Introduction: POTATO TOWERS


I wanted to hedge my bets just in case my mole-proof potato cage ( did not defeat the moles like it should, so after a little research, off to the building supply store I went. If all goes well, I'll have more potatoes than I will know what to do with!

According to my research, towers are a great way to grow potatoes. As the plant grows, you add dirt. Roots will form on the now buried stem, and potatoes will grow from them. You can go quite a ways up doing this, which means less footage on the ground and more room for other veggies! Yum!

A side benefit to making this is that if you decide it was too much work to use again, or that you really only need one potato tower, these cylinders can also be used as composters.

Step 1: Gather Ye Supplies

Picture of Gather Ye Supplies
I only had to purchase 1-10 foot roll of hardware mesh/cloth and seed potatoes. I figured the 1/4 inch squares were small enough to keep the moles & squirrels out and keep the potatoes in. Everything else we had lying around the garage and in the back yard.

  • 1 - 10 foot roll hardware cloth (makes 2 towers!)
I chose the 3 foot width, which turns out to be the height when done.
I am 5 foot 3, so if you are shorter, you may want the 2 foot width.
  • tape measure
  • wire cutters
  • weights to hold the wire down & keep it from curling back(I used hubby's boots!)
  • heavy canvas or leather gloves (keeps the hands from being sliced & diced by the wire!)
  • zip ties
  • newspaper
  • dirt
  • seed potatoes (mine sat around a warm kitchen for a 2-3 weeks, giving them a good chance to get
some "eyes" (sprouts) started. You need to cut the eyes and a good chunk of potato out about a
day before you will be planting them so a scab can form on the cut end.

Step 2: The First Cut Is Also the Last!

Picture of The First Cut Is Also the Last!

Measure 5 feet on each side and mark with a permanent marker. This makes it easy to see where to cut, trust me.

'**SAFETY WARNING**Put on your gloves, as the sharp pieces where you cut the wire will slice and dice the back of your hands!

The beauty to this step is that you only make one cut to have the materials for 2 towers!

Step 3: Grow a Third Arm & Hand

Picture of Grow a Third Arm & Hand

This can be done by yourself (I did it!), but it sure would have been easier with a second person. Okay. Enough whining.

You need to start zipping or weaving the two short ends together to form a tube. The tube tried to curl in on itself, so this is where a third hand was handy. (No pun intended) Since I was alone and the dogs refused to help, my canvas yarn basket stepped up to the plate and saved the day.

*IMORTANT* In MY tower, the bottom will be open to the ground. That means burrowing vamaints can burrow right up into it if you don't take precautions. I used a scrap piece of plywood. Another would be to make 3 or 4 vertical cuts almost a foot high around one end, folding in and zipping closed to form a bottom. That will keep out the varmaints, yet allow friendly earthworms in. In that case, the title for the previous step would need to be changed. Again, wear gloves when making cuts!

Step 4: Location, Location, Location!

Picture of Location, Location, Location!

Pick the place you want to grow your potatoes. Remember, once placed and filled, you will nt be able to move them, so be very sure where you place the towers.

Place a section of paper against the side of the tower and start filling with dirt. This helps hold the dirt in when you water or when it rains. Once you have the first layer in place all around, you can start placing your seed potatoes/eyes.

Step 5: Grow, Baby, Grow!

Picture of Grow, Baby, Grow!

About a month after planting I had to add more dirt. The plants sure did grow quickly! In went a second layer of newspaper to keep the dirt inside the tower. This time the paper kept falling in, so I utilized some filbert suckers that I had cut out a week prior as paper holders. Worked nicely, as you can see!

I carefully added more dirt, building up around the stems of the plants. This is where I scratched my arms up pretty bad on the zip ties! Please, heed my words AND actions!! Also, I found it easier to use a short-handled shovel and garden trowel to get the dirt in around the plants. A long handled shovel is difficult to maneuver in the tight confines of the tower.

The dirt I used to fill the towers came from a yard of dirt we had got to use around the house. As I dug this dirt to add to the towers, I also dug up worms that had made their way into the rich dirt. So I added the worms along with the dirt to the towers. Because the worms are now trapped due to the plywood, I've been adding food scraps and coffee grounds and such to the towers as well so they don't starve. Only in small quantities, as there are only a few worms, and you don't want to attract pests.

You'll be ready to harvest about a week or two after the plants have flowered and started to whither. The beauty to doing it this way, on a platform instead of zip tying the bottom closed, is that you (and a friend or two) can just lift the wire and knock it lightly to get the dirt and potatoes to come out the bottom. If you are alone, you can just pull it over on its side to get to the potatoes. Be careful! The skins are quite fragile at this moment! They will need to age, or "cure" for a few days, so carefully place them in a paper bag or cardboard box and place in the garage or on the porch; SOME place out of the sun.

If you want to use one (or both) as a composter, I'd suggest getting some tall garden stakes using two per cylinder (driven into the ground on the inside) to keep the cylinders in place. Stakes can be seen to the left in the first photo below. This will make the composters easy to move and access the compost.

My editor and I hope this has been helpful to anyone who has been thinking about trying a potato tower.

Good luck!


richardw9 (author)2015-02-01

Hi , I did this without the wire mesh just used old scrap tyres from the tyre vendor plant your potato place a tyre over it and as the plant grows above the tyre place the next tyre over the first and fill with soil and so on till you have a tower of 5 or 6 tyres [whatever is manageable for you] then let the plant flower and die . when you want potato's you remove 1 tyre to retrieve the potato's desired and leave the rest till required For all year round potato's start a second tower when the first is 3 tyres high and so on

epeck1 (author)2014-06-03

Hi. I just did the same thing in our yard. We tried the layered format with straw between layers. 2 different kinds of taters in 2 Seperate barrels. Hope it works!

nixon6872 (author)2014-01-29

Looks good. My next yard project.

aliceaod (author)2012-12-26

Thanks for this 'ible. I'm going to try something like this next year but with window screening rather than wire cloth. I don't have strength in my hands to use wire cutters. It'll be a sort of grow bag. I'll roll it into a tube and then bunch it up at one end, like a Tootsie Roll, and secure it using a zip tie. That will be the bottom. Then I'll roll down the top like a sock and as the plants grow just unroll the top higher and higher as soil is added. Will be fun to see if it'll work.

horatiocary (author)2011-05-11

A website where you can buy great potato towers is:

They have a tower which stacks up. It also has holes in the side so you can put some of the stalks outside at all levels so that there is more foliage which means more potatoes can grow. It also comes with a polycarbonate lid to keep the frost off in the early weeks. It's a very good product that lasts a long time and works!

If that's not enough they also have a £500 competition for the gardener who produces the most potatoes in a tower in a year!

chancefour (author)2011-02-14

I have been troubled by which variety of potato is best for the tower process. I ran an experiment in 2004 that I would be proud if you reviewed at:

or at TeacherTube

I plan to run "The Great Potato Experiment of 2011" if you would like to be part of our investigator team, of follow the progress, please see

It would be wonderful to get to the bottom of this.

sgsidekick (author)chancefour2011-02-15

I, too, was wondering which kind would work better, so last year I did whites and reds, one tower for each. I got pretty much the same amount, so no answer there.

If you already have spuds that have sprouted eyes, you can cut the potato around the biggest eyes, and let them sit out overnight to scab over. Once scabbed, you can plant the eyes, thus getting more plants out of the potato. This is something that grandma did, and that I do.

Also, if you get a bag of potatoes that are still covered in dirt, then chances are good that the potatoes were NOT sprayed to retard growth. I've actually used these types with no problem. All I had to do was wait for the eyes to develop. You don't use ALL the eyes, just the biggest ones.

Something else: As I dug in my regular garden, some of the lovely fat worms that I found were transferred to the potato towers. I didn't fertilize the towers, but made sure to add some kitchen waste so the worms were fed. Their castings provide fertilizer, and they also keep the soil from compacting. You might want to try that if you build on concrete again.

I don't know that I'll be growing potatoes this year, but if I change my mind, I would love to participate in your experiment. Thank you for the invitation!

chancefour (author)sgsidekick2011-02-26

It would be so cool if you joined us!

chancefour (author)sgsidekick2011-02-17

I wish I knew the official variety name of your reds and whites. This year I will get the seed potatoes from the seed company or garden store, then I will be able to idnetify the official name of the variety. I need to reproduce good results and identify and avoid the varieties that don't respond to the tower procedure. I would like people to be able to avoid an entire growing season that had no chance for success in the first place. It would be great for you to join us. I can't find any data on experiments of this kind.

hackin5hit (author)2010-09-28

We did 3 potato towers in our garden this year (three varieties) but we used a wider mesh. This let the leaves grow out the sides and when it was time to plant tomatoes, we did that on top. Potatoes and tomatoes love to be in the same soil together. Maybe try that in one of them next year, just a thought. Happy plants make happy food.

tshallow74 (author)hackin5hit2011-02-14

I, too, did a potato tower with wider mesh. I used chicken wire, but I planted my layers all at once. Thanks for the tip about tomatoes. I may try that this year.

pagangod (author)2009-05-27

you have one of the funniest looking editors i have every seen. LOL

sgsidekick (author)pagangod2009-05-27

lol. Yeah, and the cheapest, too! She works for kibble! Now if only I could find a real one...until then, this is the closest I'll get to being published! Thanks for checking out my 'ible.

SMRUDOLPH (author)sgsidekick2010-07-05

Man, and it was a pleasure to read your well-written instructable. Chewie is a skilled editor. Give her a raise! This is really terrific. I wouldn't mind eating potatoes three times a day. I'm going to try it. Thank you SO much.

sgsidekick (author)SMRUDOLPH2010-07-05

Lol. Thanks a lot! This year I'm working hard at staying on top of filling in the tower as the plants grow. And with all the rain we've had, they are growing like weeds! I should get approx 20 lbs out of the 2 towers. The hardest thing there is to this system is filling the towers with dirt as the plants grow. But if you can do that, you will be rewarded! I have taken one of the towers and zip-tied a section of mesh to the bottom so the moles can't get up into it. This keeps the new potatoes safe. It also keeps the worms in side safe.

suezq (author)2010-02-15

If you can handle one more dog, maybe you can give a home to a small terrier. Not a Yorkie type terrier but a scruffy faced wirey type terrier. My little 7 lb terrier mix is a ferocious mole hunter and will go to ground as they say when ever there is a fresh hill. Needless to say the word is out in our local mole community to saty out of our yard or risk death by Maggie. Now the hills show up in my neighbors yard.! tee hee...(not nice neighbors)
Really liked your tater cage and will most likely give it a try. Was it hard to get the paper to stay in place?  Would it be easier to wet the paper pages and sort of mold them to the cage while it's on it's side, then stand it up and put the dirt in?
The older I get the less patience I have with things that won't stand still and do what they're supposed to and my arms aren't long enough to reach down into the cage. I can't wait to get home and build some of these and thank you for mentioning the letting them rest overnight thing. I never knew and I'll check out the website about the potatos. Thanks again! Good luck with the subterranean critter invasion.

sgsidekick (author)suezq2010-02-16

Hey!  Would LOVE to borrow your terrier!! *lol*

It is a bit tricky if you are trying to put the papers and dirt in by yourself, but it can be done.  Here's how I'm going to do it this year: 
FIRST I need to put a wire bottom on my potato tower.  Setting it on the plywood was ok, but kept the beneficial worms away.  With a wire bottom, it can sit directly on the ground with no fear of moles/voles getting in and allow easy access to worm.
SECOND: I keep the sucker shoots I cut off my filbert trees and use them to stake the papers up by sticking them into the ground inside the cage and against the sides.  THEN I backfill with dirt.  As the plants grow I add another panel of paper around the inside, again using the "sucker stakes" to hold them in place until I backfill more.

The HARDEST part is getting that first layer in, due to how tall the tower is and how short I am!  I ended up bending the wire in at the top, but that's okay, as it bends out again. 

Good luck!!

AmyLuthien (author)2009-12-10

What sort of yield do you typically get out of this setup?    Nice job on your ible!

sgsidekick (author)AmyLuthien2009-12-18

Thank you!  I appreciate the kind words!   As to my yield, I'd've had more if I hadn't slacked off a bit and waited too long once to add more dirt.  Sigh.  But I got a couple of big bowls of potatoes in all sorts of sizes!  I also don't think that planting on a piece of plywood was the best choice, either, but I didn't want to leave the bottom open, as we are having very serious issues with moles and voles in the area.  I'm hoping that after I get more wire for the bottom, I'll get aa better yield.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out my OTHER mole-proof cage!

AmyLuthien (author)sgsidekick2009-12-18

Yeah, a bit of hardware cloth (wire mesh) would probably keep the moles out - though that's not really a problem in my area (no moles!)  I'll have to give this a try.  We can't grow potatoes here, my yard used to be a farm, and they got some-sort of blight that apparently stays in the soil forever?  All I know about that is that we've tried to raise potatoes in the past and they ended up blighted as well.  Anyway, thanks again!

sgsidekick (author)AmyLuthien2009-12-19

In your case, the tower would be perfect for you!  And I would definitely use a solid base instead of just putting it flat on the ground to keep the blight out!  If you use wood, make sure it is not treated, so no poisons will leech into the potato soil.  Just use the bagged dirt from your local home improvement store and you'll be set!  

Also, be sure to Google potato towers, and hit  There are some awesome video instructions on a variety of towers! 

Finally?  Good luck!  Home grown potatoes ALWAYS taste better!!!

Greenish Apple (author)2009-06-04

I did this several years ago but with a steel barrel. I got a couple baskets of potatoes, a couple were the size of two baseballs. I like your version, it's partially biodegradable and easy to break down in the fall.

Thank you! Portability, ease of use, and low waste are big appeals here! Too bad I logged this in just DAYS before the new contest, dang it! *lol* Oh well. I'll STILL get potatoes out of it, and share with my neighbors!<br/><br/>I've never seen it done with a steel barrel. Did you knock out the bottom first?<br/>

I didn't knock out the bottom and it was a bit awkward to try and tip it to get the potatoes out.

austin (author)2009-05-27

when in the seasons can you plant potatoes, im sure it varieds by location but i guess what kind of season do they prefer, hot, cool?

sgsidekick (author)austin2009-05-27

Hi. Thanks for reading my 'ible. Here's a website that has all the info you need to grow potatoes:

Basically, if the temp of the soil is 45 degrees F or warmer, it is safe to plant potatoes. Just protect them from frost if the plants are young. They require full sun, soil that drains well (too wet and all you get is rotten potatoes!) and is slightly acidic. You can plant as late as June 15, but check your zone.

DO be sure to use SEED potatoes and not the ones from the grocery store. Visit the site for all the pertinent info you need!

Scott_Tx (author)sgsidekick2009-05-28

I hear potatos from the store are sprayed with stuff to keep them from going to seed.

sgsidekick (author)Scott_Tx2009-05-29

This is true. Also, the starts from them (supposedly) are not as resistant to disease as regular seed potatoes are.

ironsmiter (author)2009-05-28

so, when you did the soil-buildup, did you only do it once? If you could keep repeating... I'd think you could get at least 5 layers out of a cage that tall. It intrigues me, on account of, I have PERFECT potato soil freshly dumped into the garden bed. and MOST of it will be flowers(the woman of the house insists, so I obey). It'd be GREAT to be able to make a single tower of dirt, and get a harvest of potatoes(for the amount we normally eat, we'd need the whole bed to keep us in potatoes otherwise) At harvest time, how are the sizes effected by this technique? Really biguns on the bottom, med in the middle, and babies on top? Or do they all grow to about the same size(with the lower potatoes stalling when the upper ones form)?

ironsmiter (author)ironsmiter2009-05-28

ignore the above question. After following the link below, I see that we can do 5 levels(maybe 4, this late in the season) without too much problem.

While the caging system is nice, simple, and clean looking.... I can get tused tires by the truckload for free. and Craigslist has been giving me all the topsoil I could handle(augmented by free alpaca-poo compost). It would just be so much easier, I think the neighbors will just have to put up with my "black garden plot". At least till I get some stone to make it look pretty. Next spring, I'll get an early start, and see if i can't go 6 layers deep in one growing season :-)

Thanks for the inspiration and knowledge.

sgsidekick (author)ironsmiter2009-05-28

congrats on the alpaca-poo compost! Nice score! I've NEVER grown potatoes this way before, so I couldn't tell you much more at this time about the sizes of the potatoes in a bin this big! My grandparents grew potatoes in the field, so we grandkids got to help on the harvest end. They'd be plowed up late in the day/early evening and left to sit on top overnight. The next day we'd be picking them up first thing. I never knew why we had to wait, but per the experts, this is to give the skins time to toughen, as they are very fragile when first dug up. And being dug up so late in the evening keeps the exposure to sunlight minimal, which is a good thing to a newly dug potato. I've grown potatoes quite a few times on my own by simple ground planting, but that is no longer an option because of extremely prolific moles & voles in my area; and that's with 2 big dogs in the yard! So I'm trying other methods. Not even the tire method would work here. Sigh. Good luck!

reedz (author)2009-05-27

No potato famines here.

sgsidekick (author)reedz2009-05-27

lol. Especially if both the towers AND the mole-proof cage work! We'll be eating potatoes 3x a day!

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