Potatoes are a highly versatile crop that can be grown successfully in a bucket in only a few months. Despite being a root crop, and one with a large root system, it is easy to get a good crop of home grown potatoes from a bucket.
A staple ingredient in many cuisines and dishes, there is a wide array of potatoes that can be grown. Different shapes, sizes and colors – and all are capable of being grown in containers, such as buckets from around 5-gallon in size.
Growing potatoes is a relatively simple task and you can get a good harvest of potatoes from a bucket in a short time in only eight easy steps.
Drew is a former professional gardener who has grown edibles for the last 10 years. He has specialized as a kitchen gardener, growing a wide range of vegetables in productive walled gardens specifically for chefs. He has grown many varieties of potatoes over the years.
What size bucket do I need for potatoes?
Potato plants need a large bucket to grow in, due to their growth pattern and deep root network. When growing potatoes in containers, they need to be large and deep – do not use one that is shallow and wide.
It is common for 5-gallon buckets to be used, while larger 10 or 20-gallon buckets are very good options. While the bigger containers can hold more plants, they take up more space and get very heavy. The decision will depend on the space you have, larger buckets are great for a big harvest if you can accommodate them. Nonetheless, you can get a good harvest of potatoes from a 5-gallon bucket. Any bucket needs to have several drainage holes drilled into the bottom to allow excess water to drain away.
How to grow potatoes in a bucket in 8 easy steps
There are many different types of potatoes to choose from, namely early, mid, and late season types. When growing early varieties, it is recommended to chit seed potatoes around 4-6 weeks before planting. A 5-gallon bucket is suitable for planting two seed potatoes in. This can go up to five seed potatoes in a 10-gallon bucket. You can buy seed potatoes from Burpee.
- Place 2-4 inches of drainage in the bottom of the bucket, such as gravel or stones.
- Fill the bucket with about 6 inches of well-draining compost.
- Place the seed potatoes around 6 inches apart on the soil.
- Cover with another 6 inches of soil.
- Water the plants, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged.
- Place in a sunny spot to grow – ideally with six hours of sunlight a day.
- As plants grow, regularly top up with soil until within a few inches of the bucket’s top.
- Harvest potatoes when the foliage starts to yellow and die back.
The benefits of growing potatoes in a bucket
There are lots of benefits of growing your potatoes in a bucket and many expert growers speak highly of the positives that come from using this method.
- Growing in a bucket makes it possible for people with limited space to grow potatoes. This can include anyone with a small backyard, or those with just a patio or a balcony garden. It opens up the opportunities for anyone to be able to grow potatoes.
- When using buckets, or growing potatoes in bags or any other containers, you can control the environment. John Stephens, chief editor and gardener at Totalgardener.com, says: ‘You will be able to use soil, compost and nutrients that are tailored specifically for your plants. This helps ensure that your potatoes have the conditions they need to thrive.’
- There is no need for digging. When growing the crop in the ground you need to carefully dig with a fork when it is time to harvest potatoes to avoid the risk of stabbing tubers. ‘Potatoes that are grown in buckets are much easier to harvest since you can simply dump the bucket out and you don't have to worry about scarring them the same way,' says Shelby DeVore, founder of Farminence.
- Buckets are ideal for anyone wanting a smaller harvest of potatoes. This can include anyone trying growing the crop for the first time and small families who want to experience homegrown potatoes.
- It can help with pest control as you can cover the bucket with a lid or move the bucket to different locations if necessary – including moving it indoors when required. For example, Nastya Vasylchyshyna, a resident botany expert for the NatureID app, advises: ‘Since the container is movable, you can place it indoors to protect the plants from Colorado potato beetles.’
Growing potatoes in a bucket using straw
Potatoes can grow in straw in a bucket in a very similar method to how you grow them in compost. It is important to ensure that the straw you use is organic and not one previously treated with herbicides.
Fill the bottom of the bucket with drainage material, add 6 inches of compost and place in your seed potatoes. Then top the potatoes with a small layer of soil and 6 inches of straw.
Water well and keep the straw moist as well as the soil underneath. In the same way as you top up plants with soil, simply add another layer of straw when the plants grow through – enough to leave the tips of the plants popping through. Continue to do this until it reaches within a few inches of the top of the bucket. When you see the foliage dying back, tip the contents of the bucket out and rummage for your potato crop.
How long does it take to grow potatoes in a bucket?
The length of time it takes till you get a harvest will depend on many variables, including the potato varieties you have chosen. As well as the varieties, factors such as temperature, light, and moisture levels will all play their part. It can take from 2 to 4 months to go from placing your potato in the bucket to getting a harvest of tubers.
Early types of potatoes that are chitted prior to planting can be ready in as little as 8-10 weeks after planting, while late types can take three months or more.
Can I grow potatoes in a bucket indoors?
It is possible to grow potatoes indoors, providing you can give the plants around six hours of sunlight a day. The best spot for a bucket would be a sunny position next to a south-facing window, which can give the potato plants essential warmth and sunlight. While potatoes can be grown indoors all-year-round, usually with the assistance of artificial lights during the winter months, it is best to start potatoes indoors in early spring. This gives the plant all the summer to grow and produce tubers. Growing potatoes during winter will take longer to harvest than during the summer months.
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Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.
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