Growing Potatoes in a Trash Can
Parent Category: Growing
Created on Saturday, 12 April 2008 05:12
Written by Julie
If you already grow potatoes in your garden, read no further. Full disclaimer: I have never attempted to grow potatoes before now. At this very moment, my first crop of potatoes is sprouting away in my trash can. At least, I hope so.
I first learned about container gardening of potatoes when I came across an article on the subject by local gardening impresario Ciscoe Morris. Container gardening of potatoes is by no means new, though it is something of a novelty, I suppose, to give visitors a tour around your home and point out the potatoes you're raising in a 35 gallon trash can. Given the relatively little space they take up, potatoes grown in a trash can make an ideal crop for apartment or condo dwellers, and for "gardeners" like me who find that the opportunity to break out power tools (ok, an electric drill) in the act of planting a vegetable crop causes a swift but undeniable rush of blood to the head. Vroom, vroom.
I was drawn to raising potatoes in a trash can for other reasons, too. Recent research indicates that potatoes are significantly contaminated by pesticides. Because potatoes spend their lives underground, they are exposed to more pesticides over time than other crops, which regularly lose some of their contamination thanks to precipitation. Even potatoes raised using organic methods bear evidence of pesticides if they are not grown in soils that have been pesticide free for many years. In a survey of some 43 fruits and vegetables, The Environmental Working Group has ranked potatoes twelfth-highest for its pesticide load.
I followed Ciscoe's instructions more or less to the letter. I had an old, disused trash can
that I dutifully cleaned out and drilled with 1/2 inch holes on the bottom and sides to provide good drainage for my potatoes. I added about six inches of potting soil/compost and mixed it with organic fertilizer for acid loving plants, which I happened to have on hand. (Ciscoe also recommends Osmocote 14-14-14 fertilizer.) Then I placed four potatoes a friend had given me from her garden as my seed potatoes. (Ciscoe recommends whole potatoes, but these were potato chunks that were already starting to sprout from eyes. I am not entirely sure of the variety.) I followed Ciscoe's advice for spacing the potatoes, and also for topping them with compost and soil, and watering them.
Right now, my potato crop looks like a trash can with dirt in it. But I am hopeful that in a few weeks and months, the potatoes will sprout and send up vines. With vigilant watering and staking of the vines, and additions of fertilizer and compost, I may have something to write Sound Food about in a few months.
Link to Ciscoe Morris archive with information about how to grow potatoes in a trash can:
Link to Environmental Working Group cheat sheet on which products to buy organic: