Build a Potato Tower:
We got the idea to make potato towers from a classmate, Miles, on our way to an Agroecology field trip. With a plot and a half in squash, we have been feeling especially tight on space, so the idea of growing vertically was really appealing.
What’s a potato tower, you might be asking? It is pretty much the same as it sounds: a cylinder of dirt that you grow potatoes in instead of putting them directly into the ground. The idea is that you add more dirt as they grow so they have more roots and so more potatoes from less space.
Wooden stakes (formally used to keep folks off the new grass planted around campus):
Chicken wire (salvaged from outside the Dickinson Science Building):
Compost (or a mulch and soil mixture, like we made):
Potatoes (found abandoned in the Home Depot parking lot):
First, arrange the stakes in a roundish shape – though a square would surely work, too, if that strikes your fancy. Then, wrap the chicken wire around the stakes, like so:
The first time we tried this, our oval was too big for the chicken wire that we had, so we had to make some adjustments. But no harm! Next, try to secure the chicken into the soil a bit, so that the soil or compost that is added doesn’t leak out as much:
Then, fill the structure with a few inches of soil or compost:
Even out the soil so that it is flatish, so that the potatoes will hopefully reach the top of the soil at the same time. We used a hoe for this:
And arrange the potatoes on top of that soil. We spaced ours by about 8 inches:
Then, cover the potatoes with the rest of the soil or compost:
In as manly a fashion as you see fit:
Water the pile and observe:
As the potatoes grow, cover them with more dirt to fill the tower. If you/we do it right, when the potatoes are ready to be harvested the stakes and chicken wire can be removed, so dirt and potatoes splay out and the potatoes can be harvested without much digging.
There is also this great tutorial from Sunset Magazine, if you are looking for more information or a more aesthetically pleasing design.
In the end, we’re not sure if this increased our potato yield. Oh well!