Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Potato Towers - Harvest

Remember the potato towers we built in the Spring?     I planted 8-10 potatoes in the bottom of each of them and then as the vines grew up, I covered them with layers of hay and sand.  I never let more than 6-8 inches of stem show until they got to the top.   

In fact, I was careful to keep up with them all season until the plants reached the tops.   I watered them well.    The soil compacted some and was at about 48 inches when we emptied them.  

Tower #1, the one on the outside, didn't get as much water from the sprinkler as the other one, so I watered it extra a couple of times [and ignored it the rest of the time]  and it was much moister than the other.    Even when I neglected it.   Just a couple of good soakings with the hose were enough to go a long way.

We emptied Tower #1 first.   All of the hay went to the chickens to turn over, get the bugs out of and convert to compost.   The whole tower was good and moist all the way through.

There were two vines that stayed green all season.  The rest died out.     That's not good.    I didn't expect to get any potatoes from those plants. 

In fact, we didn't find any potatoes from any of the plants until way down in the tower.     At about 24 inches from the floor, we hit pay dirt. 

We were pleased to find a few potatoes where most of the vines had originally been planted.   And a few is better than none.

The plants in Tower #2, the inside tower, all died.     I didn't expect to find a single potato in the whole tower, but we emptied it anyway.    It was drier than the first one, but not too dry. 

What we did find was a snake. [Not in the pic.]  Thank heaven when he saw it,  Eric was using the pitchfork to lift stuff out instead of his hands, which we had done off and on during the whole process. 

At that point, I took over and got the snake out with the pitchfork and held it down. It was a water snake - aggressive, but not poisonous.   It was mad - and promptly curled up and started attacking the pitchfork.  Eric got a board and held it down while I got a shovel and between the two of us and the sharp end of the shovel, we quickly dispatched it.   

TIP:   Wear heavy gloves and use a pitchfork when emptying these things!  

We dug through the final layers carefully and pulled up quite a few little potatoes.   Just a few more than what I planted to begin with, so it wasn't a total loss, though the project was disappointing.

After we got all the potatoes, we turned the soil over very well and we'll leave it for next year.

Here is our final harvest from both towers in a 1 gallon bucket.  The potatoes had very thin skins so we ate them pretty quickly and they were very delicious.    K2 loved them and can't wait for us to plant more.  New potatoes are her favorite food.

What went wrong this year?   Even with all the hay, the soil felt heavy.   And there were lots of pill bugs.  Maybe if the towers were planted with vermiculite and just a bit of fine sand, it would have worked better?    Not sure.  

Next year, we'll plant them again, only go only as high as 36 inches.   The soil will compact to around 30 inches and maybe that will be light enough to get us a lot more potatoes.     Plus, it will be short enough for K2 to do some early digging for the new potatoes that she loves so much. 

Another option is to plant sweet potatoes in the towers.   The sweets like to grow long and downward and at 30 inches or so the towers are deep enough to give us some  nice sweet potatoes.   Then we can wrap the tops of the 2x4 corners and keep the cats from using it as a litter box.   We'll keep you posted.  

UPDATE:   After two seasons of trying these, we've decided they are a FAIL.   It's not a good way to grow potatoes here.   We have friends who tried them, too with zero success.


  1. We didn't get any sweet potatoes this year and not many red or Yukon golds either...mostly due to the horrid vole problems. Their population waxes and wanes so hubby doesn't want to bother with towers unless voles become a yearly problem.

  2. We planted potatoes in Texas using layers of dirt in trashcans. Since we used huge trash cans, we added a LOT of dirt. Everything seemed to be fine (we added more layers of dirt as the vines grew ... and they did grow).

    The result? Not. one. single. potato. Not even a teeny-tiny one!
    Our solution? Move to Bloomington.


    1. LOL! I feel your pain! but I'm glad it brought you to Bloomington.


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