Easy DIY Potato Barrels can be put together and planted in an afternoon. Here’s how and why potato barrels are a great way to grow spuds!
Advantages Of Growing Potatoes in Barrels:
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. They could be used if you need to plant potatoes in a small vertical area for a single season and they are lined and no corrosion is evident.
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!
INSTRUCTIONS To Make Potato Barrels:
- Thoroughly clean out the barrels. If they had toxins in them be especially diligent in cleaning them out.
- Next, cut the 55 gallon barrels in half. This gives you two growing barrels. Dave used his skill saw to cut the barrels in half.
- If you have barrels without removable lids you will have to cut off your barrel bottoms. Or keep the bottoms on and drill several holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Each barrel is seated directly into our garden soil so the potatoes have plenty of drainage and room to grow. By cutting off the bottom of the barrel you get a true potato growing tube which allow more growing room for the potato plants.
- Put a weed barrier around the barrels. We chose to cut landscape fabric to lay around the barrels but heavy mulch with straw over cardboard will also help keep weeds down (see our Lasagna gardening ideas).
Dave filled the 1/2 barrels up about 1/3 full each with soil he amended especially for potatoes.
Potato Barrel Soil Mix Recipe:
- Number 4 way topsoil mixed one to one with our heavy clay garden soil.
- Then he added about three handfuls of coffee grounds mixed with crushed egg shells.
- He sprinkled the top of the dirt with bone meal and old chicken manure, after planting.
- He placed his spud sections about 6 inches apart 6 to a barrel. The potato sprouts grow straight up in the barrels.
As you can see in the picture above Dave leaves lots of headroom for the potato top growth.
How To Prepare Seed Potatoes For Planting:
Over the years Dave has planted LOTS of different varieties in half barrels and they all do well.
This year Dave planted purple potatoes too. Purple potatoes are more nutritious due to their deep purple color. Purple potatoes have a nummy buttery flavor. They are delicious in Purple Potato Chorizo Burrito recipe.
RULE OF THUMB! The darker the flesh and leaves of your veg the better they are for your health. Full of antioxidants.
Prepping Potatoes for planting:
- Dave buys our seed potatoes from the feed store. Your local food co-op may have some for sale, or the farmers market or grocery near you.
- Prepare the potatoes a full day before you expect to plant them in the potato barrels.
- Cut the larger potato into sections. Each section needs to have an ‘eye’. Which is the little tough sprout that will make a root.
- Set the cut potatoes on a paper towel to ‘heal up’ (dry the cut ends) for 24 hours. This is to avoid the cut potatoes rotting in the ground.
- Really small potatoes do not require cutting. The whole potato will nourish all the potato roots.
How to Plant Seed Potatoes in Barrels:
- Place soil about 6 to 10 inches deep layer of soil in the potato barrel.
- lay the potatoes on top of the soil.
- Layer about 6 inches of soil over them.
- Water them and let them Grow.
The Potato Growing Process:
- Let the potato plants form long stems (about 6 inches) and then fill the barrel with soil until only a couple of inches of potato stem remains above ground.
- Your potatoes will continue to grow.
- Repeat this process until the barrel is full to the top with soil.
- When the potato plants are mature the potato plant flowers.
- Leave the potatoes in the barrels until the flowers die.
- The potatoes are ready to harvest.
How to Harvest potatoes out of barrels:
- Dig into the barrel with your hands or a shovel and pull the potatoes out.
- OR pull the open bottom barrels up and let the dirt form a pile you can easily harvest.
- Dave wanted to save his barrel soil this year so he chose the shovel and his hands.
Unfortunately pesky flea beetles will winter over in the barrel soil. They may become a problem in the next growing season.
We have used potato barrels to plant potato crops exclusively now for several years. This is the easiest method we have found.
Potato barrels are easy to plant and easy to harvest. Dave has planted several types of potatoes in them.
Fingerlings, purple potatoes and reds all grow well in barrels and have relatively few scab problems.
1/2 Barrels are also great planters for tomatoes, peppers and other crops.
The boys helped Grandpa harvest purple potatoes too. The barrels make it easy for kids to help plant and harvest. Everything is easy this way.
Our most reliable tried and true method of storing potatoes. Potatoes must NOT be exposed to light or they go green. Green potatoes will build oxalic acid. This makes them poisonous.
- Harvest directly to a wheelbarrow
- Then lay the potatoes to dry on newspaper in a cool dark place with lots of airflow.
- Allow the spuds dry a day or two.
- layer them in dry sawdust in a box with a lid.
Don’t have any 55 gallon barrels handy? Go to our Wire Potato Towers post. It teaches you how to use simple fencing wire and hay to grow your potatoes. It works too.
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