Potato Towers

kwilliam10July 22, 2010

Hi all,

I have been a recent convert to Square Foot Gardening. My first project was to create two potato towers (one two weeks behind the other), on my deck. Here are pics of the beginning stages of growth:

For a number of weeks, I had TREMENDOUS growth. My biggest concern was when to start covering the green leaves with more Mel's Mix (since the growth was not uniform throughout...cover the larger stems, means burying the lower ones.) Here is after a few more weeks:

The past week and a half have been brutal weather (upper 90's), and I was watering daily...assuming the Mel's Mix would dry out, since it was not in the ground. We just got done 3 days of HEAVY rains (obviously I didn't water then.) But yesterday I noticed a number of my potato stems were wilting. I think I've lost about 30% of the growth from one tower alone. It looks almost like they are rotting at the soil level. I am supposing I have been overwatering??? It would kill me if I've destroyed half my crop....I was so looking forward to 100 lbs (or more) of potatos, this Fall.

Some more background. I started the towers about 5 weeks ago. The second tower was about 1 1/2 weeks after the first. I put weed block inside, as separation between the soil and wood (wood is stained and sealed...but I want it to last for years.) I assumed you couldn't OVERWATER this soil..as it drained off nicely, through the bottom. I guess I am wrong. Everything seemed fine until we came out of these three days of heavy rains. Yesterday was the first clear/sunny day since....and when I went out to see if I needed to water...I saw the wilting stems. So..no water yesterday. I'm hoping I can keep the remaining (roughly) 60% of the stems remaining in Tower #1. Tower #2 doesn't seem as bad. I assume because it has gotten past the third level of boards..and thus isn't retaining as much water. I had even added PVC piping to the "middle" section of the soil (once I fill the entire tower), so I can be sure to water all the way down.

What do you guys think? Have I destroyed my entire crop, in Tower #1? How often SHOULD I be watering?

Thanks all,


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FYI...here is a picture of the wilting stem. Now I'm petrifide to water. ;>(



    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 11:33AM
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Is the weedblock the problem? I used it to help hold the soil in the bottom (as the bottom is simply slats across, with gaps.) I assumed the weedblock would sufficiently let water pass through, so I couldn't overwater. Maybe not? It could be holding too much water in the bottom, causing water rot. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 9:42AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)


I feel bad that no one else has responded to you, but since I don't grow potatoes in towers (or at all for that matter) I can't give you any advice.

I am thinking about potato towers in the future, but I haven't been convinced of the type of harvest I would get. And, if I don't get enough to warrant my effort, I'll just keep buying them from my local produce store.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 11:05AM
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OK; like eagles I don't do towers, but I do spuds MY guess after last years fiasco (Mine of course). It is too hot for the spuds. I tried bucket potatoes last year and put them close to the south wall of the house they did fine and then bang, looked a lot like yours. Seems like the heat and the extra sun from the white wall of the house was just too much for them. You must keep the soil on the cool side either shaded or mulched. That open bottom could be part of the problem?


    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 8:31PM
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Curt grow....thanks for your response. You seem to be correct. I wasn't sure if it was the hot spell, or the rain storms right after, that did the damage (or combination of the two.) Looks like I need to figure out a better time to start my potatoes. Either that, or some sort of cooling coil, buried in the soil. :) Thanks for the feedback!


    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 9:42AM
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I grow Potatoes in Wine barrels and a home built box. I harvested new potatoes earlier from one barrel and I didn't think the yield was all that good, just not long enough in the ground. For my German Butterballs, they are going great and I'l harvest after they vines die back. However in the box my Purple Vikings are mixed so far. Some are growing up (and can be covered) and some stayed very low to the ground. A few wilted and died. Right next to the two other barrels, so go figure.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 7:26PM
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I re-used my potato bin this year and put six plants in it. It began one foot tall and was filled with composted soil.

After the vines grew very tall, I added a six inch layer of mulched leaves.

The potatoes were pulled last week. Had about 7 - 8 pounds from those six plants that were in a 2 x 3 area.

Dug up ten potato plants out of the garden last night - much more of a job than getting the potatoes out of the bin! Unfortunately out of those 10 plants, I only got about 2.5 pounds of potatoes. Such a shame. The ground was quite wet and there were several potatoes that were rotten.

I still have about 40 more plants to pick in the back garden. Sort of holding off on that because I'm dreading digging up that much.

Was hoping to have about one pound per plant on average from around 80 plants. That doesn't seem like it will be the case for me.

This year's garden is a major bust compared to last year. Don't know what the difference is. I even added on almost double square feet and I may just barely break-even with the 250 pounds of produce I got last year.

Here is a link that might be useful: BsnTech Gardening Blog

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 2:26PM
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I noticed that several of my Purple Viking potatoes had wilted and died. So I pulled them up. I harvested a few fat potatoes, but they were all on the bottom of a long stem. It seems that they did not form any new tubers along where they had been covered up. I'm not sure why, it could be the variety or they just died before their time, as the others still have yet to flower.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 10:12AM
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