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!
Sourcing Plastic 55 Gallon Barrels:
Dave used 55 plastic barrel drums he was given for free for his potato barrels. 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. Craig’s list and your local paper often have free columns. Businesses often have barrels they no longer need. Ask around!
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. This one is free shipping too!
Plastic barrels are relatively lightweight and easy to cut with a skill saw. We do NOT recommend using metal barrels for this project. They 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!
Once you have found your barrels, here’s how to prep your potatoes for planting.
LET’S GROW SOME SPUDS:
First things first! Go find the potatoes you want to grow and your plastic 55 gallon barrels. Our favorite potatoes to grow are red potatoes. 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!
He bought our seed potatoes from the feed store. Your local food co-op may have some for sale, or the farmers market near you. He prepared the potatoes a full day before he built the potato barrels and planted the spuds.
Prepping the Potatoes for planting:
Dave cut the larger potato into sections, each section had an ‘eye’. Which is the little tough sprout that will make a root. He 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, like the purple ones he bought, do not require cutting. The whole potato will nourish all the potato roots.
The potatoes are ready to plant. Time to make them a home!
INSTRUCTIONS FOR EASY DIY 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.
His potato soil mix is:
- 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.
Growing spuds in your DIY Easy Potato barrels.
- Place about 6 to 10 inches of prepared soil in the potato barrel.
- lay the potatoes on top of the soil.
- Layer a few inches of soil over them.
- Water them and let them Grow!
The 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.
- Now the spud tops will bloom and die.
- After the tops die the potatoes are ready to harvest.
Harvesting Easy DIY Potato Barrels
Harvest potatoes out of the barrels:
Dig into the barrel with your hands or a shovel and pull the potatoes out.
OR pull the 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. Enjoy your crop!
UPDATE: One year later 2017
Dave chose to plant all his spuds this year in these barrels. He LOVES them. Easy to plant and easy to harvest. He has planted several types of potatoes in them. Fingerlings, purple potatoes and reds. They all did well and had very little scab problems.
The boys helped Grandpa harvest purple potatoes too. The easy DIY potato barrels make it easy for kids to help plant and harvest. Everything is easy this way.
Our first Easy DIY potato barrel harvest for 2017. Gorgeous!