The last potato tower for 2009

jbest123(Zone 5 PA)September 16, 2009

There is a three part video of the harvest of this tower in the lefthand column of my journal. There are also hi-res photos, click on a photo for medium res then click again for hi res.

I should give a recap on the tower. The base of the tower is 8" deep. Two Kennebec seed potatoes were planted 6" deep, then two tiers added and filled with compost. The seed potatoes ended up about 16"+ deep. This was not an incremental filling of the tower. The tower was filled within 15min of planting. After about 2-3 weeks the one sprout broke through the surface and the other never showed up. When harvested there were no signs of it ever trying so it turned out to be a dud spud.


Here is a link that might be useful: Potato Tower Harvest

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John, I've grown potatoes in towers now for the past two seasons and grew them in the ground for several years prior to that so, while I am by no means an expert and am still refining my tower work, I have some unsolicited comments that might help should you decide to plant in a tower again.

1) I think you started your potatoes way too far below the soil line; they needed to expend quite a bit of their energy reserves just to get to sunlight. Your failed spud might have put out some growth that was unable to make it to the surface before the seed potato ran out of reserves and then composted itself before you dug out your other plant.

2) You could probably plant at least four spuds in that tower without a problem. You might not get the 1# plus spuds like the one in your pics, but you would maximize your production.

3) I plant mine in about six inches of soil at the bottom of my potato bins and add a couple or three inches of compost/peat moss on top and wait for the top growth to achieve eight or so inches before covering all but the top three to four inches of growth with leaves. I repeat this until the potatoes reach the top of the towers or I get too lazy/distracted to continue the process. I use leaves because they are handy and easy to sort through when searching for early potatoes. Straw is another easy material to use and compost is fine, but more difficult to get through to harvest potatoes while the plant continues to grow. Leaves and straw might not work well in your rainy environment.

4) It is important to not add the upper stories of your potato tower until top growth from the potatoes is sufficient to gather enough light when the next level is added, otherwise you slow down the growth of the plants and they become a bit leggy.

5) The spuds like to be fed. Your tower appears to be attached to your regular bed, so this may not be an issue, but mine are separate and with only five or six inches of soil/compost below the planted seed potato and weed barrier at the bottom of the tower, feeding them appropriately is important in order to obtain the maximum harvest.

I like growing potatoes in the towers. Unfortunately, they require a bit more work during the season than planting them in ground and mounding around the growing stems or doing as you did and filling the tower right from the get go. I didn't get around to putting the final two 2x6 levels around my five level towers and I had somewhat of a water and fertilization issue this season that I won't bore you with. Even so, I expect my six towers to produce between 15# and 30# from each bin (some varieties grow better than others), which is a bit better than last year when I planted them relatively late in the season but completed all five levels of the towers and generally payed better attention to them during the growing season. I am confident that with proper attention to fertilization, water, timely top-growth covering and tower completion, I can at least double my output per bin. I bet you could get 20-30# out of your bin next year with a few simple changes.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 2:26PM
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I"m sorry if I'm off topic, but the potato towers are new to me and I'm wondering if I can do the same with peanuts? Any other vegetables that you can use the tower with other than sweet potatoes?

Can you just buy sweet potatoes to sprout, cut them up when you see the eyes, plant a chunk of potato with the eye attached, then not spend 52 cents each eye or sprout?

Do you plant 4 eyes in a potato tower the size you have, or 4 whole potatoes? And the same with the sweet potatoes?

That is a great idea!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 6:46PM
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scarlet, if you go to the HGTV message boards, General Gardening forum, I have posted on there how to start sweet potatoes. Thread called 'Sweet Tators'.
Much cheaper than buying them unless you want a specific variety.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 1:42AM
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Would you have a link to it? I just searched the site and don't see the forums. They do have an organic gardening fourm, but I didn't see general gardening.

This is the website I am speaking of:

Thanks for the help. I started some white potatoes from another website, they are still sprouting right now.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 8:50PM
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Hi all -

I was going to post a new topic but I saw this one just before doing so.

I have a 2 x 3 foot potato bin that I added this year (thanks to Sinfonian for introducing me to this idea).

I put five small Kennebec pieces in the container and filled them a bit with dirt. Out of the five, four of them sprouted.

As they grew, I continued to add more soil and boards around the bin until it got to about 2.5 feet tall.

I may have added dirt too soon, but I kept most of all of the potatoes completely covered except for the very top-most leaves. I then also buried the "side-shoots" for the most part - but some of them peeked out. Needless to say, I am wondering if this led to the demise of three of the potato plants by the time I got the bin to about 2 feet - so only one potato survived.

Well, we had some early heat in June (middle 90's for over two weeks) and the potatoes looked very limp and wilting. So, I was watering the bin like crazy almost everyday until I started seeing water on the driveway (yeah, I made the bin on the driveway because of lack of space).

Finally after the heatwave calmed down, the one potato plant really took off and there was foliage everywhere!

Unfortunately, there was about two pounds of potatoes from this plant - and they were all within the top six inches.

I used almost pure leaf compost (we have a forest area in the backyard where I blow and collect all of the leaves - and I dug under and used this to fill the bin as needed). While digging down, I couldn't even locate the main stem - it is as if it was fully and completely rotten.

Does anyone have any other tips on planting potatoes in a potato bin? Again, I used the Kennebec variety - what other varities have folks tried with good success? I was only able to find Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold, and Russet potatoes locally so it seems I am pretty limited.

I sure wish the Kennebec potatoes would work in a bin - maybe they do but I just didn't do something right with the bin (it is my first year for it!). The Kennebec potatoes are exceptionally better than any that we've purchased at the supermarket with a little bit of garlic salt, butter, and cheese - and I'd like to continue growing these.

I am going to try to give the bin one more try next year - and if it doesn't work well, I will probably give up.

A few photos:

Early showing of the four potatoes that grew - but later three of them died. You can see how high I have the dirt around the potatoes here:

A view of it earlier as I was just topping off the box with a few inches of leaves for moisture conservation:

This is the ONE potato plant in the 2 x 3 foot box that survived:

So, what are all of your thoughts - did I cover the potato plants too early/have watering problems/problems attributed to the heat wave/wrong variety used?

Thank you all!

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

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 10:56PM
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John, that was really good! thanks! tabor wants to know what your growing to the left of your tators? he's only 13 and very interested in gardening. this year he plans to grow a whole lot by his self. i'm stickng to the sq ft method! **grin** he likes to be out there hoeing and all that! ~medo

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 3:16PM
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