Couldnt help myself, one more potato tower

jbest123(Zone 5 PA)May 18, 2010

Last year I built three towers to satisfy my own curiosity about growing potatoes in a tower. The one tower was a complete disaster because of a transparent tower that caused leaf development 10" from the surface. The other two did very well with potatoes developing over a 16" length of underground stem. These were short towers as I was not looking for a lot of potatoes but I did want to see the anatomy of a potato plant and just where the potatoes grew from.

While researching potato towers I found many people claiming success and a few that said that it was not possible. At the same time almost everybody claimed that early potatoes did not do well in towers. Well the Yukon Gold is our early potato, and the Kennebec is our mid-season potato, so I went with the Kennebec for my test.

After I harvested the broccoli and cabbage it opened up a pathway to a volunteer Yukon Gold potato plant and I decided it was time for it to go. That crazy plant had lifted that bed about three ins.

Later when I was cleaning up the debris I noticed that there were potatoes growing on that part of the stem that was above ground. If you look close at the lower most potatoes you can see leaves growing behind them and they are below the potatoes above.

Now when someone talks about potato towers this photo pops in to my mind and I wonder why Yukon Gold potatoes do not do well in a tower. I figure the only way to get that photo out of my mind is to have another experiment so here goes another tower.

There is a Yukon Gold with four chitted buds planted at least 8" deep in the base as you see it.

The tower was then filled with amended potting soil which puts the seed spud about 15" below the surface. I will fill the tower as the weather compresses it keeping the soaker hose about 2-3" and the seed spud about 16"+ below the surface. Wish me luck, John

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Dan Staley

Well, now you're just showing off. ;o)

The important thing, in my view, is the need to get water down to the bottom of the tower. Coiling a soaker hose, or a device like John made is a good way to go.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 4:52PM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

No, not showing off just thought people would be interested but it doesn't look that way.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 5:01AM
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I'm interested! I've never grown potatoes. Maybe will try it next year :-)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 11:31AM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

I am always fascinated with what people here do! AMAZING. I'd show that stuff off too! No shame to that, it is BRILLIANT!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 11:49AM
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You're making me want to pull my potato plants out just to see if there are baby potatoes hiding underneath! It's my first attempt and I'm trying container/hilling, but your method looks tempting for next year.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 12:23AM
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Very cool idea with the soaker hose. I love to see all the different ways that people garden.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 7:21AM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

Thanks for the photos. I have soaker hose which I will now cut into usable portions!!!


    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 2:36AM
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Having read everything I could find here and on other forums (fora?) about potato bins, I wanted to try it this year. I wanted to wait a post an entry at the end of the season with the results, but I will preempt a little and show some pictures of the progress so far.

I have two bins that are 2x2 each built with 1x8s for the sides and 2x2 corner blocks that are offset vertically to lock each layer together. I took some pics when the bins were completed, but I cannot find them. I filled the first level for each bin with what is basically Mel's mix (several composts, including homemade; peat moss; a little vermiculite), then I planted the seed taters and filled the second level half way. This all compacted down to the top of the first level over the succeeding weeks, so next year, if I do this again, I will probably fill more.

I planted the seeds on 25 April, four per bin giving each seed one square foot. In the southern bin I have two seeds each of Caribe and Early Rose, which are early season varieties, like Yukon Gold. I will only give these three levels including the filled level. In the northern bin next door, I planted All Blue and Yellow Finn, which are main or long season potatoes. Not sure yet how high I will bin these, but probably a couple more than the early varieties. I put the long season bin to the north so that the growth of the early season does not shade the late variety bin.

Below is a photo taken on 18 May. The northern bin with the main varieties is to the bottom of the photo. On the left in that bin if facing the house (i.e., towards the bottom in this photo) are the two All Blue sprouts and on the right are the two Yellow Finn sprout. The southern bin is to the right facing the house (or towards the top of this photo). On the left in that bin is the one Early Rose sprout (the other has not appeared and I suspect will not...we had a wet few weeks after these went in) and on the right are the two Caribe sprouts. You can see that the mix settled to about the top of the first level in each bin.

I took the photo below yesterday (22 May) while part way through "hilling" the plants with straw. In this photo, the northern bin is to the left, the southern bin is to the right, and the house is to the east of both bins. So the plants are, from left to right: All Blue (2), Yellow Finn (2), Early Rose (1), Caribe (2). The two Yellow Finns were 6-8" tall so I covered them up to the upper couple leaves. The All Blue are a little behind, so I have left them mostly exposed and will bury them in a couple days. I buried the three early plants up to their top leaves.

You can see the sprayers I am using in both photos, which are from DripworksUSA. These are 330° minisprayers and I have the valves cranked down pretty far so they emit four dribbly "jets" right at each plant. The sprayer stakes hold well in the straw, so I can just keep moving them up with the new levels as I add them.

So far this seems to be going well in terms of plant growth, but obviously I have no idea how potato set will go later in the season. I am amazed at how fast the plants began growing once they got their leaves out. If you had the patience, you could actually see them grow over the course of each day!

I will either follow up here later in the season, start a new entry later in the season, or hold off until the end of the season and provide a comprehensive report. Probably the latter because all I will have to report over the rest of the season will be either catastrophe or continued growth or some combination!

Cautiously hoping for lots of taters, but I will be happy even with just a few home grown!


    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 11:13AM
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