Sunset's Johanna Silver shows how to get a great potato harvest from the coolest planters yet
1 of 10Photo and story by Johanna Silver
Potato towers: Great tip from the test garden
By Johanna Silver,Sunset's test garden coordinator
I've wanted to grow potatoes in a tower for some time now. It saves space by getting the crop to grow up rather than sprawling out in the ground.
Here's how it works: The plant grows and its stem lengthens, as do the underground stolons from which the tubers grow. Give the stem more height to grow and it will, increasing the space for stolons and thus tubers.
Click ahead to see our project unfold — and how you can make these simple potato towers, too.
2 of 10Photo and story by Johanna Silver
Potato towers: Getting started
March 13 — I snagged a bunch of reed screening from the nearest Home Depot and chopped it into smaller sizes (it came 12' tall!).
I found that I needed to wrap it around last year's tomato cages to give it some shape.
June 25 — They're massive. They've flowered, and a few have fruited.
It's approaching the time for me to dig my hands in there and harvest a few new potatoes (potatoes with flaky skin).
I'll cut the water and let the plant die if I like the size. This gets the potatoes to suberize.
Otherwise, I'll water for a few more weeks to keep the spuds growing bigger. Harvest won't be as much of a cinch as I was expecting, seeing as the nearby squash have made access to the towers a bit of an obstacle course.
10 of 10Photo and story by Johanna Silver
Potato towers: Harvesting the towers
August 7 — The potato plants are dead, and I’ve let them sit for a few weeks while they suberize, meaning the skins harden, giving potatoes their special storing power.
I unwrapped the bamboo screening, and lifted up the cage. It’s a cinch! And sure enough, potatoes fell out the bottom.