Potato buckets are a simple and efficient way to get started growing your own food and to become familiar with the basic principles of gardening. I chose to write about a bucket instead of a traditional garden because not everyone has access to a garden, but you can pick up a 5-gallon bucket and a bag of potting soil at most hardware stores.
Most large box stores will also have a gardening section where you can pick up all the parts for this project including the seed potatoes to kickstart your garden.
Prepare the Soil
Fill the bucket about ⅓ full with the soil. Make sure that it’s not hard packed. The potatoes are going to grow in the soil and will be constricted in hard packed soil. The looser the dirt, the easier it is for the potatoes to grow to be large and tasty.
Plant the Seed Potatoes
Place three of the seed potatoes in the bucket so that they’re evenly spaced from the bucket wall and from each other. Examine the seed potatoes to find the largest “eye” of each one and make sure it’s facing upwards. Add more dirt to cover the seed potatoes and fill the bucket to about ½ full. Optionally, you can line the inside of the bucket with foil to help reflect sunlight down through the neck of the bucket.
Feed your Spuds
Potatoes grow best in loose, moist soil. Set yourself a reminder alarm to check on your bucket every day to make sure that the soil is staying nice and dark with moisture while at the same time not turning into a muddy pit. Potatoes are hardy tubers and the potting soil should be nice and rich so you shouldn’t have to add any fertilizer or nutrients to the bucket. Just make sure to keep the soil damp.
You should start seeing sprouts shooting through the soil after a couple weeks. Keep feeding your bucket to grow the sprouts into tall, leafy stalks. The leaves should begin creeping over the edge of the bucket in a couple more weeks. When they do, it’s time to start mounding the soil up around the base of the stalks.
To do this, fill the bucket with more potting soil to about ¾ full or just below where the leaves have started growing. Once covered with dirt, the stalks of the plant will send out roots on which more potatoes will grow and increase your yield. The stalk will continue growing up as well as out.
Continue keeping the soil moist and loose to encourage the potatoes to grow. As the stalks continue growing, keep mounding up the dirt until you reach the top of the bucket.
Harvest your Crop
After about 10-15 weeks, you begin to notice that the leaves of your plant are starting to wilt. This is expected. Once most the leaves have started wilting, stop watering the bucket and let the plants wither. Once all the branches have lost their leaves and the stalks have withered, it’s time to harvest your spuds.
The easiest way to do this is to simply tip the bucket over and dump everything out. Naturally, you’ll need some way to collect the dirt and clean up so it’s a good idea to lay out a tarp and dump everything on it. Sort through all the soil and pull out your spuds.
When you’ve removed the spuds, dump the soil back into the bucket for next time or for your next crop. Take the spuds inside and give them a good wash and a scrub.
Store your Spuds
You should be able to store your harvest easily in a grocery bag. Keep them in a cool, dry place and they should last for a long time.
Boil ‘em, Mash ‘em, Stick ‘em in a Stew
All that’s left to do is to cook them up. One of my favorite ways to cook potatoes is to cut them up into small pieces and pan fry them in butter. Once they start to brown up, add eggs and cheese. Once it starts to firm up, throw a tortilla over the whole thing for a minute or two until it’s nice and warmed up. Then hold a plate over the pan like a lid and flip the whole thing over so that the tortilla and the potato scramble lands on the plate and is ready to eat.