Well, we love potatoes! This year we wanted to grow lots more and to try some different varieties, but we just don’t have anymore space to devote (and potatoes need space!). Plus, as we try to practice companion planting, we find that not many other vegetables like to share their bed with potatoes. So a potato farmer really needs to segregate the spud in the rotation plan. Wow- what a real estate hog this veggie is!
This winter we stumbled upon a new concept in potato growing- Go Vertical. We thought this was a wonderful idea because it allows you to grow 50 lbs in just 9 sq. feet of space. AND harvesting doesn’t require back-breaking digging!
We are not sure it will work, but we are experimenting this spring with four “eye-rise” potato bins. (high-rise, get it?
Here’s the basic set up from a great article by Fred Davis.
In our bins, Tim modified the design by adding a drain pipe in the middle- advice from a veteran gardener he met at the WV Small Farm conference this year. Since this vertical garden can dry out more quickly, we’ll put the hose into the drain pipe and let water seep to the roots- from the center out.
1. Cut a 10′ length of hardware cloth. Use wire cutters to cut holes about 3″ x 4″. Lace together the ends of to create a cylinder 3′ diameter. (more details in Fred’s article).
2. Place a length of drain tube in the center so it peeks out the top.
3. Fill it with light compost and straw.
4. Wet it down to help soil settle.
5. Plant potato pieces- 1 each in the side holes.
6. Water through the center drain tube.
In vertical gardens it is best to use late-season varieties like Russian Fingerlings, Yellow Finn and Beauregard Sweet Potatoes . Early (or short) season potatoes only set tiny tubers once. Late-season plants set tubers many times along the way from different sections of their growing stem. Our question is- if in this design the potatoes are planted into the side of the bin, are late season potatoes necessary since their stem will not be covered with soil and straw as in traditional potato planting? We’ll plant one bin with early-season potatoes as an experiment to compare results!
But since we do love potatoes, we are not willing to put all our “spuds in one basket”. As insurance in case this new method fails, we planted some early-season potatoes like Sangre, Red Gold and Yukon Gold in the ground using the traditional method.
The great benefits with the tater towers are in harvesting- you just untie and let the potatoes fall out. (that’s the idea- stay tuned! )