on with your potatoes in the first few weeks. The method is simple: spread the potato seeds in open-top flats, one layer deep with the “seed end” uppermost. (If you closely observe a seed potato, you’ll notice that one end was attached to the plant, the other end has a larger number of eyes from which the sprouts emerge. This end with the eye cluster is called the seed end.) The flats are kept in a warm place (70 degrees F.) where light levels are medium in intensity (bright shade). The warmth stimulates the development of strong sprouts from the bud eye clusters, which in the presence of light, remain stubby and so are not easily broken off.

Usually seed potatoes are chitted starting a week or two before planting. Cut the seed potato just before planting. Cut potatoes with no less than 2-3 eyes and with plenty of space around the eyes. Egg-sized potato seeds should be planted whole (and are considered the best seed potatoes). Pro tip: Dust cut pieces with organic sulfur by placing a teaspoonful or two in a large paper sack and gently tossing the cut potato seed pieces to cover them with sulfur dust.


Drill lots of holes on bottom of 20 – 32 gallon trash can and around the outside wall, 3-6” from the bottom. Place layer of gravel in the bottom of the can for drainage. You can sit your can on top of wood blocks if you like to keep water and soil from pooling on your tile or cement. Place your can in an area that gets 4-6 hours of direct sunlight.

If you don’t have a can, plant in-ground on 6″ of loose, well-dug soil. Top the potato seeds with at least 4″ of soil. Digging a trench and planting the potato seeds in the trench is a good idea. As you’ll soon learn, you will have to mound the soil over the plants as they grow and a trench makes that easier.


Add 6” of POTTING SOIL and mix in 1/2-cup fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen. Dust the top of the soil with fertilizer-free soil. Add potato seeds 5” apart (4 starts to a can). Place cut potato seeds cut side DOWN and more importantly, sprout side UP. Cover with 4” of fertilizer-free soil mixed with well-rotted compost if you have it. Soil should be loose. Do NOT push down on soil or compact it. Do NOT place lid on top of can.


Watering is very important, especially in containers. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Do not let potatoes dry out. Water in the morning, once a week in cool weather and then every other day in hot weather. (When foliage turns yellow and dies, stop watering. This allows the tubers to mature. More on this later.)


This is the most important part of potato planting and the main reason we are growing them in a trash can. Potatoes cannot be exposed to the sun while they are growing; they turn green and green potatoes can be toxic and should be thrown away. That is why you will be piling soil on top of them, or mounding the soil (also called hilling).

When the potato plant starts to grow mark your calendar so you can see how long your potatoes take to grow!

Then, when the plant grows 6-8” above the soil line in the bin, you are going to add 2-3” of soil. Check your potatoes every week to see if they need mounding. Never cover more than a third of the new growth or, to put it another way, try to leave 4-6” of stem on top of the soil as the plant grows. You will be mounding and mounding the plant as it grows for the next couple months. Don’t mound dirt over the flowers, only the stems and leaves.

Pro tip: here’s a great additional fertilizer trick you can try if you are feeling adventurous: Mix ½ cup of molasses in 5 gallons of water. Soak the molasses in the water for a day and night, stirring several times a day. Apply the liquid molasses to the roots of the potato plant 1-4x during the growing season. This will get you amazing results!


Yeah! Now stop fertilizing but don’t stop watering or mounding. (When flowers and leaves yellow and die, you will stop watering and mounding.)


After green plants turn brown, stop watering and mounding and mark the date on your calendar. At least 2 weeks later, in the morning or early evening, in the shade, carefully turn your bin over onto a tarp and remove your potatoes. Do not expose them to sunlight or they will not last as long. Any potatoes that get damaged or have the skin knocked off should be enjoyed first.

Revision: I have had clients that have completely ignored their potato bins and still ended up having great results. I can’t explain this or condone it, but if you do forget about your bin, don’t hesitate to harvest it!

Reserve the bin soil for use in your flowerbeds or herb garden. This soil should not be used for planting tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or potatoes again. There is a chance of spreading disease among this same family of vegetables if the same soil is used over.


Taters are ideally stored at 40 degrees but not many of us have root cellars in Los Angeles. Keep your potatoes in the dark in the coolest spot in your house or apartment (kitchens and refrigerators are not good places) and keep in small piles as potatoes bruise easily. Do not wash them. In fact keep them as dry as possible. You can carefully wipe the dirt off them with your hands. Burlap bags are good potato holders. Potatoes will last up to 3 months in a cool, dark place…if you don’t eat them first!


Enjoy your organic taters and thanks for your potato business. Now you’re the potato expert! Please call Hope Gardens with any questions: 323-493-5177.


Potatoes are the only vegetable a person can solely survive on. And although potatoes are mostly starch, they can contain up to about 11% protein!

Potatoes are definitely mysterious little tubers. They like to grow in the dark, hidden under mounds and mounds of warm compost. They are grown from potato “seeds,” which are actually specialty potatoes raised to grow potatoes, which must be “chitted” before planting. And the “eye” of a potato is where the potato’s stalk and its lovely purple flowers will grow from.

For all their mysterious ways, you can get an amazing potato yield from an ordinary plastic trash can! 

Order your taters today!

62 thoughts on “How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can

  1. […] How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can | Hope Gardens […]

    • Brenda Sloan says:

      Hi there, really want to try this, just want to know do you keep adding seed potatoes to each layer of soil you put in or is the crop from the original layer of potatoes? Thankyou

      • spielbee says:

        Hello! The one layer of seed potatoes is all you need. 🙂 Good luck!

      • David Mitchell says:

        The potatoes form above the roots along the stem which is the reason for adding additional soil as they grow. If you skip this step you may end up with potatoes growing in the sunlight and as stated they will turn green and be inedible

  2. […] Broccoli is a wonderful garden plant, you just need to harvest the heads before they flower, and they can flower quickly! Plant several to get a good yield. Potatoes need time and space. Try growing them in DIY potato bins.  […]

  3. Granny Mason says:

    GREAT info, and a superb way for physically challenged gardeners to enjoy the ‘fruits’ without the back-breaking ‘labor’!

  4. Gabriel says:

    I think this is one of the most vital information for me.
    And i am glad reading your article. But wanna remark on
    few general things, The web site style is wonderful,
    the articles is really excellent : D. Good
    job, cheers

  5. todd says:

    Just tried this “trashcan” method and got only 5 potatoes!! That’s it!
    I followed the directions completely! What happened??
    Complete fail.

    • spielbee says:

      Sorry to hear that Todd. I will tell ya, that’s gardening for you. Perhaps your can was too wet or too dry…maybe not enough compost? I usually get 20 small potatoes and feel stoked about that. Try and try again…

    • Cheryl says:

      A couple of years ago I did some research on why my potato yield was so much lower than I expected and I learned that it is likely not the fault of the method, but the result of the variety of potato you chose to grow.

      Apparently there are determinate and indeterminate varieties of potatoes just as there are with tomatoes. Determinate varieties produce one flush of tubers no matter how high they are mounded while indeterminate varieties produce several flushes of tubers depending on how high they are mounded.

      So for this method you need an indeterminate variety, often labeled “long-season” or “high yield”. Good Luck!

  6. Andrew Wolff says:

    “Cut the seed potato just before planting. Cut potatoes with no less than 2-3 eyes and with plenty of space around the eyes.”
    Thanks for the article, this is great! The quoted portion above is a bit ambiguous – what size am I looking to cut to? Am I cutting the sprouts to make sure they aren’t too long yet? Hoping to start my container garden next spring and doing a bit of early research. Cheers 🙂

    • spielbee says:

      Hello! And thanks for visiting. You want the cut potato to be fairly big…not just the eyes for example. No potato should be cut more than 2x. Most of mine I cut only 1x giving me 2 seed potatoes to plant. The really large magnificent ones can be cut more than 1x. Make sense?

  7. mamajune says:

    I have seen all kinds of potatoes “sprout” if not eaten quick enough. Can you plant any kind? Or will new potatoes not grow from these. Thanks for the info.

  8. […] I am really surprised at how fast the potato plants have grown. Whenever the plants get about 5-6 inches over the layers of soil I have been adding more soil until there is only an inch or 2 showing above the leaves.Read more… […]

  9. jean says:

    what if your potatoes dont flower because too much water

  10. sean obrien says:

    What happens if I run out of barrel space? my plants are growing guickly

  11. […] Youngest and I followed the formula: drill drainage holes in the bottom of a new trashcan, add enough dirt to cover the tuber, allow to […]

  12. Katie says:

    What time of year do you start planting these?

    • spielbee says:

      Hello! Depends on where you live and when whatever potato seed company you order from ships. Here in Southern California we plant in the fall. If you plant new potatoes, they are more forgiving because they can be harvested when they are small or big. Just keep in mind, potatoes don’t like hot weather.

  13. […] potatoes in the ground, in pots, in a container, in straw, in bags, in barrels, in tires and even trash cans. So armed with the information and all the naive confidence of the uninitiated, I started growing […]

  14. Amy Weaver says:

    Is it okay to use a metal trash can?

  15. Love the article. Thanks. Can Potting Mix be used instead of soil?

    • spielbee says:

      Great question! There are several different kinds of dirt/soil. There is native soil/dirt. The stuff in the ground. This should never be used in containers. There is bagged soil amendment or garden mix like Amend or Gromulch. This is used to amend native soil/dirt. Not to be used in containers. Then there is potting mix or potting soil and this is the only stuff you should use in containers. 🙂 Thanks for writing!

  16. Morokat says:

    Fist time for me, but make a try.

  17. Lori says:

    We live in Brackettville, TX, can container potatoes be planted in the spring? Thanks for a great article!!

  18. […] How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can […]

  19. […] How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can — We’re doing this right now! […]

  20. Tim says:

    I am doing something similar right now. The local Walmart bakery will sell the old icing buckets (approx. 4-5 gal.)for $1. Everything else is the same. The article where I got the idea stated that you may be able to get 4+ lbs of potatoes. Can’t wait to harvest!

  21. pat says:

    If i wanted to stagger plant so i have potatoes all year-long how often should i start a can so when ine is harvested the next one is going. I know eventually i will figure out hiw many we eat and can alter things. Just looking for a starting point. In winter i will have a heated room to grow in.

  22. JOHN says:

    can Peruvian potatoes be planted in East Central Florida ?

  23. Emily says:

    wow! what a neat way grow potatoes! how did you come up with the idea?

  24. KC says:

    Just started with a plastic Rubbermaid garbage can… Should we be concerned about toxins from the plastic garbage can? Thanks

    • spielbee says:

      No! Those don’t leach and God knows EVERYTHING comes in a plastic bag these days!

      • KC says:

        Sorry I did more research and it depends on what plastic they’re made of mine is #5PP so I’m good. Thanks for your time sorry if it was a silly question 🙂

  25. spielbee says:

    there are no silly questions (actually there are and I get them all the time…but yours was not one of them!)

  26. Mike from Wi. says:

    My potatoes are growing like weeds, they look like tomato plants ! Should I tie them up (they’re 2-3 ft.above the can) or let them hang over the can to the ground??

  27. Jose says:

    Your article says to watch for the plants turning brown. does that mean all the plant or as soon as some parts start turning brown?

  28. […] potatoes in the ground, in pots, in a container, in straw, in bags, in barrels, in tires and even trash cans. So armed with the information and all the naive confidence of the uninitiated, I started growing […]

  29. […] year I stumbled upon a blogger talking about growing potatoes in a barrel…. or a large trashcan.  I had never grown […]

  30. […] click here >>  Grow Potatoes In A Garbage Bin Tutorial […]

  31. Michelle says:

    Anyone ever tried growing taters in a mesh laundry hamper, the pop up kind? The drainage is built in, just wondering.

  32. Sally says:

    Hello. Should I be concerned that the sun won’t shine directly inside my garbage can? The can will be in the sun, but the sun will be at an angle, and the soil is low in the can. Thanks.

  33. Jasmine says:

    Aloha will try this method in hawaii 👍

  34. […] How to Grow Potatoes in a Trash Can | Hope Gardens – Sep 12, 2012  · HOW TO GROW YOUR SPUDS. Welcome to everything you could want to know about growing organic potatoes in a trash can! Potatoes grow from potatoes … […]

  35. Ron Maneth says:

    Instead of a trash can I am using a large plastic storage tub. It’s about 20 inches deep. The plants have been growing real well. I have been faithfully added more soil as needed. Can’t wait to see the results.

  36. Pam says:

    Thanks for posting this for new gardeners. However, it might be a little confusing for newbies as you don’t really get potato seeds like you get with flower seed or corn seed. When they receive actual potatoes in the mail they may be like – these aren’t seeds! Most farmers call these seed potatoes (not potato seeds) where you either buy very small whole potatoes and plant the whole thing once sprouts appear. Or with larger potatoes with lots of sprouts you cut into pieces – both of which you mentioned. I’m glad to see you emphasized keeping them very dry and in the dark immediately after harvesting. I might add to the not washing them – don’t rub them at all unless you plan to eat that day. New potatoes have a fragile skin and until cured will rub right off even dry. If the skin comes off they will spoil quickly. Mesh bags are great for storing because they need a lot of air circulation. My grandfather put his on screens similiar to how you dry onions but in our basement or in the shed but covered the windows to prevent sunlight. Sunlight, as she stated, is very bad for you and the potatoes – you can get very sick eating green potatoes and it only takes a couple of days for them to start turning green. Without a good cool dark place you can co er the mesh bags with paper grocery bags also. But is important to not just lump them in a big pile until they have dried and cured off – they will rot. If necessary, you can “can” them for winter use but they are very low in acid and require careful following of directions to keep from going bad and creating botulism in the jars. Easy to put them up though – same as doing green beans, carrots, etc that also have low acid. My grandfather would put up 75-100 quarts of them for us, family and friends. You can also freeze – much safer and easier if you have a freezer – check your vegetable preserving book for cook/blanch times etc. I’ve even boiled until fork tender, cooled, dried off on paper towels and put in freezer bags to have ready for mashed potatoes. When boiling, paper towels soak up extra water so they don’t get freezer burn. Or my favorite, no paper towels needed – you can fry up with onions and seasoning just like you are going to eat immediately and then put in freezer bags/containers. When ready to eat, pop in microwave to defrost (or defrost in frig) and then into frying pan to finish browning and heating.

    New potatoes taste so different from potatoes you get from store or even cured/dried at home from your own potato patch. They are very sweet when first dug because they haven’t converted their sugars to starch. There is a small window – just hours really before this conversion starts so move fast to get those first ones cooked. I think they are best roasted with the skin on (but washed right before cooking) lightly tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper then put in foil packet with some holes poked in it (allows the wood smoke to flavor) and roasted over wood grill or in the oven. Oh my goodness – when done just mash and butter -they are terrific! You can also flatten with potato masher and then throw in hot cast iron pan to brown and crisp with your choice of butter or oil. This is a favorite way to serve with scrambled eggs, a juicy steak and homemade biscuits…delicious! Enjoy and follow all her directions for growing your own – you will be very happy.

    PS: never use more then about 35-40% compost to good soil – personally I stay around 20%. Compost is not soil and doesn’t have all the nutrients and minerals to grow good vegetables though it is very important to loosen and feed soil. I have seen folks fill their raised 2′ deep beds with pure compost and they don’t understand why their produce doesn’t taste good – it’s because they don’t have the vitamins, minerals, etc. to grow healthy great tasting vegetables. Also don’t lime soil right before planting or use wood ashes when growing spuds – same goes for using horse manure, etc. It is always best to get your soil tested by your local Extension office so you know what needs to be added to grow the best vegetables in terms of nutrients and whether you need nitrogen, calcium, potash, phosphorus etc.. You also will want to know the ph of your soil – as some plants grow better in more acidic, more alkaline or neutral soil. Depending on what you have and what you want to grow will determine what supplements you need to add to the soil, i.e. limestone or sulfur. You can grow just about anything in most soils – bad or good but you will never get the yields and flavor unless all soil components are in balance and due to unhealthy soil, you will have more pests and diseases. Compost should always be well aged before incorporating in garden for planting. I like to compost partially and then transfer to my new beds, let them overwinter and plant in the spring. Green manures like buckwheat planted in summer, clover in early spring or winter rye/clover planted in fall and then chopped into the soil come spring is great way to loosen and enrich your beds. Buckwheat planted once the soil is well warmed, allowed to go to seed about waist high and then chopped in with hoe and replanted (takes about 4-6 weeks to bloom depending on where you live) will produce huge amounts of green manure/compost right where you want it. I have had great results doing this and then tilling with bone meal and planting winter annual rye to cover and hold the bed for winter. Once the rye dies down I like to cover the beds wth really good alfalfa hay (green with lots of leaves but no seed heads or weeds). In the spring till everything and plant whatever you want and seed open areas with clover. Your soil will be terrific and plants well fed. When tilling, never do so when wet and never over til as you will ruin the structure of your soil for years. If you can pick up a handful of soil and try to squeeze into a ball and it won’t easily crumble then you will want to wait a few days and try the ball method again. If you til wet or even just really damp, you will create “rocks” which take years to go away if you have high clay soil. Over tilling to the point of almost dust will blow or wash away with hard rains, and it will be like concrete when it gets hot and dry – think about the
    How fine and powdery concrete is when you open a bag. You want your soil to be moist, dark, crumbly with loamy structure and a pleasant earthy smell. Only compost and green manures done every year will give you this healthy vital living soil.

  37. Donna Mainwaring says:

    I am using a white plastic 55 gal drum so I’m wondering if that will let skylight turn the potatoed toxic??

  38. Sue Rupe says:

    Just harvested our trash container red potato crop…what a disappointment! After following all instructions to the letter, we only harvested 20 potatoes of various sizes. Three plants in the one container should have given us a wheel barrel load as we have grown in prior years in a raised bed. Won’t do this again…ever! We’ll stick to the ‘old fashion’ way.

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