When I first wrote this post in 2012, you couldn’t buy a potato barrel outside the UK. (As far as I could tell). Now, nearly a year later, that’s changed.
You can buy a potato barrel at Amazon.com — two different kinds, actually. Beyond that, there are several grow bags and containers to grow potatoes in.
As a general concept, growing potatoes in a container seems to make complete sense. We’ll look at a potato barrel or two (and the mixed reviews). And also how some gardeners are making their own DIY versions.
Wooden Potato Barrel
This is the first one I saw last summer. It’s a beauty to look at.
You can buy it now in the U.S. at Amazon for $140.
It was (and is) being sold by the UK garden retailers, like Primrose.
It’s made of wood, assembles in minutes, and holds up to 4 plants. Is it as good as the picture? The one U.S. Amazon review is negative, but the 6 reviews on Primrose are more positive.
The reviews note this “potato barrel” doesn’t have a bottom. Instead, it’s a grow bag with wooden slats (connected by wire) that wrap around to form the barrel shape.
Plastic Potato Barrel
Compared with the wooden planter, this plastic potato barrel is cheaper. It sells for 95 bucks (not including shipping) at Amazon. In the UK, at least at the garden site (withoutPrimrose it’s WAY less expensive. So maybe the U.S. price will drop down the road?
Either way, it’s made of polypropylene. (A plastic used to used these days to make everything from chairs to the Tic Tac box lids!)
The reviews are pretty strong. Amazon has one negative review, but the 94 reviews on Primrose average 4 out of 5 stars. In general, people say it’s a bit tough to assemble, but works well.
The sales copy says this planter holds up to 5 potato plants. That’s 21 gallons (80 liters) of compost.
Headed to the U.S.?
This potato barrel looks new to me. I didn’t see it anywhere last summer, and I don’t see in the U.S. yet. BUT if the planters above made it to the U.S. in the last 9 months, maybe this one will be here soon.
I hope so.
It’s intriguing because the price looks lower, and the reviews are very strong. Five stars out of five at GreenFinger.com. Reviewers note that it’s easy to put together.
It also holds 5 potato plants and 24 gallons (90 liters) of compost.
DIY? Find Some Containers!
Timothy Hurst built his own potato barrels and wrote about them on Green Upgrader.
He says they reduce weeds, pests, fungi, and eliminate shovel damage to potatoes.
He started by getting containers, like these old wooden barrels. “Just about any 2- to 3-foot tall container will work,” he says.
Pick a container you can drill drain holes in, and clean it with a mild bleach solution, as he puts it, “to get out the nasties.”
How To Plant Potatoes
This will apply whether you buy a potato barrel like the ones above, or make one for yourself, like like Timothy’s DIY potato planter.
“Fill the bottom of your container with about 6 inches of loose planting mix,” says Timothy.
“Add seed potatoes on the layer of soil… You can use the whole potato but I like to cut the potatoes into 1- to 2-inch cubes for planting.”
“Loosely backfill the potatoes with another 6 inches of your soil and compost mix. Then water.”
How To Grow More Potato Sprouts
Timothy’s next step — whatever barrel, bucket, or bag you’re using — is what can give you 100 POUNDS of potatoes in one container!
You have to wait for the plants to have 6 to 8 inches of foliage.
Then, says Timothy, “add another layer of soil mix covering half to three-quarters of the visible stems and foliage.”
Repeat this with every 6 to 8 inches of foliage growth.
You’ll be creating more potato sprouts, Timothy says, “as the plants grow up toward the top of the barrel.”
Think ahead about 10 weeks to harvest time. This is when your potato barrel planting (whether it’s in a barrel, an old wood bucket, or even a bag) really pays off.
There’s no shoveling your potatoes out of the ground! No shovel? No damage!
“When the plants flower and start to yellow, the potatoes should be ready to harvest. ” says Timothy.
“Carefully dig down with your hands to inspect the top layer.” Do the potatoes feel ready?
“Dump the barrel out on a tarp and inspect your bounty.”
You reap what you sow.
Some Potato Planting Tips
Here are a few more potato barrel tips from Timothy.
- Keep a few potatoes to use as seeds next year.
- Bush beans are a great companion plant.
- Try growing potatoes in sawdust instead of soil.
For much more detail and even more tips, don’t miss his story on Green Upgrader!