DIY Growing Potato Tower With Turning Bins




Nowadays a lot of people lives in the city and they have most of the time a small gardening place. With this growing potato tower made of bins, we offer a DIY solution wich is very easy to heighten your potatoes just by turning the inside bin! 

You can make this product on different proportions with other size of bins. It depends on how much money you want to spend and how many potatoes you want to get. Another interesting thing about this "potato tower" is that you can use it for several years and once you made this product you don' t have to put a lot of effort in it to heighten your potatoes. It' s also an easy system to harvest your potatoes.

We are students industrial design from the University of Ghent and we invented this product in two weeks. Because we are very curious about the outcome of our project, it would be nice if someone can test this system in real. The mechanism is already tested and approved.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Materials/components you need:

     A. Two identical plastic garbage bins (with a quite smooth bottom surface)
          Note: you can choose your size of containers, smaller garbage cans are               for example also possible
B. A small bucket
          Note: extra information about the dimensions in step 8
C. Piece of plastic/wood/metal to reinforce the bottom.
          Note: You only need this when the bottom isn' t strong enough to carrying             the weight.
D. Fasteners: 3 nuts, 3 bolts and 3 washers (We used M8.8)
          Note: The fasteners are adapted to the holes in the wheels)
E. Wheels
          Note: The wheels are adapted to the garbage cans. More information about           this in step 1

Tools you need:

     1. Saw
     2. Wrench (adapted to size nuts & bolts)
     3. Scribe
     4. Paper tape
     5. Sandpaper
     6. Protractor triangle
     7. Tape measure
     8. Drilling machine + Drills (We used only Diameter 9)
     9. If necessary a compas


Step 2: Measure Distance Between Bins

In order to find the right height for the wheels, measure the distance between the two garbage cans when they are not dragging anymore.

-  If you found already two bins that are already fit well in each other, try to find smaller wheels.
-  If the size of your bin is smaller you can use marbles or tennis balls instead of the wheels. (= cheaper!)

Step 3: Saw the First Bin

Now we are going to saw the first bin, this bin is going to be the inner bin.

For this step we need:

- Paper tape
- Tape measure
- Saw
- Scribe
- Sandpaper

1. Measure a distance by approximately 1/3 from the top circle of the bin.
    Note: We started from the handle
2. Take paper tape to mark the 2 points
3. Measure the height from the bottom to the first level of the growing proces and tape it. This is approximately 12cm.
4. Tape the 2 straight lines from the upper points to the lower point (3.).
    Note: Because we use conic bins, the straight line becomes a curve.
5. Saw the bin alongside of the paper tape.
6. Finish the edges with sandpaper.
    Note: You can also use a file for this.

Step 4: Drill the Holes for the Wheels and Water Drainage

Drill the holes for the wheels in the inner bin and for the water drainage. You have to drill also holes for the 
water drainage in the outer bin at the same place as on the inner bin, this step isn' t showed in the movie.

For this step we need:

- Protractor triangle
- Scribe
- Drilling machine + drill (Diameter 9mm, this is adapted to the bolts and nuts that we used)

1. Mark the 3 holes, each 120° from the center of the bin.
    Note: We adapted our diameter (22,5cm) where the holes are drilled on, on the size of the small grey bucket that we found in the shop. So pay attention that you don' t take a to big or to small diameter.
2. Drill the holes for the wheels
3. Drill enough water drainage holes at the outer side(!) because potatoes can' t stand lot' s of water.
4. Repeat 3. for the outer bin.

Step 5: Reinforce the Bottom

IMPORTANT: If you have a small garbage bin or your bottom is strong enough to carry the weight of the bin full of soil and potatoes, you can skip this step and you can go directly to step 6

Choose a strong enough plate material like plastic, wood, steel,... we used ABS (6mm) for our product.
With this plate we are going to reinforce the bottom of the inside bin.

For this step we need:

- Plastic/wooden/steel plate
- Saw or Sawing machine
- compass
- Drilling machine + Drill (Diameter 9mm)
- Scribe

1. Measure a diameter that is larger than the diameter of the 3 wheels. In our product we took a diameter of 26cm, therefor we used the indentation of the bin for it.
2. Saw the circle with a sawing machine or just a saw.
3. Mark the 3 holes for the wheels on the circle.
4. Drill the holes (diameter 9mm)

Step 6: Attach the Wheels

In this step you have to attach the wheel at the inner bin.

For this step you need:

- 3 wheels
- 3 bolts
- 3 washers
- 3 nuts
- Wrench

1. Put a bolt through the wheel and the bin
2. Put a washer on the bolt in the inside of the bin
3. Tighten it with a nut and a wrench

Repeat this for the two other wheels!

Step 7: Saw the Outer Bin

Now we are going to mark the second bin (the outer bin) by using the inner bin. After we have taped it, we saw the last piece off.

For this step you will need:

- Paper tape
- Saw

1. Put the inner bin in the outer bin and make sure the handles are positioned above each other. Fix them with tape
2. Mark the outer bin with paper tape.
3. Get the inner bin out of the outer bin en saw the piece off.

Step 8: Make the Protection Ring for the Wheels

In this step we make a ring out of a (cheap) plastic bucket. We need this ring to protect the wheels from the soil which is 
falling through the 2 bins

For this step you need:

- Cheap plastic bucket with a diameter large enough so that the wheels can turn freely but smaller then the diameter of the bottom of the bin. We chose for a diameter that suits perfect the indentation of the bin.
- Saw
- Paper tape
- tape measure

1. Measure a distance that is a bit smaller than the wheels (We took +-1cm smaller)
2. Mark your sawing line with paper tape, if you just try to tape it parallel to the edge of the bucket, it is good enough.
3. Saw the ring along the paper tape

Step 9: Assembly Your Product

It' s time to assembly the product now!

1. Place the ring in the outer bin
    Note: You can glue the ring to the bottom of your bin but it isn' t always necessary 
2. Turn the inner bin a few times on a flat surface to get the wheels directly in the right position.
3. Put the inner bin in the outer bin.

Step 10: How to Use the Product + Result

Congratiulations, finally you made your own potato tower out of bins! But there are still a few things you need to consider...

1. If you use big wheels like in this instructable, you can only turn the inner bin to one side. To make this easier for you: Draw or print some arrows that you stick to the inner bin. These arrows point only one turning direction.


2. Add a mix of soil & compost (Start position) and plant the potato +-8cm deep

3. When the vines of the potato plant are approximately 30cm above the soil, it' s time to heighten the potato plant with new soil.

4. Harvesting depends on what kind of potato you planted

5. After heighten for the last time, wait until the vines wither.


We made these instructable as a school assignment where we worked together with the organisation of centrum Overleie in Kortrijk Belgium. With a movie about the usage of the product and the context we can show our final result of this project.

Gardening & Homesteading Contest

Runner Up in the
Gardening & Homesteading Contest



    • Gardening Contest

      Gardening Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest

    25 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Can I put a set of wheels on the outer bin too and it work? I live in a rental and want to move to a owned home soon. It would be easier to move. Also, couldn't it be brought in the house when it gets cold and put out during the warm days that way?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    A lot of questions are probably better directed to the practice of post-emergent hilling rather than this particular technique of doing so.

    Results of some of the research I've looked at show little benefit in terms of tuber number or size from post-emergent hilling. In some varietals it may actually decrease yield. References below are from the American Journal of Potato Research. I'm not an expert in this field.

    Pre-emergent hilling shape may influence yields in some varietals

    What hilling does seem to decrease sun exposure and greening. The appearance of green in the skin is due to chlorophyll and is indicative of increased concentrations of solanine.

    So while you may not get more potatoes, the ones you do get are more likely to be safe to eat with the skins on, improving yield overall.

    The question about "leaching chemicals" is an interesting one. I'm not aware of any good quality evidence that otherwise clean plastic containers are a risk. If you're concerned, food safe containers are probably the best bet with packaged soil. Using local soil can present a risk depending on historic land use.


    5 years ago on Step 10

    Can you explain the purpose of turning the bin, aside from keeping the soil in as you add more? Is it so that more sunlight will reach the plants?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    When the stalk grows upward, you then add more soil, and it grow up ward etc, at every level the stalk will sprout roots and grow more potatoes at that level. So you get a 'stack' more potatoes in the same ground space.

    I do not understand the reason for turning. Why not simply add soil every X-weeks?


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I never thought you could grow something like potatoes in a container, let alone one that could easily fit on a patio or balcony.


    Mooi gedaan, maar bij het oogsten zie ik nauwelijks aardappelen verschijnen. Kunnen jullie wat qauntitatieve gegevens doorspelen over de opbrengst?

    Well done, but I miss quatitative data about the crop. How many kilograms show up after growth?

    4 replies

    Because this was a two- weeks project we couldn' t test it yet but we are definitely going to do this. It would be nice if some interested people about this project can test this also!

    I have a few plat patatoes left over and will be glad to use them in a test experiment. Contact me at Dont wait long, it is the right time now.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The the first (and most simple) potato tower I saw, was simply a tire placed on the ground, filled with dirt or other planting medium and planted with seed potatos.

    When the potatos grow a little taller than the height of the tire, stack another tire on the first tire and and fill with dirt making sure to leave top of the plant above soil level and repeat the tiering process as necessary.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Good project! A great tip I got from an accomplished grower: Start off with soil/compost mix or blood and bone mix or similar. Once the plant starts growing above the soil, add hay instead of soil and keep on adding hay until the plant starts flowering (which should be at about 7 to 10 tyre height when using tyres). The joy comes when harvesting as the potatoes are clean!!!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    How about lining the inside with aluminium foil and face towards the sun?

    The really simple way to do this whole thing is just have a heavy duty plastic sack, partially fill the soil and as necessary pull up the sides filling in more soil.

    When harvesting you can just pull the sack down.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    How much might the color (darkness/lightness) of the bins affect health and growth of the plants?


    5 years ago on Step 6

    This is a very interesting way to make a "neat" solution to what we did when I was a lad. All we did was to get old car tyres about four or five. we started by lying one on the ground on its side and fill it with soil and planted the seed potato in the middle. When it sprouted and started to grow, we stacked the second tyre and filled it with soil till the plant just had two or three branches sticking out. We kept on doing this till the stack was too high to handle. When the plant started to whither it was harvest time and we got up to 20 kilograms out of one "Tower" Tyres were for free and we got our "seed" out of the garbage that Ma had thrown out. It was also possible to get several seeds just by peeling the potatoes thicker and cut the eyes out and planted them. The peel must be about 10 millimetres thick.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That's how it works, yes.

    As for when to stop raising the soil level, once the flowers start to form is the point I was always told to stop, but I don't know how accurate that is as far as optimum yields are concerned.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi guys,

    Congratulations on a terrific Instructable. I hope you received a great evaluation on this project! As far as the concerns about chemicals leaching out of this system during use, it should be fine if you use food-safe plastic containers.

    There also seems to be a lot of comments about the efficiency of this wrt potato growth. This system (and many others on the site) replicates what is done on farms to grow tuberous plants. The difference is the ability to heap up earth around the plants without having a large amount of space to do it. I'm not sure if the farmers do it quite that much (I'm a city guy but had relatives with farms). I believe there will be a point of diminishing returns if you try and get too many layers of earth - three seems excessive. I also think that there is some inefficiency in access to light due to the plants growing basically at the bottom of a barrel until you've basically filled the barrel - but this is about space efficiency, not horticultural optimization, right? :)

    Great job!