I have grown potatoes by mounding up with soil, and in bins with marginal success. Now I am going to try something new – a tower of potatoes!
Friends of ours have used this technique successfully with one of those flexible plastic compost bins. The advantage of their system is that once the spuds are ready to harvest, all you do is remove the walls and the tower collapses, leaving you with pristine potatoes with no scars from being dug out of the earth with a spade.
We couldn’t find that flexible plastic composter, so we used some leftover 4ft high, 10ft long wire fencing. Good ol’ geometry said that circumference = diameter x 3.14 or roughly 10ft fence divided by 3 means I could make a cylinder with a diameter of 3 feet. Worked for me!
To stiffen the cylinder, I took some 2 ft rebar and wove it through the bottom of fence. A longer piece of rebar or fence post would have been ideal, but we didn’t have any laying around.
The next step was to line the outside with straw (to keep the soil from coming out the holes) and fill the center with soil and some sand. Once I got about a foot off the ground I placed 4 potatoes around the circle about 6in from the edge and covered them. I continued to put straw on the outside and sand and soil on the inside until I put a good foot to 18 inches on top of the first layer.
You repeat the previous step in “layers”. When I was about 3ft off the ground I put a final set of potatoes on the top and covered them with 4 inches of soil. I also put a little Azalea fertilizer a couple of times during the buildup. Potatoes like slightly acidic soil, so I used an acid-loving plant fertilizer.
As the photos show, the potatoes in the lower-to-middle layers have grown their leaves out the sides and through the holes of the fence, and spuds will form on the inside of the cylinder. As the potatoes on the top grow, I continue to add soil, padding down the sides with straw to keep the soil from coming out, until I get to the top. If you bury potatoes, they can make new roots and spuds in the soil.
We planted the potatoes on May 22nd, so we’re hoping for a harvest some time in late Aug. So stay tuned and we’ll let you know how this system worked for us!
P.S. If you’re wondering, “Well how are you going to bury the potato leaves growing outward?” Umm … we’re not. We’re only burying the top, and keeping our fingers crossed that the innermost potatoes will also be productive :)