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 sometimes 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 hay 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 plus 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 green 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. Whenever 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 on social media, and had a few questions about how I'm growing them. One reader, Debbie, says that potatoes do better in well-drained soil, and yes, that's why I'd had that rotten experience: I used our clay soil right out of the ground.

This year they have much better soil, and when I water the trash can I watch the excess water drain out of those holes around the bottom. I'm assuming they are draining well, 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, right?

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Potatoes can be a bit challenging to grow, especially if you're short on space or if you have garden pests like gophers and armadillos! Here's why and how I grow potatoes in a trash can (and other containers).

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