So I decided that I wanted to try out the idea of growing potatoes in a hardware cloth cage. This is how I made mine.
Step 1: Supplies to Make Cage
Before you begin you need a few basic things.
1. A roll of hardware cloth. Mine is 5 ft by 24 inches. You can go bigger if you want. (this cost about $5, which should be your only cost unless you buy the potatoes)
2. A basic set of pliers. The hardware cloth is stiff. This helps in manipulating the metal.
3. Wire cutters. To cut a few key areas.
Step 2: Unroll the Hardware Cloth
So this is a basic step. There is probably a plastic wrapped around the hardware cloth. There's also probably a wire holding the cloth together. Remove both of these. Do not cut the wire. You will be using it later.
Step 3: Basic Shaping
I missed the picture of putting the ends together. What you want to do is overlap the ends about 6 inches. This allows for the extra strength to hold the shape. Once the two ends are put together you use the wire (that was holding the roll closed) to weave the overlap together so it cannot come undone.
You can leave this round, which is what it will do if you do not do anything else with it. I however have a mole, vole, or other varmint in the yard that I do not want burrowing into my potatoes. So I decided to make mine squared with a bottom.
The first thing is to flatten the circle. Do this carefully so that you form two folds. Once the metal has bent and holds the folds then rotate the cage until the folds are up and down (one should be on the floor while the other is towards the ceiling). Press flat again. This will form the other two corners of the squared cage. This is not a real accurate way of forming this cage. If you want accurate then you will need to measure and use a board to get the exact sides. I really did not care if it was even, as long as it was close.
Using your hands gently flatten each side until you have a square tube formed that can stand on it's own.
Step 4: Forming the Bottom
You need to measure the bottom (or eyeball it). Mine was about a foot wide give or take a few inches. So to form a bottom I cut each corner downwards 6 inches or 12 rows of metal. I then folded each side in towards the center and overlapped them. Use the wire leftover from earlier to weave each side into a solid bottom. This should foil any intrusion from the bottom.
Step 5: Finished Cage
So basically this is the end of the construction phase. You should have a hardware cloth potato cage with a closed bottom. Mine ended up being about 1 1/2 feet tall and just over a foot wide.
Step 6: Planting First Step: Supplies
So now to plant some potatoes.
1. The cage you made in the previous steps.
3. Bucket of planting material. I used potting soil that had I had tossed a bunch of clover into last fall. I pulled all the plants out and filled up this bucket.
4. Potatoes. (yes I only have 2. I saved some purple ones from the store.) I would suggest you buy ones just for this.
Step 7: Line the Cage
Since I am using potting mix (which is pretty fine) I felt it was important to line the basket to keep the soil from falling out of the cage. Also I am hoping the newspaper will slow the drainage down just a hair so that the soil can stay hydrated. Make sure it is the newsprint not the slick paper.
Step 8: Put Soil Into Cage
I simply dumped the bucket of mix into the cage. This gave me about 6 inches of mix inside the cage. Some fell out the sides but it should be fine. Make sure to break up any clods that might be in the soil. Level it across the cage.
Step 9: Place the Potatoes
I only had 2 potatoes so I put them across from each other in corners about 4 inches in from the wire. Dig a little hole, just deep enough to place the potato and cover it will dirt.
Step 10: Finished Planter
Cover the potatoes with soil. My soil was quite moist. If your's is dry then you should water it. This finishes the planter, now you just have to keep an eye on the potatoes. When there is about 4 inches of greenery sticking upwards cover with lightweight compost, leave mold, straw, or other material to force the plant to grow more spuds. Just make sure none of the spuds are exposed to sunlight or they will not be edible.
There will be leaves that stick out through the hardware cloth, this is good because it provides more surface space for photosynthesis and gives the plant more energy to store in the form of spuds. (from what I understand).
Let me know if you make this and what you changed.
Step 11: Leaves!
Only a week later and I have leaves sprouting.
Second picture: A few days later and the leaves are larger and turning green. This leaf shape seems to point to a specific cultivar... Purple Majesty.
The plants are really getting with it as far as growing. Soon I will have to add material to the basket.