I wanted to hedge my bets just in case my mole-proof potato cage (https://www.instructables.com/id/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
- 1 - 10 foot roll hardware cloth (makes 2 towers!)
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
- seed potatoes (mine sat around a warm kitchen for a 2-3 weeks, giving them a good chance to get
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!
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
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!
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!
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.