How to Plant Potatoes in Straw.
Container Planting.

The fella sometimes travels for work.

On his last walkabout a few years ago the fella headed to Saskatchewan where he lived for 6 months, flying home every 16 days.  He lived in a typical, small Prairie town.  How small?  I went to visit him once and he wouldn’t let me carry my purse to the town restaurant/bar/variety store/video rental place.  Apparently carrying a purse, or anything other than a hoof pick, would have immediately pegged me as an outsider.  It would have been “embarrassing”.   To carry a purse.  Into a restaurant/bar/variety store/video rental place.

So I didn’t.  Because I’m nothing if not accommodating.  Plus, you’ve never seen anyone pitch a fit like the fella when he gets worked up.

On this same trip, in this same town, the fella went into the grocery store/garden centre/travel agency to pick up a few things for dinner.  He was making meatloaf and he wanted mashed potatoes with it.  So he grabbed a few potatoes and took them up to the cash.  Thelba, or whatever her name was, started to ring him up and asked him how long he was planning on staying in town.   He said he wasn’t sure, but he wanted to get home to make dinner.  Thelba said “You aren’t plannin’ on eatin’ them potatoes are ya?  Them there are seed potatoes fella.”  To which the fella replied, Yeah, yeah.  Seed potatoes.  Whatever.  Ring ’em up.    Thelba then explained to the fella They’re for crops.  For planting.   She was very nice about it apparently, but I’m sure all the while Thelba was thinking, “Holy shit Mr. City, all you’re missing is the purse”.

And that is my seed potato story.

SO!  You wanna plant potatoes but you don’t have any room?  You only have a balcony?  Most of your yard real estate is taken up  by decorative Gnomes and a shuffleboard court?  No problem.

You can plant potatoes in half bushel baskets, with 6″ of dirt and a bunch of straw.

And here’s how …

The first thing you have to do is get yourself seed potatoes.  You can get them this time of year at garden centres, seed stores and sometimes even hardware stores carry them.  Seed potatoes have been guaranteed to be disease free.  If you buy potatoes from the grocery store that happen to grow eyes, you aren’t guaranteed they’ll be disease free and grow into nice healthy potatoes.  But … chances are they will.

How To Plant


Howevever, I want to know EXACTLY what kind of potato I’m growing so I bought a variety of interesting certified seed potatoes.

One of the varieties I’m growing are French Fingerlings.  They’re long, small fingerling potatoes with a pink swirl inside.

French Fingerling


Just for fun, I’m also growing a batch of Russian Blue potatoes.  They’re one of the varieties with the blue, almost black skin.

Russian Blue


Most exciting, is the fact that the inside is the same colour!  I’m so excited about growing these I could cry.  I’m potato geeking out over these.

Russian Blue 2


I’m also growing Yukon Golds and the most perfect potato ever made, The Kennebec.

Once you get your seed potatoes, you need to cut them.  Depending on the size of the potato, you’ll cut them into half or even 3 or 4 times.  You want to make sure each chunk of potato has at least 2 eyes.  If the potato is small, just leave it without cutting it.


Platter Of Potatoes


Then let your potatoes heal for a few days.  Some people say 2 days others say a week.  I’ll leave it up to you.  The cuts need to scab over so they don’t rot or get bacteria/disease in them when you plant them.  So make sure you cut them several days before you plan to plant them.  After a week … they’ll look all grody.  Like this.

Potato Platter Old


Now’s the fun part.  Planting.  Fill your half bushel basket (ask at your grocery store or farmer’s market for them) with 6 inches of soil.  I used half compost and half CONTAINER SOIL.  Not, garden soil!  Whenever you’re planting in a container … you should use container soil.

Basket 1


Push your seed potatoes (I’m going with 3 of them in the basket) half way into the soil.


Then push the soil back over them, so they’re halfways down in the dirt.  Give them a good water and leave them.  Like most vegetables, they need 6-8 hours of sun a day.

Basket 3


Stick them anywhere you have space and sunlight.  If you just have a balcony stick them out there.  If you have a yard that only gets sun on one side in the morning and sun on the other side in the afternoon, these containers are light enough you can just move them throughout the day.



After a week or two, you’ll see the potato plants starting to grow out, above the soil.  Let them grow until there’s about 6″ – 8″  of growth sticking up.  Then it’s time to “hill” them.  You can either do this with more container soil and compost OR you can use partially decomposed straw.  The reason it’s better to use partially decomposed straw is because you’ll be able to smash it down tighter than fresh straw.  You don’t want a lot of air pockets, you want to use a LOT of straw and smash it down.

To hill potatoes just fill in around all the stems and lower leaves of the potatoes with your soil or straw.  Only the top set of leaves should be showing when you’re done.

When the potatoes have grown another 6″ – 8″, hill them again.

Basket 2


I plan to test all the potato planting methods this year.  I’m doing them in half bushel baskets with straw, like you see here, I’m doing them in half bushels with all soil, and the traditional potato planting method of trenches and then hilling them in a regular garden bed.


Potatoes are fine to plant in cool weather so if you’re in Southern Ontario or a similar Zone 5/6 climate … now’s the time to plant potatoes!  I have a LOT of potato planting ahead of me.    But for now, I’m getting kindda hungry.  I’m thinking of making meatloaf for dinner tonight.  With some nice mashed potatoes.  As luck would have it, I happen to be out of potatoes, so I’ll have to run to the store to get some.  And yes.  I am going to carry my purse.


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  1. Winegirl says:


    We have a bucket planted, using soil/straw and they are cresting over the top. Don’t forget to plan for that. Just bought a tomato cage today that I’ll line with newspaper and keep the straw going.

    Tell the Fella’s dad that I grow blue TOMATOES! I have pics if he doesn’t believe me… :-)

  2. Nikki Kelly says:

    You should make fancy chips with your Russian Blue potatoes!


    • Karen says:

      Nikki – Chips like french fries? Or chips like potato chips. Come to think of it … who cares. Good idea on both counts. ~ karen

      • Nikki Kelly says:

        Well I was meaning potatoe chips, which seem to be your favorite food ever. What does the fella’s dad have to say about the chips/fries/crisps debate? What are the 3 True Chips?


  3. Barbie says:

    I am a seasoned gardener and I didn’t even realize that I had to let them”heal” after the cut. I don’t even think my uncle realized that.. (I will have to ask him) he sometimes just does things and doesn’t’ tell me…he’s 88 so he’s allowed! lol
    Also I really want to try those Kennebec and the Russian Blue. I hope they have those at Big R. I may have to hunt a bit.
    I have an old garden book and one of the methods for potatoes is similar to yours with the straw, only they used fallen leaves from the previous fall and kept piling them up and watering them down as the potato plant grew…that way you didn’t have to pull the whole plant up….instead you could just reach down and find the biggest and nicest potato and snap it off and leave the other smaller ones to grow. They also said that it would keep them really blemish free because they would not have any rocks or pebbles or anything in the “soil” to fight with while growing. I always thought I would try this but I never have. It does sound really cool though.

  4. Cathy says:


    I discovered your website when I looking for chicken coop ideas. I love your blogs!! Not only do I learn a lot but your “funny” makes my day! Thank you! I’m going to try the green onion, celery, and potatoes in containers gardening. Take care, Cathy

  5. Brenda j says:

    I put my blue potatoes into a mesh-wire bedroom waste basket, lined with black garden fabric. I have full sun at the side of my home…faces south. Here’s hoping I get results. I did a number of years ago by just dumping potatoes that had gone, into the garden and in the fall had quite the haul of wee taters.
    I like “Sophia” of Golden Girl status….carry my purse everywhere! LOL

  6. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    This is great Karen..I’m going to try it if I have the time..

  7. Spokangela says:

    Thanks for the ‘sneak peek’ of your front yard vegetable garden :)

    Our city has a composting fair in the fall and they give out these big black compost fence deals. They end up holding quite a bit so we are going to try our potatos in those this year. The bushel baskets are much nicer to look at though. :)

  8. Patti says:


    My guy and I are getting married this summer, so one of our very wonderful friends is doing our gardening, ninja-style. This means that he creeps into our yard under the cover of darkness and looks after our gardening!

    One of these ninja-style projects was leaving me very confuzzled. Why are there straw bundles in our backyard (that a cute little Mallard Duck has laid 10 eggs in!)? Why did he build up an area in the garden with bricks? POTATOES! I’m pretty excited! I love potatoes!!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Clearly I’ve ruined what would have been a great surprise. Sorry. Maybe it’s not for potatoes! Maybe he’s building … a straw bench. ~ karen

  9. calliek says:

    I’ve tried the garbage pail method for 3 years now and still haven’t seen any damn potatoes. Okay that’s a lie, 2 years ago I got three the size of a loonie. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong- I get lovely healthy plants, they flower, then die off and I get so excited to dump the bin and then, nada. I’m going to give it one last shot this year because I refuse to be defeated by potatoes.

  10. Jessica says:

    I am so excited for potatoes! I just planted some blue potatoes two weeks ago and they have started putting some real leaves out. This is my first foray into potato gardening so I will be anxiously awaiting your results! Thanks!

  11. Jamiek says:

    Ah ha, that’s what those baskets were for!! I like your idea of the baskets. I’ve grown them in new metal garbage cans before but the baskets are much nicer looking!

  12. Maria says:

    Great post! Tatties are so easy to plant there’s no reason not to! We do ours in a pile of old mulch hay. Not pretty but effective. I like your contained/organized looking version…

  13. Karol says:

    Everyday, I thank God for people who love to grow things for me to eat. I’m very resourceful at making crafts, I can do it all day long, but I wouldn’t want to have to grow my own food. Could I? Yes, of course, but would I? Nope. I drive my butt to the grocery store or better yet, to a restaurant where someone else has done all the work. So, thank you gardeners and farmers everywhere! And thank you for the tutorials describing the process of growing food to make me even more grateful that I don’t have to.

  14. Kim Merry says:

    I am trying this for the first time this year. I planted on St. Patricks day and they are doing great! I used an old metal trash can that had a rusted out bottom and a heavy leaf bag. I can’t wait to see how many potatoes I get with them!

  15. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Man, I love you! Making me laugh and teaching me stuff — two of my favorite things! I know how much you love potato chips so after these babies are ready for picking, you have to try making the microwave potato chips (if you haven’t already). Delicious and super duper easy. You’ll just have to figure out how to get that dill pickle flavor in there.

  16. marilyn says:

    my husbands elderly bachelor uncles were farmers, mainly potatoes ( actually they say podadas)and my husbands cousin planted podadas on their graves the year they died. we used to go up when they were harvesting and follow the tractor and pick up all the mini podadas and boil them up, slather them with butter salt and pepper and dig we pay a fortune for mini potatoes..go figure.i love podadas!

  17. Traci says:

    How cool! I’m going to give this a try…we have a VERY small garden in the front yard that is going crazy with growth. I didn’t think we had room for potatoes but we do with this method! How do you keep squirrels out? They dug up my sunflower seeds in no time flat!

    • Karen says:

      Traci – I haven’t had trouble with squirrels yet, but if I did, I’d just put chicken wire or hardware cloth over the basket. ~ karen!

  18. Have you seen the one on Pinterest “How to Grow 110lbs of potatoes in 4 square feet?” I blogged about it here
    You better try that one too! I like the straw in a bushel basket idea…I’m curious to see how that works out as well! wendy

  19. magali says:

    In university I took a three week class in East End Saskatchewan. One night, our entire group went to the bar. We ended up finishing their beer on tap and the next day the entire town was talking about us. Our arrival must have been the event of the summer!

  20. The Fella's Dad says:

    Why would anybody want to eat blue potatoes? I don’t understand it. There is only one blue food, blueberries.

    • Karen says:

      It would appear as though you’ve been proven wrong. Let the debates begin. ~ karen

      • Nancy Blue Moon says:

        So Fellas Dad..what are the 4 true potatoes???

      • The Fella's Dad says:

        Fries, mashed, scalloped and boiled. Homefries, but only for breakfast. None blue.Blue potatoes are not a food. They are a mistake of nature. Do not eat them.

      • Nancy Blue Moon says:

        What about don’t like baked?? How can you not have baked potato with a nice grilled (sorry..BBQed) t-bone steak?? That’s just not right!! If I said that in public here in the good old US of A I would be locked up for being UN-patriotic!! And what about you potato chips?? You didn’t protest this..This man is obviously a barbarian!!! (giggle)

    • Erin says:

      I have a friend who likes to take blue potato potato salad to any summer BBQs or potlucks- just to get a reaction!

      Our family especially likes them grilled with garlic and rosemary. They’re also a fun addition to vegetable soup.

  21. Gayla T says:

    Oh,my! I’m so glad the fella decided to pass on my kind offer to leave you for a Sr citizen who is too tired for sex. I’m not sure what he based his decision on but if he pitches hissy fits we would not have worked out. I lived with a crazy Irishman for 30+ years and now that he’s planted I don’t think I’d want to do that again. However, I do admire people who can multi-task and that town sounds like it was full of them. Was every building in town required to house several businesses? I don’t think I could go anywhere w/o my purse. I even took it to jail with me. They had to take out everything in it and list it so I couldn’t say something had disappeared while in their custody. They did the best they could but finally gave in to hystericl laughter when they got to the purse size fly swatter. They actually had to staple on an extra sheet of paper to list it all. But it just goes to show you never have too many emergency supplies with you. How would you like to be shut up in the hoosgow w/out a fly swatter? To tell the truth they didn’t let me keep it because it could be considered a deadly weapon due to the weight. I’ll have to tell you all about my short life of crime another time but just let it be said it does not pay to call a police officer a stupid son of a bitch when he tells you a mentally retarded adult doesn’t need anyone to tell her what she can do when she has loaded her wheel chair into a semi at a truck stop when she has known the guy for only a few minutes. Granted, I was not her legal guardian but that person had left me in charge while they were on their honeymoon in Aruba. Getting back on topic….will you do a tutorial on how to plate blue mashed potatoes attractively? I hope you have better luck w/your potatoes than I am. I had half a bag of tiny gold potatoes left and they had all sprouted nicely so I put them in potting soil in a really big pot. It was probably early March and I had it in my glassed in porch where I wintered over the pots for my front porch but they all rotted. I ended up with a big old pot of compost. If you use only 6 inches of potting soil do you have to fertilize them along? Speaking of potatoes, the only thing in my mixed planters that didn’t do well were my ornamental potato vines. They were those pretty chartruse ones and I would have thought they would have done great like everything else did. Not

    • Karen says:

      Gayla – I ‘m not sure what happened with the sweet potato vines. They’re usually pretty vigorous. Did you call them a stupid son of a bitch? ~ karen

  22. Jan says:

    I’m going to try this! Last year, I grew decorative sweet potato vines and had no idea they would actually produce purple potatoes! While the potatoes are actually edible, the general consensus seems to be that they taste terrible. But they were very pretty. I displayed them inside for a bit.

  23. Judith says:

    So funny – We’re doing almost this exact thing but on a larger scale. We have a big weedy patch and are growing our potatoes there, covered with straw, to suffocate the weeds. The advice we got was to just plunk those suckers right down on the ground and cover them with the straw. Looking forward to seeing how well it goes!

  24. Tricia Rose says:

    How do you know all this stuff Karen?

  25. Oh my word……”holy shit….Mr. City” had me laughing immediately. Girl, you need to do stand up comedy!

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