How to grow potatoes in towers
Sunset's Johanna Silver shows how to get a great potato harvest from the coolest planters yet
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.
I found that I needed to wrap it around last year's tomato cages to give it some shape.
Rebar stakes secure the cages to the ground.
The yield is supposedly two to three times greater than growing them in the ground.
I built five of them. Are they too tall? I'm suddenly worried that I'm being too optimistic about their growth.
And that's it! As the vines grew taller, I simply topped them off with more rice straw for the tubers to grow in.
That's right: After that first topping off with compost and straw, I added no more soil.
It seems no matter now many seeds I plant, I'm always surprised at the magic of germination. Is anyone with me?
I've been keeping up with topping off the vines with more straw (and only straw) as they grow, and I've been consistent about watering.
My fingers are crossed that there will actually be pounds upon pounds of delicious spuds inside those lush towers.
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.
More: Learn more about growing potatoes in the Sunset Plant Finder
I reached my hand in the straw and sure enough, I pulled out some ‘Rose Finn’ potatoes. They won’t store as long since their skins weren’t allowed to harden for a few more weeks, but they’ll taste extra delicious.
I unwrapped the bamboo screening, and lifted up the cage. It’s a cinch! And sure enough, potatoes fell out the bottom.