All my attempts at regular and sweet potatoes in raised beds (keyhole garden beds) and in the ground, are still producing plants (third and fourth generations) regardless of my attention. It is possible that a variety could be bred to better take advantage of the vertical space provided by a tower, although I don’t think it is likely since the tower introduces a lot of additional problems that must be overcome. I started with planting the potato starts in the tire. We plant them deeper or hill them to protect the tubers from exposure and also to prevent the stolons from forming additional stems instead of tubers. The topic of growing potatoes in containers is pretty complicated, which is why I didn’t go into detail. There was this huge hole in the ground and I just planted potato seeds everywhere, About 2 months later, I notice these huge white potatoes. There is more than one patent for potato towers and hundreds of articles, both in print and on-line. Potato roots from a potato tower showing no roots or rhizomes along the buried stems, photo by Dan Rogers. While the patent predates the term “potato tower,” all the elements are there and the illustration does an admirable job showing a kind of potato growth that has never been captured on photo or video. This does not work either. And then there is the deluxe solution where you build a square wooden structure as pictured above. Potato towers don’t work. So I conclude im going to make only 1 foot high straw mini towers today and see what results that brings me this spring. What will some gardeners fall for next? We also have late-season varieties which grow over a much longer season. Sweet potatoes can have longer vines and more foliage area, but if you don’t let it spread out to catch sunlight or trellis it in some way, you won’t get the benefits. As far as I’m concerned, if potato towers do not give you a higher yield, they don’t work. Not only I totally agree .. Square Box Vertical Potato Tower – This is another version of this method! I actually found a great source and plans on growing a square wooden potato tower from the Seattle Times. I don’t want to get your hopes up, because there is really no possibility that you are going to find success with this, but it is still a useful exercise to imagine what it would look like. What I feel is most beneficial, is the fact that you are willing to share your knowledge and expertise as you have with others! Late season tubers are optimal, as they send out rhizomes and form tubers later which work best for the layered effect of a potato tower. But if you take the aggregate of these videos you quickly realize nobody is producing a lot of potatoes using towers. Surprisingly it worked ! There are two insurmountable problems with the potato tower concept: We could dispense with this idea based only on the relationship between foliage area and the total energy budget of the plant. Start with one tire and plant the seed potatoes. of potatoes per grow bag. If you have a potato that produced stolons over a vertical foot of stem, please take a picture! What happens is that the plants exhaust themselves trying to climb out of a constantly increasing soil layer. I’ve looked at the Kenosha Potato Project quite closely, and have opted for grow bags. Different strains may bulk tubers set on nodes further away from the seed piece BUT I have no evidence of any decent size tubers above 14″ THEREFORE any container taller than 16″ is a complete waste of time. Gloves Wire cutters Straw Soil Seed potatoes Water. Quite a few people have also pointed out that there are university Extension articles that promote towers. If the discussion is about flowering and fruiting above ground it should be air temperature. I live in zone 8a, where the temp is between 85-106 in the summers. aggregatum), Potato: What You Should Know About Potato Fruits, Potato Ploidy and Endosperm Balance Number, Top 10 Beginner Mistakes with True Potato Seeds (TPS), USDA Zones for Andean Root and Tuber Crops, Book Review: Pandora’s Potatoes – The Worst GMOs, andean potato (Solanum tuberosum subsp. References to towers don’t go that far back, but some structures that we would now call potato towers do. If the soil in the tower gets too hot, they stop making tubers. Potatoes are annual plants. If you somehow forced the plant to produce ten levels of stolons, then you would get 10 times as many tubers that would be 1/10th as large (actually less, because so much energy would have to be expended on the formation and maintenance of all those stolons). People have been growing potatoes for 10,000 years. All of the rhizomes and potatoes are at or near ground level. Very few people are likely to ever see such a high yield, but it is within the range that can be achieved growing in the ground, everything else being equal. They have been bred and selected to do this to make mechanical harvesting easier. We chose to re-purpose some items from around the yard (hence the chicken wire). A mix of 1/3 compost and 2/3 organic potting soil is what I used. I’ve got a copy of “the Self Sufficient Gardener” by John Seymour, and there’s a sidebar illustration of this method, I think with the potatoes growing in a barrel. The other problem is that potatoes simply don’t produce an endless number of stolons. The lack of leaves results in very little food being produced, which in turn results in few or small potatoes. In field agriculture, these crops are typically hilled, ridged in the same way as potatoes. But the fact is, other than not taking up precious space in the garden, they don’t have a lot of advantages. Error message: "The request cannot be completed because you have exceeded your, Copyright © 2020 Garden Myths | I study how well vines grow tubers vertically (almost 10 years now)! Potato towers are a hot topic, probably because a lot of people have smaller backyards and they want to produce as much food as they can. Fortunately, I am better at growing other crops and will stick to them in the future. You can go to YouTube and see dozens of clips of people excited to empty their tower, tall trash can, bin or barrel of potatoes. It isn’t worth the effort. As far as I can tell, the potato tower began with the idea of growing potatoes in tires. My First Vegetable Garden – A New Course Offered by University of Guelph Arboretum. Now that you have the potato tower built and filled with good compost/potting soil mix, it’s time to plant the seeds potatoes. Indeterminate (late) potatoes do not form tubers in a different way than determinate (early/mid) potatoes. These potatoes will make additional rhizomes higher on the stem; as high as one foot above the seed potato. (short season in Alaska). Happy plants make happy food. Conditions can’t be too wet nor too dry and if you have rodents, they can become a big problem. They can destruct a potato hill in no time! I have grown tens of thousands of potato plants, from hundreds of accessions, modern, Andean, and wild potatoes from the whole native range of the potato. Building Potato Towers. First, as you probably know, potatoes form on “runners” that are put out during the third phase of growth (same time as the flowers). At the end of the summer, we tipped over the tire and looked for potatoes. Tuber production is limited by foliage area. In fairness, the article reports that someone who tried it produced only 25 pounds. Screw the decking board to the 2×4’s. Do they grow the same way? Thanks for sharing these thoughts. The main function of a plant’s foliage is to collect energy. To get the most out of your potato tower, look for longer season varieties (sometimes referred to as indeterminate potatoes). And you answered questions before they were asked. Roughly 15% more. 6″ of soil has done that for gardeners and farmers for several hundred years. So, I have serious doubts, but I haven’t tried this kind of tower and don’t plan to, so I will reserve judgment. A friend who grows potatoes traditionally says my 11 lbs. Straw can work, but it is very dependent on environment. Biil and everybody ! If you can fault most of the people who have written about this with anything, it is not sufficiently testing the idea before promoting it. I therefore went on and tried to build one. Then there is other type of video, by real gardeners, that show you the end result. I once had the opportunity to grow potatoes organically in my backyard. They never did and they probably never will. More madness well dissected by your good self. I stacked another tire and more dirt as things grew taller. Per plant yields with elite potato varieties occasionally reach 10 pounds or more under perfect conditions. May 31, 2016 By Vanessa Beaty 7 Comments. Thanks again! It stands to reason that if a small hill produces a good crop, a bigger hill will produce a bigger crop. I had watched a homesteading video that made it look like magic, but sadly, I ended up with withered greens, rotted greens, no sweet potatoes, and LOTS of widow spiders. I haven’t tried it, but I expect that they would. It is worth spending a little time thinking about the purpose of potato tubers. This is one of the common results that you see with towers: people are very impressed with the yield, even though it is not any better than they could have expected if they grew plants in the ground with the same level of attention. Yes, both rodents and excessive moisture probably played a part in my poor harvest from the mulching bed. lawn and garden . You only get potatoes in the bottom 6 inches, which is what I got. Therefore, if one uses a tower and really aggressively fills it up so the plant has, say, two feet of fill before it is allowed to grow tall and flower, perhaps — PERHAPS — the stem could produce tubers up that entire length. But most people who go through the extra work of building towers want a higher yield than just doing it in the ground. The Tower Materials. His tower didn’t allow … Next year I’ll skip the towers. Only the last time did I achieve any sense of success but it simply reflected what you stated in your article. I am not discussing that type of tower here. I’m not sure how far back that idea goes, but I’m guessing that just about as long as there have been tires, there have been people trying to grow stuff in them. Pingback: The Poor Man's Potato Tower | Mind Your Dirt. From 3 pounds of seed potatoes. Add Tip Ask Question Comment Download. I’m sure it didn’t take long before someone decided to add a second tire, then a third, and the tower was born. Half of the tower is always going to be shaded, so that further restricts the yield. Kristina says. I’d very much love to connect with you and talk more if you’re keen. I fo, however, have a question. If you want more yield, you need more foliage. Thanks for the very informative article. When temperatures are mentioned it could be either soil or air – if it is not mentioned, its a bit of a guess. I find that a tower requires lots of watering, because the leaves suck the tower dry pretty quickly, though this wouldn’t happen with a solid-wall tower. Happy planting! Articles about potato towers fall into four categories: those that promote the idea and never report on results, those that later report pretty normal potato yield, those that later report failure, and those that promote the idea and then unconvincingly report success (usually in support of selling a tower kit). 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