How To Grow Potatoes in a Barrel Container

Why and how potato barrels are a great way to grow potatoes! Make your own potato barrels in an afternoon and plant them. Here’s how and why potato barrels are a great way to grow spuds!.

Growing potatoes in barrels is an ingenious way to maximize harvests in small spaces. With just a large container, potting mix, seed potatoes and sunlight, you can easily grow mounds of spuds on a patio, balcony or urban garden plot. Follow these simple steps for barrel potato success!

Choosing a Barrel

The first step is selecting an appropriate container Ideal barrels should

  • Be at least 18-24 inches tall to accommodate potato roots and soil

  • Have a volume of at least 10-15 gallons

  • Have drainage holes in the bottom for excess water to escape

  • Be sturdy – potatoes get heavy so flimsy containers will collapse

  • Allow airflow – avoid barrels that seal tightly at the top

Popular options include:

  • Wooden whiskey barrels

  • Plastic drums or storage bins

  • Metal trash cans

  • Fabric potato planter bags

  • Wire mesh cylinders lined with landscape fabric

  • Built-in gardens lined with hardware cloth

Just avoid treated woods like railway ties that can leach chemicals. Make sure your container hasn’t held anything toxic. Give it a good clean before planting.

Selecting Seed Potatoes

Seeking out good seed potatoes is key to success:

  • Purchase certified disease-free potatoes from garden centers or seed catalogs.

  • Choose early season varieties like Yukon Gold, Red Norland or Superior.

  • If using grocery store potatoes, pick organic types and check for sprouts.

  • Let potatoes sprout indoors 3-4 weeks before last spring frost.

  • Cut large tubers into smaller chunks, each with at least 1-2 eyes.

  • Cure freshly cut seed 4-7 days until skins toughen. Dust with agricultural sulfur if needed.

Planting Your Potatoes

Once your container and seed potatoes are prepped, you’re ready to plant:

  • Fill the bottom 4-6 inches with quality potting soil.

  • Space seed potatoes 6-8 inches apart in the soil, eyes facing up.

  • Cover tubers with another 4 inches of potting mix.

  • As sprouts grow, keep adding mix, leaving just the top leaves exposed.

  • Stop when you reach within 4-6 inches of the barrel rim.

  • Water when soil dries out 1-2 inches deep. Avoid overwatering.

  • For maximum yield, add soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.

  • Place barrel in full sun – potatoes need at least 8 hours daily.

Caring for Potato Plants

Proper care while potatoes grow includes:

  • Check soil moisture every few days. Water when surface is dry.

  • Once flowering starts, water deeply – tubers are bulking up.

  • Hill soil around stems whenever they appear above mix.

  • Monitor for pests like aphids, beetles, worms – use organic treatments if found.

  • Weed barrel diligently so potatoes aren’t competing for nutrients.

  • Stake or cage plants if growth is excessive and top heavy.

Harvesting Barrel Potatoes

  • In about 65-80 days after planting, foliage will start yellowing indicating tubers are mature.

  • For baby new potatoes, harvest when plants begin flowering by gently digging around the base.

  • For full sized spuds, cut back all foliage and let barrel sit 1-2 weeks. Skin will toughen before harvesting.

  • Tip barrel sideways and carefully gather potatoes as they roll out of the mix.

  • Use soil knife to loosen any remaining potatoes still lodged in soil.

  • Brush off soil, separate tiny “chits” and cure harvests 1-2 weeks in cool, dark location.

Now you know the key steps for potato success in containers. With minimal effort, you can grow mounds of homegrown spuds adapted perfectly for balconies, patios or small space food gardens.

Sourcing Plastic 55 Gallon Barrels:

Dave used cast off 55 plastic barrel drums he was given for free. Keep your eyes open and you can find them free or very cheap.

Look at recycle stores, garage and estate sales and the local FB exchanges. Craigslist and your local paper often have free columns. Businesses often have barrels they no longer need.

If you do decide to buy your Plastic 55 Gallon barrels Amazon can get you started. There are many types of food safe barrels available.

Plastic barrels are relatively lightweight and easy to cut with a skill saw. We do NOT recommend using metal barrels for this project. The cut edges will be sharp.

Metal barrels are easily corroded and difficult to work with. You could use them to plant potatoes in a small vertical space for one season. They are lined, and there is no sign of corrosion.

The high barrel height makes it hard to plant and hard to water evenly. And very heavy and hard to harvest. This applies to plastic barrels as well. Cut them in half for best results!.

Prepping Potatoes for planting:

  • Dave buys our seed potatoes from the feed store. It’s possible that the food co-op or grocery store near you will sell some.
  • Do everything you can to get the potatoes ready a day ahead of time.
  • Cut the larger potato into sections. Each section needs to have an ‘eye’. What is the tough little sprout that will turn into a root?
  • For 24 hours, put the cut potatoes on a paper towel to “heal up,” or dry out the ends of the cuts. So the potatoes don’t go bad in the ground, this is what you do.
  • Really small potatoes do not require cutting. The whole potato will nourish all the potato roots.

How to Grow Potatoes in a Barrel – DIY Project Turns One Barrel into Two Grow Tubs


How many potatoes does it take to grow in a barrel?

Growing in a large container Prepare a large container eg. rubbish bin or half wine barrel to ensure they have adequate drainage. Place a thick layer of straw and well-rotted manure at the base of the container. Plant about 4 potatoes.

How do you grow 100 pounds of potatoes in a barrel?

Start with 4-5 inches of your potting soil/compost blend in your container. Place your seed potatoes (or cuttings) 6-8 inches apart, depending on size. Cover each potato (or cutting) with a few inches of soil, and water well. Keep the soil moist, but not over-saturated with water.

What month do you plant potatoes?

The best planting time is February. But I think of potatoes as having two seasons here — one is August into early September for a late fall or early winter harvest, and the other is February for a late spring harvest.

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