Potatoes are very easy to grow, and you don’t even need a lot of space. This is a great way to repurpose an old trash can that now is no longer useful due to holes in it! Don’t have a trash can, well check with a local nursery to see if they have any of those big tree pots, they would make a perfect potato planter!
Now I have to say, this is a first for me to try the garbage can method, but we have two trash cans that are no longer useful due to holes so I decided why not give it a try! The same principle applies as you would grow them in trenches or even grow bags (that will come as a later post), you just allow it to grow up.
So you want to start by selecting the type of variety of potato you wish to grow. Avoid the temptation to buy potatoes for planting from the supermarket (at least conventional potatoes) as they may have been treated with sprout inhibitors or may carry disease organisms that could contaminate your garden soil.
You want to select tubers that are no larger than an egg or simply cut larger potatoes into two or three seed pieces, being sure that each has an “eye” or sprout. Do this the day before planting to allow the cut surfaces dry or “heal” at room temperature overnight.
A typical trash can should be able to support four plants. Place a few inches (8-10) of good rich compost/soil at the bottom of the container then lay seed potatoes on the soil and cover them with a few inches of soil or rich compost. Once the plant has begun to grow and reaches about 6 inches tall, add more compost or straw mulch to cover all but 3 inches of the plant. Once the foliage grows and is about 6 inches tall, repeat the same process. Continue this process until the container is filled. Water as needed to keep the straw evenly moist, but not soggy. It is important to not over water.
Straw promotes healthy plant growth, smothers weeds and protects tubers from turning green in the sunlight. The straw also acts as a mulch to keep the soil moist. Your trash can will do best in full sun, as the dark color will help the soil to be warmer. I am a little late in planting my potatoes but this should be done usually 4 weeks before the last frost date.
Once the potatoes begin to bloom you can begin harvesting clean, soil-free “new potatoes.” Simply pull back the straw, take what you need and carefully replace the straw. After the vines start to die back, your main potato crop is ready. Cut the vines back to soil level two weeks before you want to start harvesting your potatoes.
There are great benefits to using a container such as a garbage can. When you are ready to harvest the potatoes, simply dump the whole container out onto a tarp and pick out the potatoes, no digging is required.
Since potatoes are very vulnerable to pests and diseases it is best to use new soil every year. Just like we practice crop rotation in our gardens, you can use the same principle here. Simply add the used soil to another garden area that is not used for potatoes and start with fresh soil next year!
So what do you think? Do you have an area that you could use a trash can or large barrel to plant potatoes? I can’t wait to see what comes out of it at the end of the year!