Last fall I came across this idea for a way to grow lots of potatoes in a very small space. This year I’m trying it in my yard. I made a couple of improvements on Stefan’s design, after eavesdropping (so to speak) on a conversation on his Facebook page. Without further ado, here’s how I did it:
1. Bend some steel fencing into a 36-inch diameter circle and fasten. Ours is nearly 5 ft. tall, but it does NOT need to be… 3-4 feet tall would be plenty.
2. Make a nest of straw in the bottom, and fill it with a 50-50 mixture of compost and old leaves. Nestle 5-7 seed potatoes, with eyes pointing to the outside, all the way around the circle.
3. Get a soaker hose in there, too. Continue layering up: straw, compost/leaves, seed potatoes, soaker hose, repeat until you run out of seed potatoes. Put a final topping of compost and straw on top, and you’re done. Here’s another view:
Here’s the completed potato tower:
It needs to be in a sunny location. Stefan of Growing Lots claims that people have gotten upwards of 25 lbs of potatoes from 5 lbs of seed potatoes in towers like these. The two main changes that we made from his design are putting in the layers of straw, adding the dry leaves, and the soaker hose. He pointed out that it’s really difficult to water the lowest layers, without it.
And here’s what it looked like about 3 weeks later (about a week ago). The plants are even bigger now. There aren’t quite as many sticking out of the bottom as I would have thought, but it seems like the majority of the seed potatoes sprouted. Now we wait!
June 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm
my mom is doing one too.
June 16, 2011 at 6:37 am
I wish I saw this a week ago. Instead I used up a lot of space planting in rows. Space that could have been used for something else. Thanks for sharing.
June 16, 2011 at 9:52 am
Don’t feel too bad: this is the first time I’ve tried it so I don’t know how successful it will be. I’ll be sure to report how things go come harvest time in August or September!
March 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm
Reblogged this on Shopping in my basement and commented:
We’ve been talking about doing a potato tower, but have been a bit imitated by the building thereof. This seems to be a much more optimal design!
March 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm
Hi there! Well, I have to be honest with you: I will probably not do a potato tower this year. We were really disappointed with it in the end — we planted 5 lbs of seed potatoes and harvested…. 5 lbs of potatoes. So it was a total wash (and those seed potatoes were not cheap, either).
I still think it can be done though, and if I were to do it again I’d aim for 6-8 inches of garden soil mixed with compost between each layer of potatoes. Forget the leaves– they clump up into a dry, airless mass that no potato root or water can penetrate.
I will do it again someday, but not 2012 — our plans are ambitious enough as they are! I’m focusing on my stock tanks/hoop house for this year. Maybe in 2013 the potato tower will make a glorious return. Let me know how yours goes!
July 11, 2012 at 1:54 am
I followed the same directions you did and have a question for you. If new potatoes form along the stems, how do you cover your potato stems with this method?
July 11, 2012 at 10:21 am
Well, you kinda… don’t. That may be one reason why I got such a low yield from this system last year. The potatoe stems that grow vertically out the top could have some soil hilled around them, though. In hindsight I wish I would have done that! Add that to my list of changes to make to this design if I ever do it again. I’ve also added a link in the post to my “results” post — the day we harvested our potato bin last fall:
July 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm
I’m considering making a second tube of hardware cloth to wrap around it and just stuffing it with straw.
July 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm
Would you please let me know how that goes? I sincerely want to try this again sometime, but I want to get it right the 2nd time!
July 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm
I will. We are having really cold weather this summer so the stems aren’t quite long enough to cover again but they should be in a week or so. The other issue I have is that you can’t “rob” the potatoes early, but maybe I should have planted some in the ground just for that. I did make sure to plant a variety that does well in towers, so we’ll see what happens. 🙂
March 3, 2013 at 9:44 am
I have never had success with straw and potatoes. I always end up with pieces of straw penetrating the potato which cuts storage time to about zero. I just use soil dug from under the trees behind our house, they grow great! We get 30 or 40 pounds out of 5 pounds of seed potatoes.
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