Introduction: Growing Potatoes in Buckets

Picture of Growing Potatoes in Buckets

New, fresh potatoes is a treat. Why not grow them yourself? You don't need a whole field, just a couple of buckets.

You'll need:

2 black buckets (potatoes dislike sunlight!)

a sharp knife

a speedmarker

something to make holes in the bottom of the buckets (I used a soldering iron)



Step 1: Preparing the Buckets

Picture of Preparing the Buckets

First you'll make some holes in the bottom of both buckets in order to drain the soil. It's important because potatoes can rot if there are too much water around them. Once done set one of the buckets aside. You don't need to do anything more with that bucket. This one will be the outer bucket.

Step 2: The Inner Bucket

Picture of The Inner Bucket

I divided the bucket rim in 3 parts, 120° each. Then I draw a line vertical down the bucket (a). Then I draw 2 lines parallel to the first line 5 cm (2 inch) on each side of these (b). Then I meassured 5 cm (2 inch) from the top and the bottom and made 2 lines between the b-lines. On the picture I call them c-lines. Now cut out the rectangle made from the b- and c-lines. Finally you'll have a bucket with 3 windows like the one on the third picture.

Step 3: Planting Potatoes

Picture of Planting Potatoes

Before I made the buckets I started sprouting the potatoes. First I place the inner bucket in the outer bucket. Then I fill the buckets half with soil. Now I place one potato right in front of each window half the way from the middle to the side of the bucket. Then I fill the buckets with soil, taking good care of the fragile sprouts. Finally I give the potatoes a good amount of water. The soil will pack around the potatoes, so it can be necessary to add more soil. Remember, potatoes must not get any kind of light, they'll turn green and become poisonous (produce solanine). Place the buckets in a light spot, but avoid direct sun. Give the potatoes enough water but don't let them soak.

Step 4: Harvesting

Picture of Harvesting

When the potato plant begin to bloom the first harvest is ready. Remove the inner bucket from the outer bucket and take the amount of potatoes you want. Spare the soil that falls out of the bucket. When finished, place the inner bucket in the outer bucket and place the soil back on top of the surface where you took the potatoes. The soil will repack around the rest of the potatoes. It can be necessary to add more soil, avoiding sunlight to the potatoes.

You can continue harvesting potatoes from the same plants until late autumn/early winter.


Trina RR (author)2017-08-18

What is the recommended time to wait for first harvest? 6-8 weeks??

Pothuset (author)Trina RR2017-08-19

I wait until the potato plants blossom. You can try looking after 6 weeks.

AllanE13 (author)2017-03-16

Remember you have to use food grade Buckets

Pothuset (author)AllanE132017-03-16

Yes, if they are available in your country. But not all countries in the world have these buckets. And honestly I don't think it is that important.

David Catriel (author)2016-04-08

Very cool instructable, and would like to try it out myself. Can you elaborate some more on the sprouting part, though? You don't say much about it. Thx.

CarolynW2 (author)David Catriel2016-04-09

All you have to do is let the potatoes sit in the dark, they will sprout all by themselves... I usually just save some from the last potatoes in the store bought bag. When you go to plant, just slice the potatoes with a couple of sprouts/eyes on each piece. By the way, you can also cover over the soil with straw or newspaper as the soil compacts to keep the light away.

AllanE13 (author)CarolynW22017-03-16

Repeat repeat

Pothuset (author)David Catriel2016-04-10

Well, in the late winter the potatoes I use to consume start sprouting. I take the potatoes with the most vigorous sprouts and place them in old egg punnets and close the lids. In the dark the sprouts will develop, growing stronger until they are ready to plant.

CarolynW2 (author)David Catriel2016-04-09

All you have to do is let the potatoes sit in the dark, they will sprout all by themselves... I usually just save some from the last potatoes in the store bought bag. When you go to plant, just slice the potatoes with a couple of sprouts/eyes on each piece. By the way, you can also cover over the soil with straw or newspaper as the soil compacts to keep the light away.

DarlaJ2 (author)2016-03-27

Would this work with sweet potatoes too?

Pothuset (author)DarlaJ22016-03-28

I don't know. I haven't even tasted sweet potatoes :)

DarlaJ2 (author)Pothuset2016-06-10

Thank you, RyanA10 and Pothuset, you should give them a taste. Very good. ;)

RyanA10 (author)DarlaJ22016-03-28

Yes it does

Happymacer (author)2016-04-09

Woohoo, we did it! In Aus it's probably too late for growing potatoes but what the heck. How deep should we plant the potato? Thanks for the idea!

MichaelAtOz (author)Happymacer2016-05-11

No, not an ideal time in Oz, if you're in a frost area keep them indoors and you may get a crop.

Pothuset (author)Happymacer2016-04-10

1/2 to 2/3 from the bottom of the bucket

Amyjustine (author)2016-04-03

I've planted potatoes in containers before. But this is a great idea as it allows you to be able to harvest from time to time. Through the growing season and not have to harvest all at once in the fall. Will be trying this for sure this year. Tks for the 'ible.

SuzanneD12 made it! (author)2016-03-28

Just finished my buckets. Can't wait for it to get a bit warmer so I can start planting. Thanks.

Pothuset (author)SuzanneD122016-03-29

You're welcome. Your buckets looks very fine.

JohnT49 (author)2016-03-26

Tak ... for a well-structured and particularly clear set of instructions. And, in particular, thanks for the warning on solanine (I once mistakenly cut out the green bits, thinking the remainder of the potato would be fit to eat and ... nearly died).

I live in central London and had almost given up on trying to grow potatoes. A big problem for me is the large number of foxes who dig up my plants and bury disposable diapers in their place. Yuck!

Growing potatoes in containers like this might well foil those cunning foxes. I'm going to try this now!

Pothuset (author)JohnT492016-03-26

May I suggest that you stretch a kind of metal net (chicken tread) over the buckets when you have planted the potatoes. The potato plant will find the nearest hole and grow up, but the foxes will have problems digging in the soil.

onesimpleidea (author)2016-03-24

Nice. Can you please explain in more detail (maybe in sequence) how you harvest, and what role the inner bucket "windows" play in the process? I'm not sure what you remove, how you remove it, what you leave alone, why, whether you harvest all and replant, or harvest some, etc? Do you replant into a partially-harvested pot to keep the whole process going? Thanks.

Pothuset (author)onesimpleidea2016-03-26

If you look at the last picture, you can see the inner bucket has been lifted from the outer bucket. The windows gives access to the potatoes in the inner bucket. You remove some of the soil while digging into the inner bucket. Save the soil, you need it later. Then you pick up the potatoes, leaving the plant alone. Place the inner bucket in the outer bucket when finished, and place the saved soil on the top of the inner bucket at the place you removed it. When you rewater the potato plants the soil will repack around the potato plant and the plant will continue growing new potatoes until the weather turns too cold, often late autumn/early winter.

PheobeS (author)2016-03-24

I have grown potatoes in an old laundry hamper lined with black plastic. I plant whenever I find a potato that has sprouted. My grandson calls it the French fry garden. At harvest time, I dump on an old sheet. I take 1\2 of old soil and amend with compost and manure and plant any small potatoes.

Klinghuset (author)2016-03-23

I really like this idea. I am going to try it . What size of pots or pails would you recommend?

Pothuset (author)Klinghuset2016-03-24

The bucket I use contains 12 liters

Klinghuset (author)2016-03-23

I really like this idea. I am going to try it . What size of pots or pails would you recommend?

Klinghuset (author)2016-03-23

I really like this idea. I am going to try it . What size of pots or pails would you recommend?

Cayotica (author)2016-03-22

how large are your buckets?

Pothuset (author)Cayotica2016-03-23

12 liters

Cayotica (author)Pothuset2016-03-23

As Elvis would say "Thank you, thank you very much".

Riscyg (author)2016-03-22

Fantastic - I am growing some potatoes at the minute in a bucket, but without the inner bucket option, I love that, and will have to try it.

For getting the inner bucket out, how about some rope underneath the inner bucket tied to two handles?

Pothuset (author)Riscyg2016-03-23

It sounds like a good idea. Why not try it?

goykhman (author)2016-03-22

How large are the buckets?

Pothuset (author)goykhman2016-03-23

12 liters

Dawsie (author)2016-03-23

now that's a very cleaver way of doing it :-) I have been having problems with my crop just not producing and spuds just leaves and lots of them :-( I will give this a go :-) I have a couple of black pots which should fit the bill :-) I just love the way you can pull it out harvest and put back in for next time :-) so if I make a few and space the planting a few weeks apart this will give me a larger harvest over time :-)

Cool thanks for the Instructable I am off to make mine :-)

PhilS43 (author)2016-03-22

Use black plastic buckets - the coloured ones rot.

In the UK, councils provide nice large black plastic boxes for bottles etc. A far better use is as growing containers. Potatoes, carrots, onions etc all do well. Watering needs to be controlled to avoid bad conditions in the bottom.

I put some plastic honeycomb (sometimes used for grassed driveways) in the bottom plus a net (onion bags) to hold the compost back. You then have a 2" space at the bottom to avoid water-logging - bark chippings work as well, but not as good.

One year, I was rooting around in the boxes for potatoes and felt something furry - it was a whole dead pigeon which must have been buried by a fox.

CynthiaB47 (author)PhilS432016-03-22

Where do you live that you have foxes around. Here in Orl, Fl. I have birds,squirrels, and yes rats. My subdivision was built on an old orange grove back in the 1960's.

Pothuset (author)PhilS432016-03-22

Yes, you can omit the holes in the bottom if you start with a layer of draining material. Small pellet will do, too.
Growing pigeons? That must be a certain British discipline of gardening ;)

BrianM172 (author)2016-03-22

Ooh... so... can't you just grab any organic potatoes and just grow them in a pot and then.. yeah? Or do you have to go to like a farm and buy those sprout thingies?

scoyne89 (author)2016-03-22

you should enter this in the urban farming contest

Pothuset (author)scoyne892016-03-22

I can't. All items in a contest had to be new.

JenjaP (author)2016-03-22

Cool, need to try.

J2SARET (author)2016-03-22

I do something similar except I layer more soil plus lawn clippings and last fall's leaves on top as the potatoes grow. This gives me both potatoes and a nice compost. What I did not do is your very clever inner bucket. I will start this spring. Thanks.

naqwadak (author)2016-03-22

Hy i do this o bigger scale ,i own a garden and i do it because of some moles who preffered potatoes plants,also for the reasons of better control of the entire process (soil ,watering ,treatment) .Better results then a normal planting(betwin normal and hydroponic planting) A Hybrid !

theoriginalrage (author)2016-03-19

This is great!
How long does it take from planting to harvest?
And about how many potatoes do you get from a harvest?
In two of your pictures you had 2 buckets going, is it possible to time it so you harvest one while the other is still growing and then keep repeating the process so that you always have potatoes say every 3 weeks or so?

Pothuset (author)theoriginalrage2016-03-20

It is difficult to say how long it takes from planting to harvesting. It depends of where you live, how developed the sprouts are when planted and the temperature at the given moment. Here in Denmark it takes around 2 months if the potatos are planted now.
It is possible to time the harvesting by planting with intervals of some days. But, again depending of the weather and temperature, you really don't know if the later planted potatoes blooms later than the first planted. If the first potatoes are planted in cold weather and the latest in hot weather, the difference will be very small.

theoriginalrage (author)Pothuset2016-03-21

Thanks for posting this. It's really sparked my interest in home grown foods. I live in Tucson, Arizona, USA. It's a hot, dry desert climate. I do have an area behind my house that seems like it would be a perfect location out of direct light for setting a few buckets up. I really want to try this and see if it will work here.

saif8897 (author)theoriginalrage2016-03-21

Depending on type of potatos (early, standard, late) you get crops in 3 month, 5 month and 7 months. you can of-course take out potatos early but you will get small potatos. Which we use for Salads etc. but it is usually best to wait till the foliage starts to die before you dig.

You can of course put three planters - one early, one standard (which will give you the best crop by the way) and one late for Christmas.

saif8897 (author)saif88972016-03-21

sorry, should have mentioned, the early, standard, late types are for temprate climate (like in southern UK) for hotter climate there may be better crop, but I don't know much about that.

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