Thursday, April 25, 2013

Potato Towers


The last 2 years, our potato crops have been a flop.  They would develop lovely green leaves, but when we dug them up, we would barely harvest what we planted.  I do believe that most of the blame rests with me and my lack of care and maybe a bit of poor soil, but those 2 poor crops were just the motivation I needed to try some potato towers (if you're looking for a great article that discusses 7 different methods for growing potatoes go here).

Potato towers have the advantage of growing potatoes in a small space (instead of letting the plants sprawl) and as the potatoes grow up, there is more space for tubers to form.  You can build towers in many different ways (tires, reclaimed wood, fencing, etc).  We chose to re-purpose some items from around the yard (hence the chicken wire).


To start, find some good quality seed potatoes and cut them into sections so there is at least one eye on each piece.  Let these pieces sit out for a day before planting them.

Next, build your tower.  I found so many varying sets of instruction for building towers, but we opted to add about 6 inches of composty-soil to the bottom of each tower, place the potatoes inside the tower.  By lining the edges of the tower with hay, we were able to cover the potatoes with about a foot of hay and soil mixed together.  It's important as the potatoes grow to keep them covered or you will get green, poisonous potatoes.  Because the tower is more exposed to the air, keep it well watered throughout the growing season.







In addition to our chicken wire potato tower, we also created a special potato section of our straw bale castle.  This potato space uses the same method as the tower, only is in the center of 4 bales of straw.  As the potatoes grow, we'll add more hay and dirt to cover them.  I'm thinking it will require less watering, but I'm curious to see what method produces the most potatoes.





Which method do you think will work better (the tower or the center of the hay bales)?

Have you used potato towers before?

Check out other posts about growing potatoes and share some of you own in the links below.

*** A little update from this post.  The potatoes inside the hay did the best.  If I were to make the towers again I would make them a bit bigger so they didn't dry out quite so much.  The hay bales were easier to manage and since we used both the area inside for the potatoes and on top of the bales for planting it was a win win.


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19 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. We are growing potatoes for the first time this year & I still haven't settled on the method I want to use. (I really need to do something about that; it's high time I got them planted...) I'm looking forward to seeing what ideas are linked. (I'm loving the pallet tower. We have a neighbor who regularly puts pallets out for the trash; I think I may ask him if we can have some & try this way because it would be free!) xo

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    1. I think next year I may try several methods side by side to see which works best for me!

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  2. This is our third year growing potatoes. The first year was on a whim when I found a ten pound bag of potatoes from the grocery store that had been forgotten and started to sprout. We put then in a prepared garden bed and as they grew we just added more dirt and leaves on top of them. We got about 30lbs of potatoes that year. Last year I bought seed potatoes and tried to plant them in straw on the ground and then just hill them up. It was an epic fail. This year we put the seed potatoes in a raised bed and they are growing great. My husband and son added some green plastic fencing around the bed so I can continue to add soil and leaves. It will be interesting to see how much gets harvested.

    I don't know if you know but potatoes like slightly acidic soil so if you have oak leaves or pine needles those would be great additions.

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    1. Great idea with the pine needles - we have lots of those in the woods, looks like I'm sending the kids out for some collecting tomorrow. We grew them in a raised bed last year, but didn't heap them up enough. Good Luck!

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  3. I'm trying the "bag method". So far the plants seem to be happy. Of course the proof of the method will come at the end of the potato growing season. We also have some volunteer potatoes growing in our compost! It's a race to see which one does better!

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    1. Love that - I'm 'rooting' for the compost potatoes!

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  4. I have been thinking about growing potatoes. I have a whole bag of seed potatoes and after reading this post I feel encouraged to give it a try! Thanks for sharing the many methods for growing them.

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    1. Hope one of the methods works - let me know which you choose!

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  5. We're trying the potato tower method this year. We've got two towers planted, but only one has green foliage sprouted out of the side so far. How long should it take for the potato foliage to poke out the sides of the tower?

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    1. I'm not sure - it's odd that one has growth and the other doesn't - did you do anything different? We planted a few weeks ago and still don't have anything, but it's been cold so I'm expecting something everyday.

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  6. How neat! We've never tried potatoes, but I do want to give it a go. I wanted to do it this year, but just didn't get around to it. I'll remember this post for when we do try them out!

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  7. Wow, the idea of planting the potatoes in the straw bale enclosure is genius! I am definitely going to try this method. Thanks for the wonderful idea!

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    1. So glad Jamie! Let me know how yours ends up.

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  8. We were just talking about growing potatoes in a barrel with some friends who have done it they say it works great.
    Have my fingers crossed. Thanks for the additional ideas!

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  9. Well, I've already planted our potatoes, but I'm fascinated with these two different methods. I can't wait to see what happens! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. My plan is also a potato tower. I tried planting them in the orchard and though the tops looked great there were no potatoes below.

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  11. I have struggled with potatoes too. I grew just a few this year, to try again and only one so far has sprouted. :( Maybe this is something we should try. Thank you Gretchen for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop!
    Look forward to seeing you again tomorrow:
    http://blackfoxhomestead.com/the-homeacre-hop/

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  12. I planted two trash cans in potatoes this year. In one, I just put the whole seed potatoe in soil and the other, I put the cut/scab potatoes in. Both grew really well. I harvested one can shortly after the plant began to lay over. It had an OK yeild, but I did note many, many tiny potatoes in the mix. I'm wondering if anyone has constructed a tower with a trap door to make harvesting mature potatoes easier and allow time for the little ones to continue growing?

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  13. Is there an update to how these methods did?

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