There’s no doubt about it – fresh, home-grown vegetables have a taste of their own, exceeding even what you can buy in the organic produce department. Some vegetables, like tomatoes, potatoes, and herbs are very easy to grow at home even if you don’t have a lot of space. A potato tower is a simple and fun way to grow your own potatoes at home.
All you need to set up your own potato tower at home are some very basic supplies: wire fencing, straw, soil, and seed potatoes (there are other methods we’ll cover, too). Apartment dwellers who have a sunny balcony or patio can also grow their own spuds, with equipment as simple as empty 5-gallon buckets.
Related Read: 5 Water Storage Tips for Apartments
You’ll find videos featuring other homesteader’s methods as well as our advice so that you can choose the right method for your tower. We feel that promoting others in the industry is worth our time.
Even if you have a lot of space, there are a number of good reasons for growing your potatoes in a tower instead of in the ground: it helps you avoid weeds, pests, and critters that would eat up all your crops.
Why Grow Potatoes in a Tower?
Potatoes are a staple food for most people, and if you’re a spud connoisseur, you know that freshly harvested potatoes have a unique taste. That’s one good reason to set up your own potato tower at home. Potato towers are also easy to set up even if you don’t have a lot of space. This is one reason why they are becoming popular with urban gardeners who may have only a small patch of land or even just a balcony or patio.
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Besides saving space, this method of growing potatoes makes the harvest easier and also helps to keep the potatoes whole and intact when removing them from the soil. When you dig them up out of the ground, there’s a good chance that at least some will be broken or damaged.
Another reason why potato towers are appealing to gardeners is that you don’t have to spend that much time on your hands and knees, whether it’s for weeding or harvesting. In fact, one of the major advantages of growing potatoes vertically is that it helps to reduce weeds and exposure to pests.
What Varieties of Potato Grow Best In Towers?
Each variety has a different taste, and you may want to grow different ones in separate towers. From the grower’s point of view, potatoes come in early, mid-season, and late-season varieties. In general, longer season varieties or indeterminate and late season potatoes do well in towers.
Some varieties of potato that you can grow in a potato tower are:
- Russets: Nugget, Burbank, Ranger, Umatilla
- Fingerlings: Amarosa, French, Pink Fir Apple
- All Blue
- All Red
- German Butterball
- Green Mountain
- Irish Cobbler
In general, potatoes are a cool weather crop and prefer cool, moist conditions. It’s best to choose local varieties to plant as these will do best in your climate. Depending on the variety you choose, the potatoes can take 75 to 190 days to reach maturity. Maturity in a potato plant is when the roosts or tubers have reached an edible size.
Preparing the Potato Towers
You can make your own potato tower using wire fencing, straw and soil. The wire fence should be about four feet on height. This is a size that will be at stable enough to stand on its own and not get knocked over easily. Begin by cutting a length of wire fencing that will make a roll of about two to three feet in diameter.
Roll the wire into a cylinder and secure the ends with plastic ties or use the ends for wire itself for this purpose. Keep your potato tower in a spot that gets afternoon sun. To begin preparations for planting the potatoes, line the bottom of the potato tower with straw and then add a layer of soil. This should be about one foot high.
Potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH value of six.
You may also need to add straw or newspaper to the sides to keep the soil from falling out of the sides. Now you’re ready to start planting.
Potato Towers Out of 5-Gallon Buckets
Below, you’ll see a set of videos, talking about how to grow potatoes in a 5-gallon bucket, and how to make a tower out of 5-gallon buckets to grow potatoes.
Related Read: Wondering How Many Pounds Are in a 5 Gallon Bucket?
How to grow potatoes in a 5-gallon bucket:
How to Use 5 Gallon Buckets To Grow a Potato Tower:
Planting and Harvesting Spuds
This can be a summer project that you can do with your kids. From the time the first sprouts appear to the final harvest, you will enjoy watching one of nature’s minor miracles unfold.
How to Plant Your Spuds
The first step is to prepare the seed potatoes. You can do this by cutting them into egg-sized pieces, making sure that each piece has at least two or three “eyes” from which the plants will sprout. Leave the pieces to dry out in a breezy spot for a day or two.
For one potato tower, you will need 12 to 24 pieces of seed potatoes each. They should be planted about six inches from each other and at least three to four inches from the edge. This gives the plants room to grow. Remember to keep the eyes pointing upwards to the sky.
Water the first layer and then add another layer of straw and another foot of soil. This is your second layer where you can plant more seed potatoes. You can continue till you reach the top of the tower. Remember to water each layer as it is completed. A maximum height of two to three feet works best because it keeps the bottom layers from drying out.
Top off the potato tower with a layer of straw. Some people like to plant marigolds or calendula on the top of the potato tower to keep away pests. You can also plant salad greens on top. You can improvise a potato tower with tomato cage, though their somewhat conical shape makes them a little unbalanced.
A rule of thumb is that for every pound of potatoes planted, you can expect to harvest ten to twenty pounds. For a single tower you can get up to 50 pounds of potatoes.
Caring for the Plants
Once the potato tower is set up, it doesn’t need much care. Potatoes like even moisture, so you will have to be consistent in watering them. Also, you have to make sure that the water reaches all the way to the plants at the bottom. The plants can be fertilized every two to three weeks.
You should see the sprouts in about two weeks. Once the plants flower, you know that tuber formation is happening. Harvesting time is when the plants begin to die back.
This is the fun and easy part. You can tell that the potatoes are ready for harvesting when the plants start to dry up. All you have to do is to take apart the tower and then sort through the soil to pick out the potatoes. This can also be a little messy, so make sure you do this in a location that can be easily cleaned. Or you can first put down a tarp or a layer of newspaper on the floor and place the tower on top before opening it.
To store, dust off the potatoes but don’t wash them. They should be kept in a cool and dry place. Now all that’s left for you to do is to hunt out some recipes to enjoy your new potatoes.
Like all kinds of container gardening, you have to keep in mind that the plants will be more exposed to the weather than if they were planted in the ground. High temperatures and dry or windy weather conditions can all affect your plants.
While it’s easy to set up and care for your potato tower, there are some precautions you must take. For one thing, potato plant roots, which produce the edible tubers, are sensitive to heat. This can be more of a problem when growing potatoes in a tower than in the ground. In the ground, the roots are better protected from high temperatures.
Potatoes are more of a cold weather crop, and the ideal growing temperatures are in the range of 68 to 72 Fahrenheit in the daytime. Optimum nighttime temperatures are in the mid-50s. When temperatures rise over 75 degrees Fahrenheit (68 Fahrenheit at night), tuber formation slows down; and when they reach over 84 degrees, it is inhibited entirely.
This may cause problems if you live in a warmer climate. One way to handle this is to place the potato tower in a location that gets only afternoon sun, or to plant them early or late in the season. However, it’s important to keep in mind that potatoes can’t tolerate hard frosts.
When growing potatoes in a tower, you must make sure that the plants at the bottom get enough water. Watering must be consistent and the soil should not be allowed to dry out.
The wind can also dry out the plants when they’re in a tower, so keep your potato tower in a sheltered spot.
Planting potatoes in towers is a simple way to grow your own vegetables and to connect with nature. Whether you live in a city apartment or in the country, there are many good reasons to grow your potatoes in a tower. It’s best to choose local varieties that can do well in your climate. In just a few months, you’ll have a harvest of delicious new potatoes to enjoy with your family and friends.