• Potato Tower Promise

    by  • March 16, 2010 • Gardening & Pets • 10 Comments

    The premise:

    Plant 1 pound of seed potatos in a potato tower (described below) and nearly a hundred pounds of potatos will fall at your feet at harvest time.  The premise is that each time you load up the tower with more soil, potatos send out more baby tubers that then grow into full size potatos.

    tubers starting

    The experience:

    We planted a potato tower in mid summer 2009 with two pounds of mixed seed potatos gifted by a coworker of Alex and store bought red potatos.

    The result:

    We harvested about five pounds of tiny potatos.  My faith in the space saving potato tower was low.

    The promise:

    At the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Assocation annual conference, I shared my not-so-awe-inspiring experience.  A few people in the crowd had success with the potato tower because they started earlier in the season and allowed more growth between soil coverings.  My interest was renewed.

    The plan:

    This year, we will start our potato tower as soon as the potatos from our group buy arrive and sprout.  I am expecting them this week.

    Our tower is a 2 x 2 foot box with 4 feet of 2×4 inch lumber vertical supports.  2x8s form the sides.  I have seen plans for potato towers made from stacked rubber tires or five gallon buckets slices too.  The basic concept is to use something to contain the soil vertically.

    We will space a pound or two of a single variety of seed potatos right on the top of the soil.  Store bought potatos sometimes produce but not always, so buying seed potatos is the way to go for a generous harvest.  If you didn’t order with the group buy, you can find a small variety of seed potatos at most garden centers.

    We will cover them with 4 or 5 inches of soil mixed with compost and some hay.

    When the plants are 8 inches above the height of the 2×8 side, we will add the second row of side panels and cover with 6 more inches of dirt, always leaving at least 6 inches of plant growth.

    We will add soil at least one more time.

    checking whether anything is growing

    When the leaves of the plant begin to yellow, we will remove the sides and mountains of potatos will fall at our feet.  That’s the plan, anyways.

    Rob from One Straw: Be the Change has a nice summary of his experience with the potato tower.  His yield with the tower was similar to mine and he was not impressed.

    Rob suggests two other space saving techniques: growing potatos in buckets and in a straw bale.  Seeing as we have one of each of those already, we will try those two methods and stick some seed potatos in a raised bed for a solid comparison of potato growing techniques.  Stay tuned for updates on the great 2010 potato growing showdown.

    How do you plan to grow potatos this year?

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. I often wear purple and never refuse a drink.


    10 Responses to Potato Tower Promise

    1. March 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

      Hmm. I guess it’s the weekend to get my potato plans together. I’m thinking one tower for each variety (I opted to purchase some of each you offered), or do you think that’s overkill and I should combine varieties?
      .-= Kate´s last blog ..Almost spring. =-.

    2. March 16, 2010 at 11:14 am

      bookmarking this!
      .-= jenny mae´s last blog ..life insurance =-.

    3. March 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      Hmmm, I’m with Kate, should they be in different towers? Interested in trying this!

    4. March 16, 2010 at 7:32 pm

      I have a potato bucket so I can have them on my back patio.
      .-= Amber´s last blog ..One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson =-.

    5. March 16, 2010 at 8:16 pm

      My reading and experience suggests that varieties should be planted in individual towers. The reasoning is that each variety will mature at different rates. You want to cover with more soil when the plants are 8 – 10 inches above the soil line but multiple varieties in the container might not be at the same height at the same time.

    6. Joe
      March 31, 2010 at 6:33 am

      Very cool! I built one last night & blogged about it – pretty easy to do, even if you’re not very handy like me.
      I think you may have the bin upside down though. I think the legs are supposed to be buried in ground to keep the bin in place.
      Good move using seed potatoes, as store bought potatoes are often treated to keep them from sprouting.
      .-= Joe´s last blog ..100 POUNDS OF POTATOES IN 4 SQUARE FEET! (We’ll see.) =-.

    7. Michael
      February 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      I have been researching the potato tower idea and have noticed that ALL of the folks who have tried it have been disappointed with the yield. The idea is that the plants will root and make potatoes on any part of the stalk that is underground. This is simply not true. I don’t know where the rumor started, but the truth is that the vine will root anywhere it touches soil, but it will only make feeder roots. The tubers are ONLY made at the bottom of the plant. There is one person on You Tube with the right idea. His ID is “CrazyFishFarmer” or something like that. He uses tires (not organic IMHO), but he builds his tower completely and full of dirt, with cut-outs in the sides of the tires. Then he plants potatoes in every cutout so the greenery can grow outside, but leaving the root inside. This is how people get 50 pounds per tower. You could also make 8″ wide bands of sheet metal; each about 4″ smaller in diameter than the last; stack them and plant the roots around the edges of each level. Sort of like a round pyramid. Bottom line, no potato makes more than 1:10 ratio of seed weight vs yield weight. If you plant one pound of seed potatos, you will get only 10 lbs of tubers at BEST. The plants can only make so much, no matter how they are grown.

      • joe kehoe
        March 7, 2015 at 11:51 am

        So you are right and EVERYONE ELSE is wrong. Gotcha

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