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How To Plant Seed Potato Barrels

Easy DIY Potato Barrels can be put together and planted in an afternoon.

The barrels will last for decades and can be planted into other crops too.

Here’s how and why potato barrels are a great way to grow spuds!

Easy Diy Potato Barrels
How To Plant Seed Potato Barrels-Pin Image
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 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).
Easy Diy Potato Barrels
Plant spuds about 6 inches apart on the outside of the circle.

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.
Easy Diy Potato Barrels
Easy DIY Potato Barrels. These potatoes were easily planted in an afternoon.  About three weeks later they are shooting up and looking fabulous.

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:

Preparing Potatoes For Planting
Preparing red potatoes  (Or any large potato) for planting. Cut the potatoes into sections; each containing an eye. Allow to set for 24 hours to heal the cuts.

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.

Purple Potatoes
Purple Potatoes are so small they can be planted whole.

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:

Easy Diy Potato Barrels
Harvesting the barrels is easy.
  1. Dig into the barrel with your hands or a shovel and pull the potatoes out.
  2. OR pull the open bottom barrels up and let the dirt form a pile you can easily harvest.
  3. 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.

Easy Diy Potato Barrels
Dave harvesting the barrels. He used a shovel and his hands to sift through the barrels.

UPDATE:

We have used potato barrels to plant potato crops exclusively now for several years. This is the easiest method we have found.

Purple Potato Harvest In Potato Barrels
Nora is helping Grandpa harvest and replant our first crop of potato barrels.

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.

Potato Harvest 2017
The boys got curious and decided to see what’s going on in grandpa’s garden. They enjoyed potato harvesting.

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.

Purple Potato Harvest 2017 In Easy Diy Potato Barrels
purple potato harvest 2017 in potato barrels. Dave is showing the kids how the Plant roots grow the spuds they are finding.

Storing Potatoes:

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.

  1. Harvest directly to a wheelbarrow
  2. Then lay the potatoes to dry on newspaper in a cool dark place with lots of airflow.
  3. Allow the spuds dry a day or two.
  4. layer them in dry sawdust in a box with a lid.
How To Build Potato Towers Two Ways-Pin Image
This post walks you through the step by step process of building towers to grow your potatoes. We share two methods that we use and have had years of success with.

How To Grow Potatoes in A Wire Tower:

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.

Easy Diy Potato Tower-Wire
Easy DIY Potato Tower-wire
Planting Potato Barrels. This Is An Easy Method Of Potato Propagation. Dave Has Used It For Years And Prefers Planting Potatoes In Barrels To Any Other Method He Knows. #Gardening #Potatobarrels #Potatoes #Plantingpotatoes

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Ken

Thursday 10th of June 2021

I have plenty of sawdust but it contains some treated wood sawdust. Would think that is not a good idea.

Diane

Thursday 10th of June 2021

Hi Ken, I agree wood chips with chemicals are not great for gardening. But you don't plant into wood chips. For seed potatoes a good quality garden soil is best. We recommend straw for a mulch if you need one. Wood chips will actually take nutrients out of the soil as they break down. They make great garden walks!

Conny

Sunday 26th of March 2017

What Month to start with the Patatos?

Diane

Sunday 26th of March 2017

Hi Conny, The best time to plant potatoes is when the spring frosts in your area are over. Give it a week or so to be sure the frosts have ended and then plant. Around here that time can range from late March to Mid April. Check your local weather conditions. Every year is different. This has been a long cold spring for us. Thanks for the question and Happy planting!

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