How to Build a Potato Tower

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Yesterday, Peanut the Easter Egger Chicken helped me build a potato tower.  This was the first tower I had ever built and I needed all the help I could get.  Since I’m trying to grow 2,000 lbs of fresh fruits and vegetables in my backyard this summer, I figured I should grow a few potatoes.  If all goes as planned I should end up with a few hundred pounds of spuds between the towers I built and the ones I planted a few weeks ago.007The tower construction itself is rather simple.  I used a 4′ x 4′ piece of coated {no rust} recycled chicken wire and bent the edges of the wire inward to secure the two ends together. {You can click on any of these pictures if you would like to enlarge them}.021I then placed a handful of sprouting red potatoes over the dirt.0802Then came the fun part.  Next I covered the potatoes in about 4″ of straw and swept the straw to the sides of the tower.105After sweeping the straw to the sides, I placed 3″ of rich, composted soil over the top of the potatoes.  As soon as potato leaves appear I will cover them with more soil and straw.  I’ve read online about people planting their potato towers completely in straw, but it makes me nervous.  I think they need dirt. So this time around I will use straw on the outside {to hold the dirt in}.  If all goes well, then next year I’ll try the all straw method.0951Yesterday I was able to complete 3 towers.  I plan on heading outside to build 2 more today, and then all my potatoes will be planted.

Do you think this is going to work?  Have you ever tried growing potatoes in a unconventional way?

UPDATE – This is what the potato towers look like 6 weeks after I planted them.

In this picture you can see that I added more straw to the front tower.  I also added more soil and 4 more seed potatoes.  At this point everything is going great and I will update this post in a few more weeks.

Update: I grew potatoes again the following year and you can see the results HERE.

Amazon: The Complete Book of Potatoes: What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know

Amazon: Seed Potatoes

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Comments

  1. Heather S. says:

    I hope it works! It’s a great way to utilize space going up instead of spreading around – and although it looks like you have a huge backyard, with so much planting, it’s probably a good idea to start planting up :) How’s the pallet herb thing going?

    • Very good! I’ll be sharing that soon. :)

      • Shawn W. says:

        just saw your potatoe towers really cool idea can you use that for growing anything else or only potaoes? Just starting to get into this and don’t have any experience with the whole gardening thing. Now that I have added you to my favs list I wil coming back to see what other cool things you got going on. Keep it!!

        • Well, I also planted an old steel drum with potatoes, carrots and a tomato plant and it’s doing really well. I’ll try and post a picture soon.

  2. I have grown potatoes in old tires by adding more dirt and another tire as the plants grew. I was planning on topping them off with straw instead of soil this year to make harvesting easier but I like the looks of your towers much better than a heap of old tires!! I think I’ll make the switch….my hubby will be delighted!!

    • I’m excited to try this. I know harvesting will be a breeze, my neighbors probably think I’m nuts… LOL and it’s only just begun.

      • I got the brilliant idea of using straw in growing potatoes in N.Calif. from the Ruth Stout -No Work Gardening Book back in the 80′s. I actually had lots of garden space but hated the idea of having to hill the potatoes so I planted the potatoe seed shallow and as they grew I hilled with straw. Wow, it was awesome. If I wanted a few New Potatoes, I just seperated the straw, plucked what I needed, put the straw back and there you have it. When harvest time came, it was a breeze to pull the straw away and expose my clean potatoes. Now that I am in Arizona with a small garden, I still have planted in the garden bed as a patch and
        surrounded the potatoes with a chicken wire fence and again, hilled with straw. It works like a charm. I only barely cover the seed potatoes with soil, cover lightly with straw and then keep adding it as the plants grow.

        • I forgot to mention that you may get some seeds sprouting from the straw so you have the added benefit of green manure if you turn it into the soil before it has a chance to go to seed again.

      • I’m a couple years late on this post but with tires isn’t there a concern that the plastic and oils would leach into the soil? Can you give any more recent updates on this? How many pounds did you plant in each and harvest from each? Thanks!

    • Merianne Smith says:

      Deborah P.- you could always paint the tires what ever color you wanted. I saw a garden (as I was just driving by one day) that I had to turn around and go stop and see. They had the tire towers in their garden and they had painted them green and then painted large insects and stuff on them. I remember a lady bug and a dog. Couldn’t really see all of them but I thought it was a cute idea.

    • I love the idea of using old tires! As someone else said, they can be painted to look more attractive. But the main thing is that they hold in heat, a good thing for those of us who are coastal gardeners and don’t get a lot of warm days in the year.

      Also, a friend of mine just saved all the leaves from that fell from his trees, raked them into a big pile. He simply threw the potatoes into the pile of leaves, watered it “whenever I think of it”. Come harvest time, he pulls back the leaves and that is all there is to it.

      The decomposed leaves go into the compost pile and the rest of them serve as the bottom for the next planting time.

    • Be careful using tires they will leach,(so I’ve been told)

    • Tiffany (As For My House) says:

      I would be concerned about growing food in tires. They are a petroleum product, after all, and likely to leech / off-gas, aren’t they?

      • Scott Henley says:

        Can you simply line the tires with say a plastic to keep the tire from actually coming into contact with he plants?

    • I am really worried at all the comments of using old tires. The rubber heats up and leaches chemicals into the ground which are inadvertently soaked up by the plants. A better solution would be to take 2 x 3 posts and 1 x 6 lumber. Cut the lumber into 2 foot sections, nail these to the 2 x 3 posts, making a box. Plant your seed potatoes in the bottom of the box. Add dirt or straw as needed making sure to cover no more than 2/3 of the greenery. As the potatoes grow add another level of 1 x 6 lumber on each side of the posts. Consistent watering is a must. Please use seed potatoes or organic, as the amount of chemicals in our food is dangerous. Garden Cynde, Home Depot Garden Expert

  3. My mom has suggested I do this using a garbage can or recycling bin. I never had one to spare, so I haven’t tried it yet – this looks super easy, though! Can’t wait to see how it turns out for you. (And I may get out and do one this weekend also – we’re supposed to have sun again – woohoo!)

    • Bring on the sun! I think you should try it too, we could be twins. If you decide to do it send a picture!!

    • mildred lane says:

      I have tried growing potatoes in barrels twice w/ out success but think my water does not get to the bottom.So I plan to put a PVC pipe w/ holes cut up and down in the pipe or maybe an old water hose. But have not had time to do.

      • We use the PVC pipe method you mentioned in our small garden spaces. It has worked really well for us (we live in Virginia and sometimes need a deep watering that won’t evaporate), especially when we mulch with straw or grass clippings on top.

  4. This looks like a great idea. I’m just curious as to why this way instead of the “traditional” way? Is it strictly because of space? I am excited to see pictures of how this project progresses for you. I may have to try this next year. Thanks for the great post.

    • I already planted some in the ground. I wanted to try something new this year. I’m excited.

    • Why plant potato towers? Because as you add the layers, the green portion of the plant grows up and the newly covered part produces more roots and more potatoes. Because you are adding layers of soil, this soil is not as hard as the ground might be, therefore the potatoes will grow much easier. And yes, it does save space.

      • But it looks like the potatoes are growing out the side, not up, so it would not work,

        • jimiwiz says:

          This was my thought too. Deborah P above mentioned the tower method using old tires. I’ve read about that before, but this tower doesn’t seem to be doing the same thing. Mavis, how did this work for you last season? As we get closer to starting our garden in NY, I would love to know how this worked and if you would change anything.
          Thanks!

          • I did not have great success with this last year. I think it was to lack of keeping the potatoes watered enough though. I am trying it again this year and keeping the towers closer to the house so I can water them more. Good Luck. I hope this works for you.

        • Your supposed to wait until the potatoes are 6″ high then add 4″ of new compost or straw. So that there is always some green on the top.

          I like the idea of using the wire and an outer ring of potatoes growing out sides too. I have tried the tire method and found them heavy and prone to attract field mice that nest inside the rims and eat the new potatoes.

        • Climatewiz1 says:

          Evelyn: the potatoes grow under the soil…. only the leaves and stems protrude out for sunlight. Same as if you planted them directly in the soil!!!

        • Ive tried it both ways. The wire is the best. The plant will sens leaves out the sides, thats true, but it needs this for sunlight. The leaves you cover at the top will root and produce the potatoes. :)

  5. Hey Mavis,
    Where did you get your potatoes & what kind are they?

    • Hi Heidi,
      You can find seed potatoes at almost any local nursery, Home Depot or Lowes. Some of mine came from the feed store and some came from my pantry {we didn’t eat the potatoes in time and they started sprouting}.

      • Have you grown any from ones that sprouted from the grocery store? I have some that sprouted I would love to grow but have read they are sprayed not to grow. They are the organic kind. Although I have never grown potatoes. They are sprouted a good bit should I put them in the fridge a bit to slow down the growth. I would love help!!

    • when you peel your potatoes to cook, peel a bit deeper around at least 3 eyes that look like they might sprout and plant the peel. Or take the type/breed of potato you want to grow cut it up keeping the “at least 3 eyes” in mind and plant them. This may take a bit longer for the potatoes to grow, but it’s FREE.

  6. What a genius idea! You are just full of all sorts of awesome gardening information, Mavis. And your little Peanut….aww, what a cutie!

  7. They kinda look like nests, lol. Very cool idea though…

  8. I built a potato tower last week too. I couldnt find any straw so i used gardening cloth instead to hold the soil in. I hope it works.

  9. Helen in Meridian says:

    Mavis, why don’t you put a large sign out front that says Drop Off Your Old Tires Here, and really freak out your uptight neighbors. Congrats on your big win on the chat thing.

  10. Mountaineer says:

    In essence, by adding soil you are making plants with very long stems which will, if nutrients and water are plentiful, bud off many potatoes. Or, by encouraging the foliage to grow out the sides, do you at intervals add more seed potatoes?

    I suspect that drying out may be your biggest concern.

    I hope to hear of your results.

    • I don’t expect drying out to be a problem. This is Seattle. Ha Ha Ha. I hadn’t thought about adding more potatoes to the tower. I’ll have to think about that one.

  11. Hi Mavis! I am so glad someone posted ur blog site on the comments of the previous blog u contributed to…I was going to be SO sad if I had “lost” you. I use to think you lived in Eastern WA. I am so excited to see u are gardening in Seattle! A feat I thought was nearly impossible given the climate. I am from the midwest, grew up in horticulture, & bewildered on how to have a successful garden in the foothills of the Cascades. I look forward to reading your blog!!! thank you!

    • Hi Dayla! I’m glad you found me. I don’t know about you but I’m hoping for a warm summer. Must. Grow. Tomatoes. :)

  12. I love this idea! I have plenty of fencing, so it looks like I have a project for the weekend! Question though, do you continually put dirt on the potatoes everytime you see leaves? at what point do you stop with the dirt? When & How do you harvest?

    • Hi Cristy,
      This is the first time I have tried this method but yes, I plan on adding dirt over the leaves when they appear. I think I will try and get as close to the top as I can. :)

      • So is the idea that the potatoes will grow in the tower portion of the cage at all different levels? I have only grown potatoes in the ground, so this is totally confusing to me … Also, how do you recommend watering, just at the bottom level?

  13. You don’t have to buy “seed” potatoes. Just use store bought ones after they sprout in your cabinet after leaving them in there too long and forgetting to eat them.

    Also, the REASON why you do it this way instead of the traditional way is the higher the tower, THE MORE POTATOES YOU WILL BE GETTING. plain and simple.

    off to sprout some purples ooooo i’m so excited.

    • Yep – that’s right! You shouldn’t have to add any more seed potatoes, either. Whenever the leaves reach the top, you cover them with another layer of dirt, etc. until you reach the top. When the leaves are completely dead, the potatoes are ready to harvest. You just pull up the tower and let everything spill out – it makes harvesting easier, and you get more potatoes.

  14. Don’t believe the hype about “don’t ever use store bought potatoes to grow” that’s a bunch of hooo ha! I’ve been doing it for years. ESPECIALLY organic, you’re good to go.

    just cut a wedge where there’s a sprout and let it sit out for a day then KABLAM! you’re ready to grow.

  15. tires for gardening. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! can u say chemicals.

    never. or line them good.

    • I agree!! I was wondering when someone was going to mention that. Also, don’t use railroad ties. So many times I see my farmer neighbors with these two “hazzards” in their garden.

  16. Mavis…one question…do you plan on periodically harvesting? If so, how will you get through the sides? I bought soft containers from my garden center this year and they have harvest flaps on the sides. Also, “N,” so funny that you’d comment about buying seed potatoes. My husband were just deliberating this topic at 5:30 am over coffee today and I told him I’d research it. Literally every time a
    Question comes up in our “farming” endeavor, the answer is provided by someone or something that very day. Spooky! (and cool) :)

    • Nope. I don’t know if you can see it in the picture but I actually planted 5 or was it 6 potato towers on the side of the house. I also planted potatoes in an oak barrel and some directly in the ground. I suppose when I’m ready, I will probably just take the wire off and harvest the whole tower one at a time.

      However, if I had planted soft containers like you did I think I’d sneak a few baby potatoes out the side flaps as soon as they were ready. ;)

    • Lydia Hubbel says:

      I have turned my Purina Dog Chow (50 lb) bags inside out as grow bags, including for potatoes.

  17. Rhonda Hahn says:

    when do you do this?? i am in south texaS…. and it gets HOT HOT HOT here… is it tooo late for this year?? what if i put the cages in the shade???

    thanks!!

    • I live in Washington State so I’m not sure. I suppose you would plant a potato tower in your area right after the last frost date. I hope that helps. :)

    • I live in southern Cal. and gets hot here as well. I planted mine in the shade of an old Avocado tree. They did great!

  18. gardengirl says:

    I tried a similar method last summer here in BC. I just mounded up the straw as deep as I could as the potatoes grew. I had a HUGE infestation of slugs. I think they came in the straw, then multiplied in the constant damp. Maybe it would work better with drip irrigation ??? After a heavy rain the straw was saturated for days on end- slug haven!

    • That stinks. I placed a thin layer around the sides, just enough to hole the dirt in. I’m excited to see how it works.

    • Merianne Smith says:

      My mom used to throw a beer party for the slugs in our garden every year. We didn’t drink alcohol so it was always weird when she did it. The slugs in Southern Idaho prefer Budwieser in the bottle but you’ll have to figure out what brand works best for your area. She’d take a pie tin and put it into a depression in the ground then heaped and packed the dirt in close to the lip of the tin. Then she’d pour about an inch or so of beer into the tin. The next morning, she’d dump out the tin full of drowned slugs and fill it up again. We had a large garden and she used 4-6 tins (depending on how bad the slugs were that year). One large bottle of beer usually did the trick, though one year she actually had to buy a second bottle. I have no idea where she emptied the tin of dead slugs at- into the garbage, onto the ground, gave them to an animal, put in the compost? Sure took care of the slugs though.

  19. Matthew W. says:

    I just made a couple variations of this idea just a few months ago. One with alternating layers of potatoes and compost and other with just straw. One is growing fine. The other is just a tower of straw. So in my experience – or just bad luck – the straw only tower doesn’t work.

  20. country girl says:

    I planted potato towers this year. I used some old fencing and layered straw then dirt then potatoes and did 3 layers in each tower then planted lettuce on the top. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work or not but I have potatoes sprouting out everywhere. So far so good.

  21. How tall are your actual towers and how high do you plan to fill them? Mine are easily five feet tall, and they’re rather difficult to get into to add more soil/straw.

  22. daymon hubbard says:

    Looks like a great idea! I agree, no dirt seems bazaar to me….they need that soil one would think. Does the potatoe in a bag method work well?

  23. “This is the first time I have tried this method but yes, I plan on adding dirt over the leaves when they appear. I think I will try and get as close to the top as I can…
    Mine are 4 feet tall and I plan on filling them with straw and soil all the way to the top.”

    Hey Mavis,
    Never planted potatoes and am really interested in this method you’re using. Trying to understand the concept, will you be adding more potatoes in the soil layers? Thank you!

    • Yes. I have added another layer of soil and a few more seed potatoes to each tower. I did a follow up post on it. I’ll go back and add the link tothis post so you can see what the tower looks like now.

  24. Great way to grow potatoes, I will have to try this next year, this year I’m trying buckets but I expect the yield will be smaller…

  25. Hi Mavis (and anyone/everyone else willing to lend advice)

    This year is my first run at growing taters am trying a similar grow in 30 gallon trash cans. I planted early April and already have plants busting out over the top. For some reason I thought it would take well into the summer for this to happen. I’m wondering if I did something wrong? The advice I got before starting was to add 4-6 inches of dirt/compost when the plants got to be about 8-12 inches tall. When you add your dirt, do you completely cover the sprouting plants or just partially up the stocks? Thanks thanks thanks!

    • I try and cover most of the greenery as I can. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, I don’t know, but it seems to work for me. I always thought you were suppose to cover all the greenery. :)

      • Roger that! I think I’ll start another tower with your method & see what fancy magic happens =) Thanks for the reply Ms Lady!

        I didn’t mention in my earlier post but we *love*love*love* your blog at our house! My hubby is currently trying to work up the nerve to go talk the guy at our local produce stand out of his “chicken scraps” haha Thanks again & have a fantastic afternoon!

      • mary ann pratt says:

        some of the leaves must show so that the plant can obtain sunshine and produce chlorophyll via photosynthesis..only cover a portion of the new growth..A good resource is Backwoods Home Magazine…

  26. Why don’t you try just one tower with the all straw method and see what happens, you will have a test for next yr and this yr your production won’t be affected.

  27. I’m so excited! I love finding new ways to grow potatoes. I’m trying something new this year as well, potatoes in a 55gal barrel. I have 5″ of dirt and then sawdust. I cover with sawdust every 8″ of growth. No weeds and no need to water because the sawdust retains enough of Wa’s abundant rain. I will be following your tater progress for sure! I am curious to know how you plan to store them. We have a cold room but this year we’ll have quite a lot and I’ve been researching more space efficient methods. I’m thinking milk crates…

    • Jessica kiefer says:

      My grandmother always stored her potatoes in homemade sacks…..how u say??? Burlap “2.99 a yard” at my local fabric store and I got 8 yards for a dollar at a yard sale…..make a large sack with a drawstring top…..like the old horse feed etc. sacks of the 1950′s….they last forever…..Fill the sack with taters and hang it from the ceiling in your pantry or where ever you can…..I hang mine in our third garage….it’s dark and dry in there…..I store all my staple veggies this way…I grow alot….”I’ve got BOYS!!!” lol Onions and garlic too….I make sacks of all sizes….Now days burlap comes in colors!!! I’m a “natural fiber” liking person so dye near my food makes me shiver….But my mom likes the red burlap. Another way to make the sacks is to go to yard sales and buy old linen doilies or table cloths and sew them together….they are the cutest things!!! AND they hold up great…..Do the drawstring with ribbon…good quality….again, .99 cents a yard here in Mississippi…..I hope this gives u an idea or two….I’ve been growing my potatoes in barrels….I cut a door close to the bottom to harvest easily….I’m going to try the fence method along with my tried success this year….It looks better than my bright blue barrels!!! lol

  28. Debbie Rioux says:

    So glad to find you. I have potatoes growing in a plastic garbage can. It has holes in the sides and the bottom from a failed composting bin try. I put potatoes in over dirt and kept layering up to the top. They are growing a lot looks like a big bush on the top.

  29. This is such a great idea! i live in the ‘burbs of tacoma area, and i have had my garden for almost four years now. every year adding/moving/redoing or just trying something new in my garden. this year i also started a potato tower, and so far its doing awesome. =) right now it looks like the one tower in your picture that is closest to the camera ( out of the three). i wonder if i should clip the growth coming out the side to promote vertical growth? or maybe i should just let it grow?

    • Ohhh good question. Maybe I should go out and trim one of the towers and see what happens this fall when we harvest the potatoes.

      • Carla D'Anna says:

        I’d think you need to some green leaves for photosynthesis and since you are covering the ones inside the barrel as often as possible to encourage tuber growth the ones outside the barrel can make the food to feed that growth…so my vote is do not trim any leaves and don’t cover ALL the leaves inside, only about halfway up them at any one point in time.

  30. oh! I did the same thing this year! I already had a tone of that fencing and hated to throw it away and saw someone else post a tower out of chicken wire and hay. I didn’t have either, so I used the green fencing like yours, was too lazy to go get straw, so while sitting in Home Depot I thought BURLAP! So I bought a roll of burlap, lined the towers planted about 4 or 5 sections deep of different potatos, and before I knew it the plants busted through the burlap! The plants are HUGE! I”m going to add more dirt to the top since I have more space and force the top layer to make more ‘taters!

  31. How do you keep it watered all the way through?

  32. So have you started harvesting any potatoes yet? If you planted them in April you probably have some good-sized spuds by now.

  33. Mavis can ya tell me how and when to harvest

    • Hi Mary,
      Your potato stalks will flower, then turn yellow, and die back. That is when you harvest them. :)

  34. Do they ever just NOT flower? Mine have been in since March. BeaUtiful plants until a few weeks ago..starting to die off now. ??

  35. I built on back in April that looks just like yours. The plants took a little while to sprout thru the compost, but then after about 2 weeks just took off like crazy. I’m doing the straw only method and just douse it with the water hose every 3 or 4 days. The plants are not completely growing over the top of the 4 foot wire bin! It’s exciting, isn’t it? lol I can hardly wait to tip the whole thing over and see what’s happened in there. I only planted one as we don’t have a root cellar. We live on bedrock. boo! Any idea how to store these as I’d love to have several bins next year.

    • My friend Mr. H stores his in his basement which is in a cool dark place. He spreads them out so they are not touching each other.Hope that helps. :)

    • If you don’t have a root cellar you could always can your taters. I use my canned ones to make mashed spuds all the time, hubby kloves it couse it takes a lot less time to cook. :)

  36. Carla D'Anna says:

    I’ve read that the early harvest potatoes produce more in towers than the late harvest (long term storage) ones. I’ll be interested if that is true for you (if you know what type you have).

    The added layers of additional seed potatoes should take care of that issue though.

    I really like the idea of letting some branches grow out the straw sides and multiple layers of seed potatoes. I wonder how far inward one needs to plant them to maximize tuber growth.

    I think I will experiment with this method next year. I’ve grown in the ground up to now and that is harder work than I care to do any more.

  37. I used empty chicken feed bags this year and it worked great! Be sure to poke a few holes in the bottom of the bags for drainage. The advantage to this is that the plants grow straight up, making potatoes grow all along the stem as you fill the bag. I started this in my greenhouse early in the season and moved the (by this time half-filled) bags outside when the weather warmed up. I will definitely be doing this again next year!

  38. I saw on a post some place where they grew potatos in garbage bags or just opened up the compost bag and planted in that as well.
    I think hubby planted some potatos but they did not do to well with the water shortage we are having this summer. They are having us not use our water as much or on certain days depending on where u live.

  39. Just wondering how the towers turned out after a season of use. Good sized potatoes? No other unforeseen issues? Did you have any towers where you didn’t add more seed potatoes? If so how did those compare to the seed potatoes added every soil level?

  40. Patty Knight says:

    I live in Idaho, so we have no shortage of potatoes here! We do grow reds in our garden though. Nice to have a little variety! I love the idea of the towers because of space. We have a small garden and we pack it full! I am very interested in your harvest. We usually get 50 -75 lbs out of 5 rows about 6 feet long. Very interesting blog!

  41. george taylor says:

    We have a vitamix blender and 3 weeks ago I started taking the scraps of veggies left over from our salads and our juicing and running it through the blender and then putting the liquid on top of our herbs like the culantro (recao) and the cilantro. Am thinking of sharing this ‘cold composting’ with the other plants also.

    Have you heard of doing this? Maybe on the potato towers? we live in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area … so our gardening time is JUST beginning.. We have such humidity and heat down here … :)

  42. Like the Spud tower and ready to get going on alarge varied vegtable garden. Do I plant the potatoes in Full sun or shade. I get a lot of full sun in Kaanapali, Maui.

    Thanks and Aloha,

    C

  43. Very interesting blog. I actually did a tower this spring and just harvested the potatoes yesterday. I did some different things however. Last fall I collected leaves that my neighbors set out in the large recyle bags. I expermented to see if they would decompose in the bag over winter and was surprised that they did not! I only saved 5 bags. I had read on another site about growing a potatoe tower in a 4 ft x 4 ft x ft (cube) using recyled wood pallets that are free. I planted my spuds flat on the ground, then applied 6 inches of rich compost on top. when the plants grew about a foot high, I added about 5 inches of leaves, leaving 7 inches of green. I waited a few days until the green tops grew another 5 inches, then applied an additional 5 inches of leaves, and kept adding backfilled leaves throughout the season. The whole idea was that you could grow 100 lbs of potatoes in a 4 x 4 ft cube. I ran out of leaves when cube grew to 3 ft high. The idea was that the plant would continuly grow and potatoe tubers would keep forming. Note: as the plant kept growing, I kept adding 4 inch boards holding the new backfill of leaves. Also I would spray a little water on top as I would water the garden. Living in Southern Michigan, leaves us with only a limited growing season (120 days) I was able to harvest only about 20 lbs of potatoes, but only used $ 1.20 worth of seed potatoes. No other expense as the wood pallets and leaves collected were free. Next year I plan to start a little earlier in the season, proably around May and use the 20 bags of leaves that I have collected. I will still use my $ 1.20 worth of seed potatoes, and I bet I get closer to the 100 lbs of potatoes in the 4 x 4 cube.

    • Iowa gardener says:

      I like the idea of the potato cube. This might be a cool way to keep potato plants confined. The HUGE plus I see here—- No more sunburned potatoes. I always mound soil over my plants, and in a hot Iowa summer, they still can burn.
      Thanks for a cool idea.

    • I tried to grow the 4×4 tower too last summer, but didn’t get one potato out of it, I even put a lattice front on it so that I could just remove it and let all the taters spill out on a tarp. But sadly, no one tater came out of that dirt. I never did see the plants flower; we were gone 3 weeks on vacation and I had hoped that they had flowered then, but nope nada tater. Planted the tots back in the raised garden this year, but I’m thinking of putting cages on top now and loading them as the pots grow. Thanks for the suggestions.

  44. Iowa gardener says:

    I have tried planting taters in a tomato cage full of straw only. I put out six cages each with one seed potato per cage. I harvested one huge russet from each cage and nothing else. Watering was a constant as the straw does nothing but drain water. I feel soil is a must. The straw does keep the potatoes from sunburning.
    In regards to using sprouted potatoes from your pantry, use caution: sometimes they do not produce. A local green thumb told me that store bought potatoes are often sprayed with chemicals that prevent re-growth. Another person told me that pantry potatoes should be no older than second generation. This was also to include the commercial grower’s second year seed stock.
    One last thing- How do I keep the grubs out of my organic potatoes. I generally plant 120 to 200 hills per year and the grubs sure can ruin my harvest.
    Thank you

    • Donna Lewis says:

      Try Diatomaceus Earth! Just sprinkle it around your tower.Slugs & ants won’t cross it.

      • Iowa gardener says:

        Just sprinkle it? That sounds easy enough!
        Also, how can I keep the pests away from my underground potatoes?
        I appreciate the help!!
        thank you

    • I used milky spore last season and I haven’t seen any grub at all this year. It is organic and it can last for at least ten years after applying it. It is a little pricey but when you stretch that over ten years it more than works out.

  45. First off, I love the tower idea! I plan on building each one if my towers about 4′ x 3”. I have almost unlimited amounts of compost, dry leaves, inkless papers, and PVC. I’m new to potatoes and live in north Indiana. Way out in the country. Known to have some problems with field mice after farmers harvest.
    I guess My questions are maybe silly because I couldn’t find an answer on Google. But gotta ask anyways.

    #1, If I leave to potatoes in their tower over winter would that work as a cold storage? Just not harvest them, or harvest as needed?

    #2, How do I do my PVC piping for a 4” tower? Right down the middle of course, but if I do holes wont bugs and rodents get in?

    #3, If the soil isn’t packed enough the potato plant seems to root from diseases, grubs, and other things, and if it’s pacts too much they don’t grow. So what is the ideal soil/layer weight?

    #4, Is there a way to go about a “selfwatering” tower maybe?

    Thanks,.

  46. Marja Erickson says:

    Whatever happened with the potato tower? Did it really produce are you still growing them? I am in the midwest so I am not sure when your growing season is. But I am thinking of doing it this spring and I just want to know how yours did.

    • The potato tower did not work out as planned. The yield was low. But I am going to try it again next year.

      • I have been reading up on alternative ways to grow potatoes for a couple of years. I even bought a bunch of grow bags two years ago. My results were similar to yours. I think that the problem may be the weight of the dirt above the potatoes. For this reason I have seen others growing potatoes in towers who are using things like vermiculite or some other “very light” material. Just an idea should you care to incorporate it. I gave up and moved my herbs out of the garden and into the grow bags.

  47. How do you harvest the potatoes from the towers when they are ready? All at once? Pull from the bottom somehow?

  48. I tried this last year too, but I think I started too late. I ended up with about 15-20 tasty but very tiny potatoes. I’ll make sure I get it started earlier this year and give it another chance.

  49. Looking for the follow-up post to this one. I saw in the comments that you didn’t get the yield you were hoping for. Did you ever do a follow-up post? I’d love to read it!
    My family moved at the end of last summer and I’m so anxious to start our new homesteading efforts! (We line in NH so it will still be a couple months) I’ve always had a veggie garden but am happy to do raised beds at our new place. Also planning on brooding chickens for eggs for the first time ever!! Stumbled upon your blog a couple days ago and have been addicted since… soaking in every word of advice I can gather from your pages :)

  50. sonia blue says:

    Thanks Mavis,
    I’m doing this TODAY! Do the towers need 8-10 hours of FULL SUN? I have a perfect area that’s east/west exposure and gets about 6 hours, some shade…would that be ok? And how often do you water?

    Many thanks:)

    • I think your 6 hours should be fine. :) I’d say water about twice a week.

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  51. Darlene Brace says:

    I have grown potatoes in tires in much the same way as the potato towers. It worked great. We had ours stacked up to 4 tires. You harvest by taking a tire off the top and empty the dirt and you get the potatoes in that tire. You need to water frequenly.

    • Darlene, aren’t you concerned about the chemicals in the tires???? I really wouldn’t use them for food if I were you.

  52. years ago, in Central Valley, Calif., I used old tires (stacked 2 deep), planting potatos in the bottom, lying on the top of the soil, light cover of straw. As leaves would poke out of straw, I would add more straw, no dirt. The potatoes were great, and clean when removed!! Worked excellently.

  53. sonia blue says:

    Hi Mavis,
    I’ve made 3 potato towers (just like your pictures) and I was just wondering about how many sprouting ones do you put down on each layer? Hmmmm?

  54. Stephanie says:

    so… stupid question (i’m new to gardening so forgive my knowledge) how do you harvest them once they are ready? i like this idea since i live in an apt and if we had to up and move i could move this tower as well, so it seems at least. thank you and i wanna say been reading your blog alot and i LOVE it!!

  55. Bravo !

  56. C.R. Rice says:

    I saw another version where she planted the whole tower right away – maybe 5 layers of potatoes up a 4′ tower. I’ve always grown them by covering the sprouts, but I notice that your towers seem to be sprouting out the sides. What do you suggest? Were you able to cover the sprouts time after time? Or was the outward growth too hard to cover up?

  57. ok, what is the purpose of planting in towers? i could see it saves space but is there any other benefit? also did the spuds in the center of the tower also grow? and do you point the eyes out? i am growing my first ever tater patch, its a 4×10 strip of land that i tilled in sand into the dirt and iv got about 12 plants growing and doing well….did i do something wrong? i take pride in my garden, and increased its size every year, its now 12ft x 64ft, it is growing well i and always stagger my pants every month to a month and a half, so that i many weeks of fresh veggies. but i could really use some help when it comes to saving some space with my watermelons and pumpkins and cucumbers…. the sprawl out and end up taking so much room. is there a tower idea or any other tip you might have for that? sorry for the million questions….

  58. Update? How did the potatoes go? What was your yield like, how did you know they were ready, what would you change for next time?

  59. Debbie S. says:

    I so enjoy reading your blog. Your garden looks great! You are lucky to have the Gnomes keep watch over it. I am looking forward to moving to the Pacific Northwest in the (hopefully) near future.

  60. Kathleen says:

    I live in Hawaii and also have year round growing season. I think I will try this with sweet potatoes as well. With sweet potatoes you plant the vines. My friend that is Fijian taught me to take the vines and make a circle out of them and bury them. I have some growing in a 5-gallon bucket right now and I can’t wait to harvest them.

    Thanks for making all these cool posts. I live in an apartment building and my landlady has been kind enough to let me turn what little of a yard we have into a garden. I currently have 3 raised beds and the vertical growing is very interesting to me as well, because the yard is small.

  61. I have a friend I visited in Sweden. They planted potatoes in the little black containers you get your plants in from the garden shop. They had them under a rather large tree so they got some sun in mornings and afternoons. When they wanted potatoes they went out , pulled up what looked like a pretty vine and we had little new potatoes whenever we wanted! No towers but fresh new potatoes all the time till winter.

  62. Sorry if this question was already answered, but do you harvest them by sticking your hands through the wire fencing? Do your hands fit through there? And if the potatoes get to be larger than those openings, how do you get them out?

  63. Did you harvest yet? Did you do the follow-up yet? Looks to be a perfectly great way to do it. Inexpensive too.
    I do have experience using store bought potatoes: they didn’t work. Great big plants and no tater-roots. I only use seed potato
    for that reason, but I reuse the potato for seed. It’s worth buying seed taters just one time so you don’t have my experience.
    They’re pretty cheap at the feed store or in bulk and you can buy a few types and get variety. Then save your tiny ones for seed.
    I put them under my house in a few bags, for the winter.

  64. I am very new to gardening and just started this past year. Very exciting in some areas and disappointing in others, one thing I have learned, do not plant peas against a dark shed wall, they die fast when it gets hot! I am doing the raised garden method and the 4 potato plants that were planted barely gave me a meal for my family of 6…. but I have to say they were super tasty!. I am interested in trying the potato tower, and saw posts that mentioned small and low yield potatoes. So my question is, would it do any better if it was only 3 feet high?

  65. I plant in old plastic laundry tubs that have broken handles and don ‘t work for laundry anymore. I plant a different kind of tater in each basket. I keep adding soil as the leaves grow up. In the fall I have the grandkids come over and we tip the tubs over and they have a great time digging out the taters! Works great!

  66. Hello and Thank You for your wonderful blog. I have the neighbor from hell living on one side of me he owns a bunch of cats and dogs. His dogs are load and his cats think my potting soil is just right. I live in town and my sister calls me a Urban farmer. I love to grow just about anything. Only problem is I have no clue what I’m doing. But I have two wonderful older Sisters that help me a lot. I live in Florida and have some pretty cool growing times. At Christmas my Lemon tree gave off so many lemons that I made and gave away lemon curd to the neighbors ( even the one with the rude pets). I am going to do this. I will use the Chicken wire . Seems like just the thing to keep his cats out. Would this work for beans too ? like pole beans or KY Wonders?

    • Mavis Butterfield says:

      I have not tried growing beans in my potato cages, but I don’t seed why not, the pole beans would climb up the sides of the cage and look pretty cool.

    • Elizabeth W Robinson says:

      Sheilal: Living in an urban neighborhood with many cats, I too used to have problems with cats and soil. Found that lots of pine cones laid on the soil after planting, keeps them out. With all the gardening I do, need bags and bags of cones. When I ran out of cones, used sticks. Last year after planting my onions, I stuck sticks in the ground, around the onions in the soil. Cats need space to do their “thing” and the sticks when closely placed keep them out. Sticks and pine cones worked for me. My main problem last summer were dogs and their “droppings.” At least one can smell that, hopefully before stepping in it.
      Elizabeth

  67. So…? Did you post about the results and I missed it? Which tower did the best?? Thanks for doing our experimenting for us!

  68. Karen Shaw says:

    We tried this a couple of years ago. We used a large garbage can with the bottom cut off and only used straw to cover them. When we took the can from around them, there was a family of mice, Momma and about fifteen babies that scattered and ran EVERYWHERE! Ha ha! BUT there were not a lot of potatoes. Maybe if we had used some dirt like you did, we might have produced more.

  69. I’m in the planning stage of my potato towers. I was wondering what kind of straw you are using most of what we have here in mid-eastern Mississippi is hay not the wonderfully clean looking straw you have in your pictures. Thanks for your help cutting food budget is a top priority as we are retired now. I’m also going to try some sweet potatoes in a tower too, we have the heat for them.

  70. I tried this last year and made a right hash of it, especially trying to line it with straw. Thanks so much for the tips, this year it will work. :)

    • I just discovered your sight although I’ve been gardening for years. I must compliment you on all of the clever ideas. I started searching to better my potato crop & certainly found some great ideas to implement. Thank you for your appreciated efforts.

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