Growing Potatoes in Buckets

bucket potatoes

Over the past few years I have tried growing potatoes. Not wanting to use precious garden space for experimenting with potato’s – I tried growing them in containers.

I found it surprisingly easy. In the Spring of 2010 I planted 27 buckets and had great success. Potatoes are generally started in cooler weather. For those that have never tried bucket potatoes – this is for you.

To grow your own potatoes in a bucket – here is how I do it –

You Will Need

  • A bucket (at least 12 – 16 inches in diameter – the bigger the better)
  • Gravel
  • Compost/Rich Soil
  • Seed Potatoes

Steps to Growing Potatoes in Buckets

Step 1: Get Your Seed Potatoes

A seed potato is nothing more than a potato that has sprouted. You can get these sometimes from the grocery store, online from a seed supplier, or from a local farmers market.

I generally look through the potatoes at my local grocery store and will find some that are starting to sprout – and bring those home (I have had no problem with red potatoes – but it is said that some store bought potatoes are treated so as not to sprout).

I have had success planting potatoes that have short sprouts of only an inch or so.

Step 2: Prepare Your Bucket

I use orange Home Depot buckets the most – but any similar sized bucket or larger will work (don’t use black if the temperature gets hot in your area).

You need to drill several holes on the sides toward the botttom of the bucket to allow draining. Holes should be 1/4″ to ½” in diameter. Next – pour 1 – 2 inches of inches of gravel in the bottom of the bucket.

The gravel helps make certain the drainage holes do not get plugged up. Now – place your soil mixture in the bucket so that you have 4-6 inches at the bottom.

The soil mixture can be a combination of your local soil, potting soil, compost, and inexpensive top soil. If the combination is too hard and stiff – add a little sand to loosen it up. After watering the soil will compact down and this is to be expected.

Step 3: Plant Your Potatoes

Take your seed potatoes and push them into the soil in the bucket so that the upper half – the part with the sprouts – are pointing up. Now – cover with approx 3-4 inches of soil.

Depending upon the size of the bucket and the potato – place one or two potatoes in each bucket. If you use something very large – like a tire or the bottom of a 55-gallon barrel – many potatoes can be planted.

If the potato is large with multiple eyes you can cut it in half dividing the potato so there are sprouts on both halves. You can then plant each half separately.

One thing to keep in mind is if you do cut it in half – set the cuts in a window sill for 2-3 days to “cure” the cut surfaces – this will help reduce the chance of mold.

Step 4: Water Them

It is important that the soil remains moist – but not too much. I water the buckets about every other day depending upon rain and temperature.

Generally, I will provide water until I see some coming out the bottom thru the holes. I have used liquid Miracle Grow in the past – have no idea if it helped or not.

Light. I always place all my buckets in direct sunlight. I actually use the buckets around the outside of my garden.

Almost any container will work.

Watch Them Grow

As the potato plant grows, you need to cover the new growth to facilitate more potatoes. Generally.

Once the plant has grown above the top of the soil 4-5 inches I will dump new soil until just the tip of the plant is showing.

I continue this until the bucket is full. New potatoes form on new growth once it is covered with soil.

Once the plant itself turns yellow and die’s off – you can empty the bucket and collect your potatoes.


Growing your own potatoes can be very rewarding. It’s also a great idea if you’re prepping to bug in or out, because you can move the containers either inside your home, or in your bug out vehicle.

In fact, container gardening is probably the best type of gardening for preppers on a budget, who prep to both bug in or out.

In a long-term survival situation combined with normal gardening – these bucket potatoes can be a great addition to establishing sources for food.

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  1. The use of Home Depot buckets concerns me. Having previously researched this company’s buckets myself for my own projects, I have found them to be NOT of food-grade material and therefore not suitable for storage or even planting of food. A few good sources for cheap or free food-grade buckets are the bakeries of such stores as Wal-Mart and Meijer. The icings they use come in such buckets and, since the assocites just throw them away, are more than happy to give to customers that inquire.

    Lowes (at least my local one) carries a white bucket of food-grade material, as I have verified this with the manufacturer via information provided on the actual container.

    Lastly, thank you Rourke for the article and all of your content that you share.

    • 100% correct – the Big Box Store “paint buckets” are not FDA food grade – some store chains are now including the certified buckets in their shelf inventory – but – be aware the “BPA Free” is still not food grade ….

  2. Rourke, are those 5 gal. buckets?
    I’ve tried growing potatoes in towers with no success, I like the bucket growing idea though and may give it a try this year. thanks!

    • Pamela –

      What kind of towers?

      I have had no success with russett potatoes at all – only red and yukon gold. Right now Wal-Mart has seed potaotes in stock. I also use some from gorcery stores.


  3. Excellent post. Now I know what I can do with those extra buckets I have laying around. Potatos are a great starch and supplement any meal. The idea of buckets makes them so much easier to harvest than pulling them up from the ground. I like it. Thanks Rourke.

  4. Rourke, did you grow these last year? what was your yield if so? Just curious what your results were…

    Also, instead of buying buckets, most grocery store bakeries, doughnut shops or bakeries will give away the buckets from their frosting for free. Just stop in and ask…its great because they are food grade!


    • Sarah –

      I did 27 buckets last year and hope to have at least 40 containers of various sizes this year. I averaged 12 potatoes in each – of varying sizes.



  5. Regarding growing potatos, I applaud your efforts using the five gallon buckets. Very effective way to move space around in your garden. I would caution your readers about using the “stack the tires” method of potato vertical growth. Over time the chemicals used to make the tires (compounds) and the vulcanization process can leech into the water/soil that is absorbed by the plant.

    Several manufacturers now offer cloth bags to grow potatoes the same way, with little to no soil loss when you water them but still allowing good drainage.

  6. Thanks for another interesting article. The photos on your blogs bring a certain freshness to your site. Keep up the great work!

  7. Instead of buckets, I use the old tires I saved, off my pick-up. Start with planting in the bottom tire; as the plant grows, add another tire and soil to cover all but the top thre ar four branches; keep adding tires over time, til you have a stack of 4 or 5 tires. Allow to grow. then when it’s time to harvest, just pull off each tire to access spuds. Should yield up to 50 lbs. of spuds.
    Real cute, changin’ the span question!

  8. I have some bags that do the same thing. I have not tried them out yet so it will be interesting to see how well they work-hold up. The initial cost on the bags is low versus the buckets.

  9. last season, i had excellent success with sweet potatoes in containers on the porch.
    if you live in an area that has a long enough growing period, do try some sweet potatoes.

  10. I was concerned, at first of any “chemical leeching” from tires, but I learned that it is best to use older tires, reducing the chance of ‘leeching”. ‘Couse, there has been no evidence of this reported.

  11. @Sarah.
    a doz. potatoes/bucket! Wow, that really sounds good to me!
    Not to turn Rourke’s thread into a garden thread but, did you do anything special to the soil?
    we are extremely cramped for garden space here and I’m always looking for new ways to extend area with container gardening ideas.
    also, I used really old tires too.

    • Pamela –

      I have used a varriety of soils – but mostly store bought top soil/potting soil mixed with local soil. If the soil was too hard – I would add some sand to it as well as some commpost.

      This year I will be using some soil out of the garden – as well as a ixture of compost and chopped up dead leaves to keep the soil loose.

      I am wanting to get to 40 containers all together – so if I come up short on soil I will be buying some. Goal for me is to use what I already have as if I am buying soil that is taking away from the cost savings.

      Just came back from my local Farmers Exchange and bought a bunch of Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold seed potatoes.

      Thanks – Rourke

  12. Make sure you get the right type of potatoes. The early ones (like Yukon Gold) only set potatoes once and are done. The mid-season types of potatoes will keep setting. These include Yellow Fin and Binjte.

  13. Thanks for the post Rourke, just did 3 buckets today using seed potatoes from a local nursery. This is our first try hence only using 3 buckets.

    Just getting our feet wet the last few years gardening and looking forward to many more.

    Best wishes

  14. I ended up with some potatoes left from planting and I think I’ll try the buckets with them.
    Last year we had great success with the sweet potatoes grown in big containers and buckets so I’ll be this will work out real good.
    I love container gardening!

  15. Thanks for the article! We will be moving soon and using the buckets will enable us to plant a garden then take it with us without digging up the yard. A friend provided us with 16 buckets for free then we picked up free compost from our local city composting site, bought the seed potatoes on sale, and now looking for cheap gravel. The kids and I are having a great time putting the buckets together.

  16. more preppers should be aware of this gardening technique & tip ….

    going to be an urgent need to start gardens or expand into previously untilled ground – planting potatoes and most other root crops invite an invasion of boring insects when planting in recently “green grass” turned ground – 2nd and even the 3rd gardening season is more advisable ….

  17. I saw a guy once who nested one bucket inside the other and threw some big rocks between the two so they could be taken apart easily. Then the top bucket he cut big panels out of the sides. Then part way through the season would lift the top bucket and harvest just some of the potatoes through the cutouts and leve the rest of the crop growing. Drop the top bucket back down inside the bottom one and let it grow and do this multiple times. Anyone try that? any suggestions of what tatoes could be used for that? Hopefully I described it ok?

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