How to grow 100 lbs of potatoes in just 4-square-feet

Wondering if you have enough space to plant potatoes in your garden? If you have a sunny corner, just two feet by two feet, that's all the space you need!
Instead of the typical mounded rows that take up a lot of real estate in the garden, try planting potatoes in a tower. It will take some planning, but the payoff will be worth it. Keep reading to learn how to make it happen at home:
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Step 1: Choose Your Potatoes
Get your hands on some healthy, certified seed potatoes. The best options for towers, according to Rodale's Organic Life, are late varieties. They set heavy tubers and mature in late summer to early fall.
Once you have your seed potatoes, cut them up. Just be sure to leave at least two eyes per cut section. Set them out to dry for a day or more. Veggie Gardener says you'll know seed potatoes are ready to plant when the cut side(s) have calloused over, which reduces chances for rot.
Step 2: Build Your Tower
While seed potatoes are drying out, get started on your tower. First, decide what type of materials you'll use. There are several options out there, from a more sturdy, visually appealing lumber tower, to a simple cylinder made from chicken wire.
For a more basic tower, cut a section of sturdy, outdoor mesh wire fencing to measure 4 feet long and 3 feet wide. Roll it into a cylinder and use metal or bamboo stakes for structural support if needed and zip ties to secure the ends together. It's really that simple.
If using lumber, the materials and plan will be more involved, but the tower will be beautiful and something you can use season after season. The basic concept is to build a box from pressure treated or rot resistant lumber measuring 2 feet by 2 feet. The box will be attached to four 2-by-2 posts standing just under 3 feet high. As you add soil, you will attach more boards to the posts until you reach the top and complete your tower.
Step 3: Plant Your Tower
There are a couple of methods out there for planting potato towers. Here we will focus on planting only one layer of seed potatoes in the bottom 6 inches of the structure. Use a rich, organic compost mixed with some coconut coir or potting mix to improve drainage and air circulation. Mel's Mix, or something similar, is a good option. Add 3 inches of moist soil to the box, plant seed potatoes about 6 inches apart, and cover them with 3 more inches of soil.
Once seed potatoes sprout and grow to a few inches tall, add more soil. Mounding soil around the stems every two to four inches is key to getting plants to produce more tubers. This is why using late varieties is important, as they ideally will set more tubers in every layer of soil added. Early varieties often only produce one set of tubers. So, as Tipnut has learned, using early varieties will limit potato production to the bottom 6 inches of the tower.
Continue this process of mounding soil around potato plants and adding boards to the tower. Once plants reach the top, continue to water deeply and often. You'll know potatoes are ready to harvest when leaves begin to yellow and die. To harvest, remove one side of the bin and carefully unload the soil so as not to damage any potatoes. It helps to use a tarp, so you can add the leftover soil to your compost bin easily. ​
Tips for Success:
1. Make sure the tower is sturdy and large enough. Tall, skinny, unsecured wire towers can easily fall over.
2. Consider separating potato towers if building more than one. This way, as Common Sense Homesteading points out, potatoes will be less likely to succumb the same diseases or pests.
3. Planting the right potatoes at the right time is key, so know your area's average last frost date and what variety of potatoes you're using.
4. Potatoes like moist and cooler soils, under 75°F GrowVeg points out. Towers can heat up more and dry out faster than in ground gardens. So, if you don't have luck your first attempt, keep this in mind. Water potatoes often and thoroughly, but make sure they are getting adequate drainage.
5. Sinfonian's Garden Adventure suggests covering the tower for a week or more until soil is completely dry to make harvesting easier.
Ultimately, growing potatoes in a tower will take some trial and error to figure out what works best. So, while 100 pounds of potatoes is possible, give yourself several seasons to work out the issues before you label a smaller harvest as unsuccessful.
Generally, you can expect to harvest 10 to 20 pounds of potatoes for every 1 pound of seed potatoes planted. But, every year will be different and you'll probably have more success with certain varieties over others.
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Overall, building a tower and maintaining it is well worth the effort if you have no where to plant potatoes.
Are you excited to build your own potato towers? Share what works and what doesn't!
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