How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon]: A Step-by-Step Guide (11 Steps)

Growing potatoes in a large container is a fun and rewarding experience, and it’s even possible to do it in a small space using a bucket. As an experienced gardener, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to grow potatoes in a bucket, so you can enjoy fresh, homegrown potatoes right from your backyard or balcony.

Growing potatoes in a bucket is suitable for limited space and easy to manage.

Materials Needed for Growing Potatoes in Containers

  • Seed potatoes: Choose certified seed potatoes from a garden center.
  • Bucket: A 5-gallon (20 liters) bucket works best, with drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Potting mix: Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix.
  • Compost: Adds nutrients to the soil.
  • Watering can (watering pot): For regular watering.
  • Garden trowel: For planting and adding soil.
  • Straw or hay (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions: How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket

Step 1: Choose the Right Bucket

  • Select a 5-gallon or 20-liter bucket (or larger). It could be a storage bucket, an empty paint bucket, or a Plant Pot. Bigger buckets allow for more potatoes but take up more space.
  • You can find affordable buckets online or at local stores.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Choose the Right Bucket
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 2: Preparing the Bucket

  • Create Drainage Holes: Using a drill, make several small holes in the bottom of the bucket to ensure excess water can escape. This prevents water from accumulating and rotting the potatoes.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Preparing the Bucket - Create Drainage Holes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Preparing the Bucket - Create Drainage Holes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
  • Wash the bucket: If you use an empty paint bucket or trash bucket, wash it thoroughly.
  • Layering the Bottom: Place a few inches (2-4 inches) of gravel or small stones at the bottom of the bucket to further aid drainage.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Preparing the Bucket - Place a few inches (2-4 inches) of gravel or small stones at the bottom
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 3: Preparing the Soil

  • Mixing the Soil: Combine potting mix and compost in a 3:1 ratio (or you can use compost and regular soil). The compost provides essential nutrients for the potatoes.
  • Filling the Bucket: Add about 6 inches of the soil mixture to the bucket.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Preparing the Soil - Add about 6 inches of the soil mixture to the bucket
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 4: Preparing the Seed Potatoes

  • Get Seed Potatoes: Purchase seed potatoes (you can find them online or at a local nursery).
  • Cutting the Potatoes: If your seed potatoes are large, cut them into smaller pieces, ensuring each piece has at least one or two “eyes” (sprouts). Let the cut pieces dry for a day or two to form a protective callus.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Preparing the Seed Potatoes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Sometimes, chit the seed potatoes by letting them sprout for 4-6 weeks before planting.

Step 5: Planting Potatoes in Containers

  • Planting Depth: Place the seed potatoes on top of the soil in the bucket, eyes facing up. Space them about 6 inches apart if you’re planting more than one in the same bucket. You can plant up to 2-5 seed potatoes in a 5-gallon bucket (more in larger buckets).
  • Covering the Potatoes: Add another 4 inches of soil mix over the seed potatoes (You can also use straw or hay to cover the potatoes).
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Planting the Potatoes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Planting the Potatoes - Covering the Potatoes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 6: Watering

  • Initial Watering: Water the bucket thoroughly until water runs out of the drainage holes.
  • Regular Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Potatoes need about 1 inch of water per week.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Watering
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 7: Sunlight and Location

  • Place the bucket in a sunny spot (at least 6 hours of sunlight per day).
  • If you have limited space, a balcony or patio works well.

Step 8: Adding More Soil (Hilling)

  • Hilling Process: As the potato plants grow and reach about 6 inches in height, add more soil around the stems, covering about half of the new growth. Leave some leaves exposed.
  • Repeat Hilling: Continue adding soil every time the plants grow another 6 inches until the soil level reaches the top of the bucket. This process helps develop more potatoes along the buried stems.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - potato plants grow
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Adding More Soil - adding soil every time the plants grow another 6 inches
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 9: Caring for the Plants

  • Sunlight: Ensure your bucket is placed in a spot that receives at least 5-6 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Pests and Diseases: Check regularly for pests like aphids and beetles. Remove them by hand or use an organic insecticide. Ensure good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases.
  • Maintain Moisture: Keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season, watering when the top inch of soil becomes dry. Avoid letting the soil dry out completely. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to rot.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Caring for the Plants - Ensure your bucket is placed in a spot that receives at least 5-6 hours of sunlight
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Caring for the Plants - Keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 10: Harvesting

  • Time to Harvest: Potatoes are usually ready to harvest about 10 to 12 weeks after planting. You can harvest once the plants start to flower or when the foliage begins to yellow and die back.
  • Harvesting Method: To harvest, tip the bucket over onto a tarp or into a large container and carefully sift through the soil to find the potatoes. (Gently dig around the base of the plant with your hands or a small trowel to avoid damaging the potatoes).
  • Curing the Potatoes: Let the harvested potatoes sit in a cool, dark place for a few days to cure, which helps toughen their skins for storage.

What do Potato Plants look like when ready to Harvest?

When potato plants are ready for harvest, most of their leaves and stems will have withered and died. This typically occurs about 10 weeks after planting, depending on the potato variety and growing conditions. Here are the stages of potato plant growth that indicate readiness:

Flowering Stage: Flowers appear on the plant, signaling the beginning of potato readiness. However, potatoes during this stage will be small.

Flowers Die Off: The flowers die, and the tops of the plants shrink back down to the soil. Some plants may start turning yellow.

Potato Plant Dying: The leaves turn yellow and brown, indicating ripening. Potatoes are more or less ready to eat at this point.

Fully Ready: When all leaves have fallen off, and only white, fragile stems remain, your potatoes are fully ready to harvest.

Remember to check for blight and other issues to ensure healthy potato plants.

How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Potatoes are usually ready to harvest about 10 to 12 weeks after planting
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - To harvest, tip the bucket over onto a tarp or into a large container and carefully sift through the soil to find the potatoes.
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Gently dig around the base of the plant with your hands or a small trowel to avoid damaging the potatoes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Harvesting
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Harvesting
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Curing the Potatoes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Step 11: Storing the Potatoes

  • Storage Conditions: Store the cured potatoes in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator as this can turn their starches into sugar.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Storing the Potatoes
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket [5-Gallon] A Step-by-Step Guide - Store the cured potatoes in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area
Courtesy of J.o.h.n Garden

Tips for Success

  • Choose the Right Variety: Some potato varieties are better suited for container growing. Varieties like Yukon Gold, Red Pontiac, and Fingerling are excellent choices.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: Don’t plant too many seed potatoes in one bucket. This ensures each plant has enough space to develop.
  • Monitor Moisture: Containers dry out more quickly than garden beds, so check the soil moisture regularly.
How to Grow Potatoes in a Bucket by J.o.h.n Garden

Growing potatoes in a bucket is a fun and easy way to learn about gardening and get fresh veggies. Just follow these steps, and you can grow potatoes in a bucket, even if you don’t have much space.

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