How to Grow Potatoes in a Barrel


Simple, extremely easy, not difficult — these are the adjectives used to describe potato container gardens. And it’s true; all you need is a giant pot, seed potatoes and dirt.

The process boils down to this. Get a good-sized container — one that is two to three feet tall (a half size whiskey barrel is an inexpensive choice) — and drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Good drainage is critical!

Next, fill your container with a few inches of high quality soil.

Cut your seed potatoes into 1-inch pieces, making sure there is at least one eye on each piece, and plant them with the eye facing up; loosely cover with another few inches of soil.

Potatoes don’t actually grow from seeds, but rather from another piece of potato. The new plant sprouts from the eye. One pound of seed potatoes will yield 10 pounds of potatoes . Credit: Greg Traver, Flickr.

Water sparingly; after this point keep the soil moist, but never wet! You’ll see why I’m so insistent on this shortly.

I planted my container in early May, lightly watered and waited. Two weeks later, right on schedule, the potato plants sprouted!

Ever couple of weeks I added soil so that only a few inches of foliage poked out above the dirt. This is called “earthing up.” By the end of June, the plants had grown like crazy and I had filled my container to the brim. The only thing left to do was pluck out the occasional weed and wait for those tubers to grow.

When the vines yellow and wilt, it’s time to harvest those spuds! No digging required; just dump the whole pot and gather up the booty. Except there was no booty! I noodled around in the soil and pulled out three tiny potatoes. There was nothing on the end of the vines except some mushy stuff that I surmise was once a potato, but had since rotted.

I planted fingerling potatoes, so at least one of them was the right size!

Damn rain!

The 2015 Midwestern spring and summer has been one of the wettest and coolest on record. So, while my lawn thrived (it’s a plush carpet of green that requires mowing twice a week) the excessive amounts of rainfall wreaked havoc on the potatoes. Waterlogged roots, known as “wet feet,” deplete the plants of oxygen, which stunts growth and causes low yields.

More drainage holes would have helped (I’ve since learned you can cut the whole bottom out of your barrel) or I could have covered my pot and protected it from all that rain. If Mother Nature would have cooperated, I have no doubt I would be feasting on potatoes for at least a month.

Oh well, at least it was a banner year for the green beans!

Have you tried container gardening?  Although mine wasn’t a success, I’ll give it another go next year! —Karen

Categories: Blogs, Hunger for Life, Spring, SummerTags: , ,

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