The potato tower project

potato_post_coverGood afternoon, fellow gardening enthusiasts!

If you’ve ever googled or searched on Pinterest for “growing potatoes”, you must have seen at least a million of “potato towers”. The logic behind the idea makes perfect sense, so I decided to give it a try.

Why a tower? you may ask. Reasonable question. If you’ve ever grown potatoes or seen potato plants in someone else’s garden, you probably know that they need to be hilled, or mounded, for a decent harvest. This is because even though the tubers develop in the soil, potatoes are not root vegetables. The edible tubers need to develop in the dark, as exposure to sunlight makes them turn green and become inedible (due to a toxin called solanine). Here is an article from The Old Farmer’s Almanac on how to grow potatoes in a traditional, tower-less, way.

A potato tower should allow for more hilling and therefore induce the plants to produce more tubers. Also, some gardeners claim that growing in towers induces a “dwarf effect” (not to be confused with the potato dwarf virus), so instead of fewer larger tubers, you get a lot of smaller ones. I don’t know about you, but this is my favorite kind of potato: small, young and fresh from the garden (and cooked to perfection, of course). And as if all of the above did not sound good enough, a potato tower saves space, which is a must for any spatially-constrained gardener, like myself!

Full disclosure, though: this particular potato tower of mine is poorly planned and is more likely to become a garden failure story, rather than a garden tutorial. Or it can be a tutorial on how to NOT make a potato tower… Anyways, this happened, because by the time I decided on making a tower, I already had potatoes sprouting in a grow bag, so I had to work with what was already growing. If this ill-designed tower produces any reasonable harvest, though, I will plan and make a proper tower structure next time!

Now, without making you endure any more of my garden theory-inspired prose…

  1. Here are my potatoes. As you can see, they were growing pretty well before I made up my mind and decided to enclose them in a tower…potato_11
  2. I started by sticking bamboo stakes (generously donated by one of the blog followers – thank you very much, Vero :)) into each of the four corners of the grow bag.potato_2
  3. Than I wrapped the bird net (the same net that I use for evil squirrel damage prevention) around the stakes…potato_3
  4. …tied the net to the stakes…potato_4
  5. …and tied two of the stakes to the balcony barrier (this is absolutely necessary, unless I want the construction to be blown away by the next blast of the mighty Philly wind)potato_5
  6. I use a mix of soil and nut shells (from the nuts I bribe the evil squirrels with) to gradually fill the tower (always ensuring that the tops of all three plants are still visible)

    img_2452
    This is a good demonstration on why people use straw to line the outside of the tower – it looks quite messy with the mix of soil, nut shells and occasional dry grass. A sturdier frame would also be more sightly, because it would hold its shape… However ugly, this construction does the job, and for a prototype it’s all that matters!
  7. And now I wait (and water)…

My biggest worry is that potatoes don’t thrive in heat, and growing them in a tower, as opposed to a garden bed, may make them heat faster and reduce tuber formation… On the flip side, some people claim that potatoes can be grown as winter crops in warmer climates, so I may give it a try this fall!

However you choose to grow you potatoes,

Happy hilling/mounding!

Tatiana

 

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One thought on “The potato tower project

  1. Pingback: The potato tower project: an autopsy report – The Fire Escape Garden

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