Grow Potatoes in 5 Gallon Buckets

It’s easy to grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets. You can grow them across growing seasons in various climates. In addition, they take little space and are easy to move around.

Once you ready the buckets, you can reuse them again to grow more potatoes. Growing potatoes in 5 gallon buckets is a way to have a food source in uncertain times.

In addition, potatoes are fun to grow, taste great, and store well. Here’s how to grow potatoes in 5 gallon buckets.

Potatoes in Planters: How to Grow Potatoes in Pots

Grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets

We love growing taters. This bucket size is perfect for growing potatoes no matter how much space you have.

Choose the 5 gallon buckets

First, you want to be sure to use a large enough bucket. You will need depth for the potatoes to grow well.

Be sure to choose a minimum size of 5-gallons. You can also use 6-gallon buckets which will be deeper, not wider.

You likely won’t yield more potatoes from growing in a 6 gallon vs 5 gallon bucket as you will plant the same number of potatoes (2) no matter which you choose.

In addition, you will want to use food grade buckets.

How to find food grade buckets

You can often get 5 gallon buckets for free from bakeries, bread stores, doughnut shops, etc.

Otherwise, you can get 5 gallon buckets at Walmart as well as Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and any hardware store.

Five gallon buckets for planting are easy to find.

You may find some in your garage piled somewhere. Just be sure they are food grade and that you never used them for paint, paint thinner, etc.

To find out if it’s food grade, turn the bucket upside down and look at the recycling number on the bottom.

If the recycling number is 2, 4, or 5, you can use it.

In addition, if you see a cup and fork symbol with “Food Grade Plastic”, that’s another way to tell.

Examples of symbols for food grade plastic:

  • HDPE 2
  • LDPE 4
  • PP 5
  • Food Grade Plastic (cup and fork symbol)
  • USDA
  • FDA
  • NSF
  • PETE 1 is generally okay but not as good as the others

These symbols mean it’s safe to store food in them. We use the same criteria for growing food, when possible.

Drill holes on the bottom

drill holes in bottom of potato bucket
Drill holes in bottom of potato bucket

You will need to drill several holes on the bottom for drainage.

To ensure proper drainage, drill at least 10 holes. What’s great is after you have drilled the holes, there aren’t other tools or anything difficult to do.

You will be able to grow potatoes at home in these buckets for years.

Measure the fill lines

Next, to grow potatoes in buckets, get a ruler or tape measure and a Sharpie or other permanent marker.

Measure 4″ (10.16 cm) from the bottom of the bucket, and mark the line with the Sharpie right on the bucket.

Keeping the ruler on the ground, mark another line that’s 10″ (25.4 cm) from the bottom.

Fill with soil

Fill the bucket with soil to the 4″ (10.16 cm) line.

What’s nice about growing potatoes in 5 gallon buckets is it doesn’t matter if you have poor soil on your property. You can buy bags of quality potting soil. Choose good soil amended with compost or organic matter.

The great thing is if you do have to buy it, you won’t need as much to grow potatoes as if you were planting them in a garden bed.

It’s important to grow potatoes in loose, well-draining soil. If you are composting, you can mix that in as well. Using quality soil will be worth it. Avoid using Miracle Grow and other non-organic fertilizers.

Part of the reason to grow potatoes at home is so you know how they grew. Put the quality in and you will get the quality out.

You want to feed the soil, not the plant.

Is it better to grow seed potatoes or potatoes from the store?

Seed potatoes are potatoes that are originally planted and grown in order to be replanted. They are not treated with sprout inhibitors.

If you want to plant and grow potatoes from seed potatoes, be sure to buy them certified-disease-free.

We prefer using store-bought potatoes because certified seed potatoes will take extra work and be more expensive to acquire.

You may be able to find them at nurseries and garden centers. You can order seed potatoes online as well.

However, for ease and convenience, we use store-bought potatoes to grow potatoes in buckets.

Just know that potatoes you buy from the store are often treated with sprout inhibitors.

These are meant to stop the potatoes from growing eyes and sprouting.

They do this so they can keep potatoes in stores longer before sprouting.

With this in mind, know that you most likely won’t be able to plant all potatoes you buy from the store.

What we do is wait for a few to start sprouting, and then start another bucket to grow them in.

Can I grow potatoes from store-bought potatoes?

Yes, you can grow store-bought potatoes in 5 gallon containers, in planters, and in the ground.

Ways to make potatoes sprout faster

If you are excited about planting potatoes but don’t have any that are sprouting, you can try to speed up the process.

Think about what you do to store potatoes longer, and then do the opposite!

Instead of storing potatoes in a dark cool cabinet or space, store them at a warmer temperature. One area can be by a window.

You can also leave them in the bag to encourage sprouting. Just be sure they are getting enough air so they don’t start to rot. Do not plant a potato that’s moldy or rotting, even if it is sprouting.

Potatoes to plant in 5-gallon bucket

Sometimes we buy a bag of organic potatoes and intentionally wait for several of them to sprout so we can plant them.

Other times, we forget to use the potatoes we have, and some of them start sprouting. We plant those as well.

We haven’t ever planted large-sized russet potatoes in our buckets because we have never had any that sprouted.

You will likely have success with “new” potatoes which are smaller and better to grow in buckets.

Potatoes we planted in buckets:

  • Red Potatoes
  • Yukon Gold
  • Yellow Gold

Because it’s so easy to grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets, we usually have 5 – 8 or more buckets of them growing at any given time.

In this way, we have potatoes ready to pick and harvest at different times.

How many tubers should I plant in the bucket?

Plant two potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket.

If you are planting in a 6 gallon bucket, we recommend planting two potatoes as well.

The difference between a 5 and 6 gallon bucket is the depth. The width of the bucket is the usually the same.

Do I cut the potato or plant the whole potato?

When we grow potatoes in buckets, we plant the entire potato. Plant the potato with the sprout side facing up.

The next time we have a few potatoes sprouting, we are going to cut them up to compare if we get a greater or lesser yield (by weight and quantity) than we do when we plant entire potatoes in buckets.

We will update when we do.

Tater table

This is not an essential step, but if you have the materials, it helps to keep the bucket off the ground.

You can use anything: pallets, scrap wood, bricks, etc.

You want something to prop the bucket off the ground to allow for easier drainage. Mostly though, it will help keep insects, including ants, from the buckets.

In addition, it will allow a little bit of air flow to the bottom to minimize rotting. 

Your potato table doesn’t have to be anything fancy. When we are growing a lot of potato buckets at one time, we use a pallet that we call a tater table.

It’s our mini potato farm! The best part is, it’s not taking away the room in our garden beds, which enables us to grow more things.

Store-bought potatoes take awhile to sprout and then are slow-growing in buckets but are among the easiest vegetables to grow.

Planting the potato

To grow potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket successfully, you should fill the bucket with soil to 4″ (10.16 cm).

Put the two potatoes in the bucket, spacing them out, sprout side up. Then cover with dirt to the line you marked at 10″ (25.4 cm).

Water and wait

Water when you first plant it, enough so that water comes out the bottom. Set the bucket on wood or other planks.

Be sure to leave it in the sun. They should have full sun with at least 6 – 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Depending on the season and your climate, you should water a few times a week. When you water, monitor for insects and remove them.

You can use a moisture meter if you have one to check the moisture level of the soil. It will take a few weeks to get sprouts.

When potatoes sprout

potatoes sprouting in buckets
potatoes sprouting in 6 gallon and 5 gallon buckets

In a few weeks, you will see the leaves breaking through the soil. When you see sprouts coming up, it’s important to not touch them or move the soil.

Let them break through the soil on their own. This helps them to grow stronger as they work their way through the soil.

It can take several days for the stem to break through the soil.

As the leaves grow – hilling

When the leaves get to the height of the rim of the bucket, add more soil.

You will want to fill it to approximately 3″ (7.62 cm) from the top.

It doesn’t need to be measured exactly…. Just leave some room.

Grow Potatoes in 5-Gallon Buckets
Ready to add more soil in the potato bucket

Adding more dirt like this is called hilling. You want to cover the plants — including the leaves — with soil.

When you do this in the 5 gallon bucket, you will want to continue using quality soil.

If you were hilling the potatoes in a garden, you may want to add partially-composted leaves, compost, straw, etc.

The potatoes you are growing will grow above the potato you planted. Adding more soil through hilling enables potatoes to grow.

This is also why you should use a minimum of a five gallon bucket — tubers grow underground and need depth.

How do I know when my potatoes are ready to harvest?

You can harvest your homegrown potatoes when they start to flower. But don’t!

The potatoes will be ready but not fully mature at this time. They will continue to grow the longer you wait but it’s hard to be patient!

We will usually harvest one — just because it’s so exciting to get that first potato! But then we wait.

When the leaves start to wilt, droop, and die — the leaves will be yellow and brown — that’s when to harvest potatoes.

There should be mostly yellow leaves, not many green leaves left.

Harvesting potatoes

You don’t need to use a digging fork. Just gently reach in with your hands.

Storing potatoes

The great news is you can harvest the potatoes and store them for months if necessary.

When we grow kale, arugula and other vegetables, we have to eat them sooner. So even if you plant potatoes in several 5-gallon buckets at one time, you won’t have to eat them right away.

Store them in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. If you plan to store them for months, you should cure them first.

How tall do potato plants grow?

Potato plants, no matter where if you grow them in buckets, containers, planters, garden beds, tires, or in the ground, should grow to be approximately 40″ (100 cm) tall.

(Yes, you can even grow potatoes in tires!)

How long does it take to grow potatoes in 5 gallon buckets?

Depending on the variety, it will generally take a minimum of three months to grow potatoes.

Some varieties will take longer. If timing is important, look up the exact variety and find the Days to Maturity (DTM).

We plant whatever potatoes we have sprouting and don’t care how long it takes.

We always have 5 – 8 buckets (sometimes more!) growing so we will have them available at different times.

Should I add mulch when growing potatoes?

adding mulch potato bucket
adding mulch potato bucket — watch for mushrooms

Depending on your climate, you may want to add a bit of mulch. It doesn’t take much, as the surface area in the bucket is much smaller than if you were covering a garden bed.

We put a thin layer of alfalfa on ours because we live in a sunny, dry climate and want to retain the moisture without watering every day.

If you live in a humid area, you may not want to use mulch.

Watch for mushrooms growing. If you see them, remove the mulch and/or water the potatoes less frequently.

When we use mulch, we can continue growing potatoes in the winter when it’s above freezing.

How to Grow Potatoes in 5-Gallon Buckets

While this may seem like a long list, it’s really quite simple to grow potatoes at home.

Steps to grow potatoes in 5 gallon buckets:

  1. Gather sprouted potatoes.
  2. Take food grade 5-gallon bucket and drill holes in the bottom for drainage.
  3. Measure 4″ from the bottom of the bucket; mark line with Sharpie.
  4. Measure 10″ from the bottom and mark that line.
  5. Fill bucket with good quality soil to the 4″ mark.
  6. Put two potatoes in the bucket, making sure the sprouts are facing up. Make sure to space the potatoes apart.
  7. Cover the potatoes with the dirt/soil to the 10″ mark.
  8. Put the potato buckets on wood so they can drain out. (optional)
  9. Water and place in a sunny spot.
  10. Continue to water and monitor for insects, etc.
  11. When the leaves get to the height of the rim of the bucket, add more soil almost to the top, covering the leaves, stems, etc.
  12. Harvest when the leaves yellow and start to wilt.

After harvest, you can plant more potatoes in the bucket.

Advantages to growing potatoes in 5 gallon buckets

There are lots of fantastic reasons to grow potatoes at home in buckets.

Buckets are portable

You can move the buckets in and out of the sun, cold and rain.

Grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets in many seasons and climates

Because you can easily move the buckets, you can grow them across several seasons in many climates.

Small space

Planting buckets take minimal space and are easy to have anywhere.

This makes them ideal for balconies, small patios, outside the front or back door, etc.

No garden needed

You don’t need a big garden to grow potatoes. If you do have a garden, you can use it to plant more flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Easy to get the buckets

You may already have food safe, 5-gallon buckets at home. Otherwise, you can easily find them at Walmart or any hardware store.

Can reuse for planting

Once you drill the holes and mark the lines, it’s easy to reuse the 5 gallon buckets for planting more potatoes or something else.

Potatoes store well

Potatoes are easy to store. Growing them at home means you can ensure a steady supply.

Use what you have

It’s a great way to use potatoes that are sprouting. Just be sure to not use the ones that are rotting. 

Helps in uncertain times

Growing potatoes in 5-gallon buckets can help people feel more prepared. In addition, many people enjoy being more self-reliant and living off their land.

Growing your own food is a way to do that. How to Grow Carrots

Grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets

After you prepare one bucket for planting, you will find it easy to do several.

In addition, after you harvest your potatoes, you can grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets again and again.

Potato bucket and container growing is popular because you don’t need a lot of space.

It’s a great way to involve your family in gardening as well as to become more self-sufficient.

Growing potatoes in containers such as buckets is easy to do to encourage a homesteading lifestyle.

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