Make Your Own No-Space Potato Barrel

Enjoy homegrown potatoes no matter how much space you have with these step-by-step instructions for creating and using a potato barrel.

  • Homegrown Potatoes
    The flavor and texture of freshly dug potatoes is worth the effort to grow your own.
  • City Homesteader
    "The City Homesteader" presents hundreds of ways to live a homesteading lifestyle in an urban setting by providing the knowledge for you to make self-sufficiency a part of any urban home. Whether it’s growing food on balconies or foraging for it on the edge of soccer fields, you will learn the know-how to provide for yourself. 

  • Homegrown Potatoes
  • City Homesteader

The following is an excerpt from The City Homesteader by Scott Meyer (Running Press, 2011). This book is a basic guide to greener living filled with easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-stepy tips for creating a sustainable lifestyle in any size home. This excerpt is from Chapter 1, “Growing Your Own.”  

Start in spring. Potatoes take all season to fully mature, so begin this project around your average last frost date (which you can find out from your county extension agent).

Select the spuds. They grow from chunks of last year’s crop — chunks with an “eye,” or rootlet, are referred to as “seed potatoes.” Each “eye” produces a cluster of new tubers. You can find countless potato varieties in nurseries and online, and you can use any one you want, but small to medium-size ones work best in a barrel. Be sure to get certified disease-free seed potatoes, because they can suffer from nasty problems like scab.

Pick a barrel. Plain or fancy, it’s your call. Gardening catalogs and Web sites offer barrels specifically designed for growing potatoes. But they are mostly about being more attractive — not functionally better — than one you make at home out of a whiskey barrel or a common trash can. If your container has been used before, be sure to scrub it out well to get rid of fungi that might cause your potatoes to rot before you harvest them.

Drill for drainage. If the barrel doesn’t already have holes in it where excess water can drain out quickly, drill a few in the bottom and in the sides close to the bottom. Quarter- to half-inch holes are big enough.

Give it a lift. Set the barrel in a sunny spot and get it up on blocks or bricks so it sits a few inches above the ground and air can circulate around it.

3/24/2015 5:10:16 PM

my wife is concerned that the plastic will leech toxins into the soil. Is this a concern?

3/6/2015 2:09:20 PM

So, here's what happened: I tossed a potato in the compost heap. It started sprouting like crazy. I cut it up, planted it in the bottom of a 10-gal plastic barrel and filled it up with soil as the plants grew. I decided that the container wasn't big enough, but whatever. Do I trim the tops? Do I just let it keep growing even though I don't have the option of adding more soil now that it's to the top? I don't even know if I'm going to get any yield since it was a grocery store potato, but I want to give it it's best chance!

3/5/2015 4:01:53 PM

For greatest yields,only use late season potatoes, most fingerlings are in that category. Some folks use a soaker hose coiled in the tater tower. We have lots of wood pallets around here, so I will be using them, covering the inside with landscape fabric. MSU ag guys told me two years ago that they were getting yields of over 125#s using fabricated boxes of about the same size, using about 6 seeds/plants per box.

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