Grow Potatoes in Straw in Towers or Boxes

how to grow potatoes in a towerRaising potatoes is something I have skipped most years due to limited garden space. However, this year I decided to take advantage of an old gardening trick I had almost forgotten about. I first read about raising potatoes in straw many years ago in a Mother Earth News article. (Doesn’t every 10 year old read Mother Earth News?) More recently I have found instructions for growing potatoes vertically or in wooden boxes. So, I created three potato towers this week.

There are many ways to create your vertical potato garden. I used leftover 40 inch welded wire fencing from when I had goats. (Miss those goats.) I did not plan a particular size, I just used one scrap of fencing as it was – about 45 inches long. The other two were made from a slightly larger piece of fencing that I cut in half. They are about 36 inches long.

I cut the horizontal wires just beside the upright wire using standard needle nose pliers with built-in wire cutters. Not the best tool, but it worked. Then I used the resulting long pieces of wire sticking out on the one side to create loops to hold the cage edges together. I did a really good job wiring it together, then I remembered that I would need to harvest potatoes during the growing season. Hmm, that might be tough since I joined them so well. Might have to get creative!

I used fresh grass clippings for the first layer of covering. I just shoveled in a little dirt and compost. I put a couple of small seed potatoes in each tower. Then I added 3-4 inches of grass clippings to cover everything up. I read that using all grass clippings instead of straw can kill the potatoes if the grass clippings start to compost and heat up. So, I’ll be using straw and compost to fill the towers as the potatoes grow.

I used some late season red potatoes and some Yukon golds. I have since read that early potatoes don’t work in towers so I will probably find some others at the farm store and move the Yukons to a trench or flat straw potato garden.

The general idea is that if you let the potato plants grow about 12 inches, then add some straw and/or compost then you can just keep layering as the plants grow. They’ll keep adding new potatoes along the stems. When you want some new potatoes or at the end of the season, you can just open the tower a bit at the bottom and harvest what you need. At the end you open the tower, gather your relatively dirt-free potatoes and store them for winter. Seems simple enough. Keeping the towers from tipping in our very windy area is one challenge. Water in our very dry summers will be another.

To prevent tipping, I placed the three cages next to each other and braced the two outer cages with sticks dug into the garden box next to them. As they get taller I can also attach them to each other and the raised bed to help keep them upright.

To make watering easier, I am going to add some PVC pipes with holes drilled in them as the potatoes grow. This way when the heat and dry conditions hit, I can water the middle of the tower well. In a moister climate this would probably not be necessary, but this year I am expanding my garden a lot and our summers are very dry.

Wire fencing was the easy way for me since I already had the materials on hand. My only expenses will be for straw, PVC pipe and the seed potatoes. There is a LOT of dry grass around us in the summer – the wild grains grow up to 6 feet tall – so I will be harvesting some of that straw for my own use. That is gardening cheap and easy!

If you want to read more about how to grow potatoes vertically, here are some resources I found.

Straw Bale Potatoes

Potato Bin – 100 pounds in 4 square feet

Potato Towers Sunset Magazine

Build Potato Towers

Have you used this method before? If so, let us know how it worked for you.

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3 Responses to “Grow Potatoes in Straw in Towers or Boxes”

  1. Kama says:

    What a wonderful idea. I didn’t even know that growing potatoes in this way was possible. Great for smaller spaces.

  2. What a totally brilliant idea, I am going to plant some potatoes today. Wish I had seen this before, I’ll try it with the next lot :) Brilliant post !

  3. Amy says:

    I’ve heard about using this tower method for potatoes, and it sounds like a brilliant idea! I may try it this year, since I’m a bit short on garden space, myself. Thanks!

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