The potato tower project: an autopsy report

potato_tower_post_coverThis is a post about a project that failed…. Nevertheless, I believe that gardening is a never-ending learning process, and making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. So I’m sharing this mistake of mine with everyone so you, too, can learn from it.

I posted in spring about testing out the potato tower method. In that same post, I also explained how my tower was ill-designed and was likely to fail… Well, I was right!

This is how the plants looked like at the time of the first post.potato_2

After I hilled for the second time, the growth stalled, and then about a week ago I’ve noticed that the plants started to wilt.

The brown paper outlines the latest hilling (to prevent small debris from going through the net) – I got carried away and added WAY too much soil in one setting.

It took me some time to get used to the idea that the potatoes are dead, but yesterday I finally made my peace with it and took the setup apart.

img_2765And so here is the report of an autopsy of the potato tower project (positive findings are in bold):

  • There were no tubers to be found (except for the mostly decomposed originals that I started with), which means the plants died off a while ago (much earlier than when I noticed the wilting)
  • The remainders of the plants were rootless, indicating rot from overwatering
  • I likely also overhilled, since the plant growth stopped exactly after the last hilling.
  • The soil was in great condition (rich black color, good texture, nice smell), so there were no drainage issues in the setup
  • The sunflower peels were mostly decomposed already, meaning they are a good hilling materialimg_2766
  • I learned along the way that brown packing paper (that is frequently used instead of air pillows to stuff packages) is a great substitute for straw (at least for the purpose of preventing soil from spilling through the net or mesh)

I am definitely giving the potato tower method another try, this time with proper planning and careful hilling. I also came across some articles describing potatoes as late fall or even potential winter crop for zone 7B, so now should be a good time to start another tower.

I am quite mad at myself (the plants were doing so great, right until I killed them!!!), but failure of one project is no reason not to start another. So, look forward to Potato Tower v2!

PS: I am tagging this post as “garden pests”, because I myself became a pest that destroyed the project 🙂


5 thoughts on “The potato tower project: an autopsy report

  1. Pingback: Lessons from the balcony: mid-summer – The Fire Escape Garden

  2. I am totally in agreement with you – we need these ‘failures’ (learning experiences!) in gardening, or we would never try anything new and exciting. This is exactly what gardening should be – an adventure!
    Your comment about it taking some time to accept they were dead reminded me of the mother whale!! Bless you – know that feeling. Look forward to the next attempt – I think you have cracked it now.


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