Growing potatoes in a dustbin (trashcan)

Now that most households have a wheelie bin there is a surplus of black plastic dustbins which make an ideal container for growing potatoes.  If you don’t have one they are relatively cheap to buy and will last many years.

Below is a step by step guide to turning a dustbin into a potato bin. It takes less than 20 minutes to cut holes in the bottom of the bin, fill with growing medium and plant the potato tubers.

1. Wash out a used bin, remember you will be using it to grow food so do not use bleach or harsh chemical cleaners.

2. You can use any variety of potato but some are known as being good for container growing e.g.  Charlotte. I used Anya, a small salad variety and Sarpo Mira a main crop variety noted for its excellent resistance to potato blight.

3. Do not be tempted to use garden soil in the bin as it will ‘slump’ to a heavy dense mass. Start with either home made or bagged peat free compost e.g J Arthur Bowers New Horizon.  You can use a mix of compost and soil to fill the bin as the spuds grow but keep it light and free draining.

4. Potatoes and tomatoes are from the same plant family and are equally susceptible to blight which is an airborne fungal disease. Keep the spuds away from tomatoes if possible to avoid cross contamination. If you do get blight on the spuds cut off and destroy the tops, do not compost.

5. Do not use the compost/soil from the bin for either potatoes or tomatoes again or spread it on soil where either will be grown.

6. Potatoes need a lot of water so in summer make sure you water regularly from a water butt if you have one.

6. Spuds are also heavy feeders so you will need to feed with a good organic fertiliser. Home made comfrey liquid is ideal. To see how to make it click here and here. It is also possible to buy ready made supplies.

For updates on how a trial of  this has progressed see this page

If your dustbin has been used give it a good clean out with plain water.
Drill some holes in the bottom for drainage.
The number, size and location of holes are not that critical, just make sure the water does not sit in the bottom of the bin.
Cover the holes with netting or other material that will keep the compost in but let the water drain freely. This is a piece of scrap Mypex (woven polypropylene) that is often used for weed control.
Cover the net/Mypex with gravel, grit or broken pot ‘crocks’. I had some used expanded clay pebbles to hand but I would not advise buying these as they are not ‘organic’ as they need huge amounts of energy to manufacture.
Add 2-4 inches (5-10cms) of compost and place 4 or 5 tubers on top with the shoots (chits) or ‘eyes’  facing upwards.
Cover with 4-8 inches (10-20cms) of compost and water well. As the tops of the spuds grow cover with compost or a compost/soil mix up to about 2-3inches (5-8cms) of the rim as you will need space for watering. Some people use a perforated plastic pipe down the middle to ensure even watering though the whole depth of the bin.
Two completed bins in the polytunnel. They will be moved outside when the tomatoes are planted in the tunnel beds.

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