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May 24, 2017

Why I'm Growing Potatoes in a Trash Can


Why I'm growing potatoes in a trash can this year.

My first attempt at growing potatoes resulted in a rotten mess and no harvest.



My second attempt seemed to be doing pretty well until an armadillo dug up the spuds in the middle of the night.

Fast forward a few years and here we are again. I'm persistent, although I might wait awhile before I try something again. Eventually stubbornness sets in and I want to prove something, I suppose.

So as hubby and I were cleaning up a corner of the barnyard one day, I saw the metal trash can we'd used as a tomato planter one year. Hubby had drilled holes on the outside near the bottom of the can all those years ago for me. Since then it had been sitting in this very spot, holding baling twine, baling wire and other assorted trash, like trash cans are supposed to do.

But that stubbornness set in and I decided I'd use it on another attempt at growing potatoes. It's armadillo-proof! So it was duly moved to a corner of the garden and set up on some bricks.

I had three Yukon Gold potatoes in the kitchen that were beginning to sprout. Hubby and I love Yukon Golds, especially when they're baked and slathered with butter. So I cut these three into large pieces, each with a sprouted "eye," and let them dry out for a day or two.

The first potato sprouts.

Planting day arrived - sometime around our last expected frost date - and I shoveled about six inches of nice soil into the bottom of the trash can. The sprouting potatoes were set on top and covered with another inch or so of soil and a layer of autumn leaves.

Eventually there were green leaves poking through that top layer, and I was very excited. They were some of the first green things in the garden this spring, and you know how much you look forward to growth after a long winter, right? Plus, after that rotten attempt a few years ago, I was happy that they were actually growing.

Add mulch as the plants grow taller, tucking it around all the stems.

As the stems grew upward towards the top of the trash can, I added more layers of leaves and straw and other mulch-y things. When the plants grew another six inches, I added more mulch. I went out of town - twice - and we had a couple of really late frosts, but the potato plants survived and thrived. They're over the top of the trash can now and still growing. I keep adding mulch as the level in the trash can drops due to settling.

They've already grown over the top of the trash can, and it's only May.

I posted a current photo of the plants in this post, and had a few questions about how I'm growing them. One reader, Debbie, says that potatoes do better in well-drained soil - that's why I'd had that rotten experience: I probably used clay right out of the ground. This year when I water the trash can I watch the excess water drain out of those holes around the bottom, but it must be soaking in enough to keep the roots moist and nourished.

It's time to add more mulch.
Time for more mulch

Eventually the plants will flower and then die back, and it will be time to dig them up. Well, in my case, I'll tip over the trash can and let everything fall out. I know I won't have a huge harvest that will last us the entire winter - I'd have to have a whole lot of trash cans for that - but it's another garden experiment that will, I hope, be successful this time. Supposedly there will be plenty of tubers in that tall "potato hill" that I've created inside the trash can. At least it protects them from marauding armadillos. I'll be sure to fill you in on the harvest details when it's time.

Do you grow potatoes? What kind?



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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18 comments:

  1. WOW! enjoyed this so much! We do grow potatoes and usually have good luck, except fighting with the colorado potato beetle! Looking forward seeing the fruits of your labor, have a blessed day.
    Sue

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    1. Thank you, Sue. I've never had them get to the point of having to worry about potato bugs, but I'll keep my eyes out for them. Thank you for visiting and reminding me to keep watch.

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  2. I have tried twice to grow potatoes without success. Last year I used chicken feed bags by cutting drainage holes and rolling the bag down. I rolled the sides up as soil and leaves were added. The plants grew some but not well. No potatoes 😞. Anyway, I will of course try again next year! In the meantime we have a great local farmer's market😊.
    I am in year 2 of growing asparagus. Do you grow it?

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    1. Michele, it would be easier to have a bunch of feed bag potato containers than to have multiple trash cans. :-) I hope you have more success next year.

      I had a nice asparagus patch, but it had an unfortunate encounter with a bulldozer... I'd love fresh asparagus and would like to start again.

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  3. We grow potatoes here in Ohio too. We love Yukon Gold too they are our favorites. We also do Red Pontiac. 90% of the time the reds end up as big or bigger than the Yukon Golds. We do raised boxes here with 1-2 potatoes in each box. We typically plant 10 pounds of Yukon and 5 pounds of Pontiac and have enough to get us through most to all of the winter

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    1. That's good to hear, thank you, Kim. I hope to have at least some potatoes this year and will expand next year, I hope. I appreciate hearing how you do it; I'm taking notes.

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  4. Thanks for this article. You answered all my questions and I'm inspired to try potatoes this fall. I have a metal trash can just begging to be used for this purpose.

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    1. That's great, Sally! How nice that you already have a trash can too. I hope you have a great harvest, let me know, ok?

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  5. I just did my planting and I can't wait to see what grows! I am not brave enough to try potatoes yet!

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    1. I hope *everything* comes up, Helene!

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  6. I've not been brave enough to try potatoes. I didn't realize they had to flower and then you can harvest them. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop.

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    1. Thank you for hosting the hop. This sort of "experiment" is frugal - the kind I like - the potatoes in the cupboard were past eating anyway. :-)

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  7. Such a neat idea. I love how creative you are!

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    1. LOL - thank you, Cristina. I'm not the first one to come up with the idea, but I'm glad somebody did. :-)

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  8. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing on Homestead Blog Hop! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for hosting each week!

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