Grow a Potato Farm in Buckets

If you had to, you could live on almost nothing but potatoes. That’s made them one of the most important crops in human history. Entire civilizations would not have existed without them. And you can grow this powerful food crop in a 5 gallon bucket.

potatoes grown in a 5 gallon bucketThere’s a trick to growing high potato yields. As the potatoes grow, continue piling soil onto the plants. This forces the plants to supercharge their root growth to keep up. Those roots are what we call potatoes. Now you know why potatoes are grown in hills.

When growing potatoes in buckets, start with a couple inches of growing medium (compost works great) and build up the soil level as the season progresses. Experienced bucket wrangler Mike from GYH explains how he has successfully grown potatoes in buckets for years.

Proper Drainage

While water is of utmost important in growing plants, properly draining excess water away is a close second.

drilling holes in a 5 gallon bucket

I’ve had a few questions from people who have tried growing potatoes in buckets but only ended up with a crop of mush. This is probably an issue of improper drainage. You have to drill drainage holes in your bucket if you are using it to grow plants! This applies not just for potatoes but for any plant grown in your buckets

Alternatively, you can fill the bottom few inches of your bucket with gravel. This is the same principle that indoor hanging baskets use to supply drainage. You just have to take care not to water your plant so heavily that the water level inside the bucket reaches your soil layer.

Yield of Bucket Potatoes

According to folks who have calculated yield for potato buckets, you can expect about an average yield of 1.5 pounds of potatoes per bucket.

I like to compare this number with the amount of potatoes you need to survive for a year. You can survive on potatoes alone, remember? It takes about 6 pounds of potatoes to equal that magic 2000 calories a day you need to be healthy. So you will need about one bucket’s crop of potatoes for each meal.

That means that if you’re growing potatoes for survival, you really need to accomplish a much higher yield, or grow your spuds right in the ground.

Growing Special Potato breeds

russian blue white potato yukon gold russets comparison

A few different varieties of potato: A Russian blue, a white potato, a Yukon gold and two russets.

If you’re growing potatoes, don’t bother with a bland old russet or other boring variety from the store. Grow rare breeds. My favorite rare breeds are the purple potatoes.

A New Zealand agricultural study found that red and purple potatoes contain two to three times more antioxidants than plain white potatoes. If you eat as many potatoes as I do, the extra antioxidants are enough to noticeably increase your vigor.

You can’t just plant potatoes you buy in the store, because they are treated with chemicals such as Budnip that specifically inhibit potato shoot growth. It’s futile to bury potatoes that won’t grow into plants. Last year I grew Russian Blue, but I have heard very good things about Purple Peruvian so I’m growing that variety this year.

Storing your potatoes for the next growing season

potato in box with sprouts

Under the right conditions, a potato can remain alive for quite some time without any attention. A potato stores starch and water, which provide it with the nutrients it needs. When you harvest your potatoes and plan to grow new ones in the next season, all you have to do is store them in a dark cool place. The potato will start to grow roots, as you can see in the image. You can simply stick these potatoes in the soil when the temperature is right and grow new potatoes with them.

Grow More with Buckets!

Also see our detailed tutorial on growing sweet potatoes in buckets or watch our Gardening with 5 Gallon Buckets video for growing many other plant varieties.






Posted on by

31 thoughts on “Grow a Potato Farm in Buckets

    • You can grow potatoes in a bucket in Texas, but you need to start really early and give them time to be done in the spring so that they don’t have to do a lot of growing in the summer heat.

      • Is it too late to grow them now? I live in San Antonio and I really want to grow potatoes.

        If it’s too late to grow them outdoors, can I grow them indoors with artificial light or by a window?

  1. Pingback: Gardening with kids (activities, projects and ideas for backyard) - Craftionary

  2. Question: Should holes be punched in the bottom of the buckets used for growing the potatoes or growing anything? Comment above states he ended up with a bucket of mush. Thanks.

  3. I did this this for the first time this yr. I got 5 little potatoes out of one bucket (about the size of a nickle) just the other day. The tops had died off so I don’t know what happened. I still have one bucket to go that hasn’t quite died back yet. Very disappointed. Prolly won’t mess with growing them this way next yr.

    • sir…i understand what you mean…..i have planted potatoes in 5 gal buckets also…..but not the way these folks do it. i have filled the bucket with dirt then added the potatoes just a few inches down….not good….i am trying it there way with just a few inches of dirt then put a few potatoes in with stem up and put a few more inches on top. then wait till about 6″ tall and keep adding dirt till you get to the top of the bucket….LEAVE ABOUT A 12″ GAP FOR EASY WATERING

  4. Hi Trevor,

    Thank you for sharing this. I was talking to a farmer a month ago and saw she was growing potato in buckets. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen – especially for city living. We setup 5 buckets with potatoes feeding them only organic compost and waiting for our spuds to grow. – Thank you for sharing!

  5. How often and how much water is required to grow potatoes in 5 gal buckets.I have drain holes,my tator vines have grown over a foot above the bucket,and they were planted about 2 Inches from the bottom.they have been inside, except a few hours on two occasions,

    • you can carefully dig down into your buckets and find potatoes. be careful not to puncture or you will have to pick that potato. do not detach them from the main root vines. you can then cover them back up with soil and keep them growing if they are too small for you. as long as the plant is still alive you can “steal” potatoes from it whenever you need to.

  6. I don’t know when you are supposed to harvest the potatoes.
    I waited until they’d finished flowering but the potatoes were small and only a few after months of watering and watching… appreciate your comment.

    • Potatoes are done growing when the leaves on the plant dwindle, typically when the days get shorter and the amount of direct daily light is less than half the day is long (has daylight). This is generally true for most deciduous flora.
      Regarding their size, I would ask about what you fed the plant. Plants need three main things – N, P & K. When looking at fertilizers in the store, they will all have a rating for their NPK output in a three number array. A very common pellet fertilizer is 10-10-10 and is considered a good all around slow release food for plants. More specific fertilizers like dried blood (15-0-0) and bone meal (3-15-0) can be used in more precise ways. (N) Nitrogen is for the greens above ground (I give my broccoli and spinach extra dried blood to greatly boost output.), (P) Phosphorous is for the roots (this is the one for potatoes) and (K) Potassium, which feeds the guts of the plant that moves water and nutrients around and the immune system. I have had really good luck feeding my potato plants extra bone meal each year and you get some really fat tubers when doing so. Just be careful to not over feed as you can scorch the plant. Which conceptually dovetails into concerns for PH. If the acidity of the plant is too high or low for the potato, it will be unable to absorb any nutrients at all. Bone meal, if used moderately should not change the soil ph too much, but could cause havoc if you dumped a huge pile directly on the greens of the plant.
      To be organic, you can use chicken and earthworm dung as a general fertilizer, as both are highly nutrient rich, and have a very low impact on PH.

    • Should work but I think a “potato tower” is a more popular option. Might be a moisture thing – maybe not enough drainage with the trench method. Depends on your climate though.

  7. I have 2.5 pounds of potatoes that i bought for gardening, how many potatoes in one 15 gallon bucket do i put in? This is my first time growing potatoes

    • In the Video – He states 4 to a Bucket. – Since you posted back in April, I imagine you figured it out by now. I’m going to try this tommorrow as the ones I planted didn’t emerge, So this idea intrigues me.

  8. I suppose that dnepeds on where you live. You could buy some better established plants and you could get a decent amount of tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers. I am growing all of these upside down in pots right now. Potatoes are a good bet. Do a search of potato and tire garden. It is where you plant in one tire. As it grows, you add another tire and dirt.

  9. Kennebec potatoes are the ONLY potato that will grow in towers, all other potatoes will just grow at the bottom and u will have a long tall vines ,with no potatoes

  10. I have 6 buckets growing now that are almost 2′ over the top of the bucket. They are starting to grow flowers now. Used the method you explained in the video. When do I flip them over and get the potatoes?

  11. My plants are already 6-8 ‘ tall should I cut them down and add more soil over top? I actually accidentally started grow big potatoes when I used a potato to grow a rose, rose died potatoes beautiful

  12. I did this for the first time this year. Followed the steps and just emptied my first bucket today. Guess I mixed Michigan whites with redskins, it happens. Anyhow I have two large reds and sixteen good sized whites. Our season here has been hot and humid without a lot of rain until two days ago. Watered them everyday and they have done better than In ground planting. Last year I did them in bags, wasn’t bad but not as good as this. Nice thing is I can sterilize the buckets and reuse them next year. No rotating in ground plants. Made sure that I drilled enough holes sides and bottom for drainage. Also made sure they got an inch of water daily. Grown on a deck. Glad I found this, and now it is time for some fresh potato salad.

  13. Pingback: Growing Potatoes Part I – Two Great Ways to Grow Potatoes | How Much Wheat Am I Really Going To Eat?

  14. Hello, I am currently growing potatoes in a 5 gal bucket (with holes in the bottom for drainage). The potatoes are doing well so far, is there anything that I should know (tips, things to avoid doing, etc.) other than to water the plant once a week? (I have almost no experience gardening, so anything will be helpful.)

    • Any “container growing” info on potatoes will work. I have grown potatoes in 55 gallon drums as well as in 5 gallon buckets. The key is to have plenty of drainage holes in the bottom PLUS lift the barrel/bucket off the ground. I have used 2×4’s, old bricks and concrete blocks to raise planters off the ground. I put at least 10 holes in the bottom of the bucket using a 1/2″ brad point drill bit (place a layer of paper towels on bottom of bucket before filling with the soilless mixture). In NM desert, I add the water retention crystals to anything I plant in a container. Kennebecs grow the best in 55 gallon drums for me (save one from your previous years planting). If you have potatoes bought from a grocery store that is beginning to sprout, then you can cut those up into chunks with at least one sprouting eye in each chunk, let the cut edges dry in the sun and then plant them as normal. I regularly got 50 lbs of potatoes from 55 gallon drums. Never weighed how much I got from the 5 gallon buckets. Soil should be very loose and high organic, NOT one designated as “top soil”. I like using a finely ground organic mulch instead of soil with water retention crystals mixed in. If you are using a liquid fertilizer (1 gallon of water, 1 tbsp epsom salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp of household ammonia. Mix all ingredients together and use once a month on plants by mixing a 1/8 -1/4 of the concentrate with 4 cups of water)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *