Grow 100 lbs. Of Potatoes In 4 Square Feet: {How To}

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Quite the clever gardening tip here folks! Today’s feature includes tips from three different sources for growing potatoes vertically (in layers) instead of spread out in rows across your garden. If you have limited garden space or want to try some nifty gardening magic, this could be a great option for you.

Seattle TimesFirst, there’s this article from The Seattle Times: It’s Not Idaho, But You Still Can Grow Potatoes:

The potatoes are planted inside the box, the first row of boards is installed and the dirt or mulch can now be added to cover the seed potatoes. As the plant grows, more boards and dirt will be added.

You plant in one bottom layer, boarding up the sides of each layer and adding dirt as you go higher (you wait until the plants have grown a bit before adding a new layer). While new potatoes are growing in the top layers, remove the boards from the first layer at the bottom to carefully dig out any that are ready for harvesting. Fill the dirt back in and board up the box again. You move up the layers and harvest as they are ready. I imagine the new potatoes in the first couple bottom layers would be somewhat awkward to get at but as you move higher–not so bad.

I traced the information provided in the article to Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, they also advise you can skip the box and try growing them in a barrel or wire cage instead.

In another article on The Seattle Times (found here), I came across a blog post from Sinfonian’s Square Foot Garden that details his attempt using this box method, he added this tip for a better yield (Update: link removed since page is no longer online) :

Greg from Irish-Eyes Garden City Seeds let me know that Yukon Golds, and all early varieties set fruit once and do not do well in towers. You only get potatoes in the bottom 6 inches, which is what I got. Late season alternatives to yukon gold are Yellow Fin and Binjte.

Bonus! For a handy project sheet, The Seattle Times has a nice image file detailing the steps (click to view the original):

Image File

Imagine growing all those potatoes in a just a few square feet–and how drastically reduced the weeding job will be! So Clever.

Reader Update: Here’s some info sent in by Christine who made a bin using wood pallets:

Last weekend, I was inspired by the Tip Nut potato bin – grow 100 lbs in 4 square feet. As nice as it looked, it seemed to be very complicated, especially unscrewing slats. Being a “just do it” kind of person, I asked my husband to build me one using pallets — which are free. He picked some up, but I realized that they were enormous, so he cut them in half and made side by side compost / potato growing bins.

The Tip Nut plan called for unscrewing the bottom portions to get the grown potatoes out. Rod attached pieces of wood to hold the front pallet in place and to allow you to slide it up like a window. I took books of hay to stuff in the openings of the potato bin so the dirt wouldn’t fall out. We’ll see how it does.

Here’s a photo:

Wood Pallets

Unfortunately we placed it up against our neighbor’s fence. On the other side is their dog, who our Puggle Feeney loves to visit. He is always trying to dig under the fence. With the bins in place over his digging spot, the poor guy jumped into the compost bin and got stuck!

Christine’s Update: After having it in place for a couple of weeks, I discovered that the local cats think it makes a fine litter box, so I’ve added a frame on the top with chicken wire to keep them out, but allow the sunlight and water in. See her page here for lots more info and tips: Food Security 2009.

Sunset.comUpdate: Reed Screening Towers
(Spring 2011)

Sunset.com: Here’s another project using different materials but grown with the same basic idea. These are made with reed screening wrapped around tomato cages (to give them shape) and then secured to the ground with rebar stakes.

To get started, a single layer of seed potatoes are planted, a few inches of compost and rice straw is added and then as the vines grow taller, they are topped off with more rice straw for the tubers to grow in (no more soil is added).

At the end of the season, remove the bamboo screening and watch the potatoes tumble out!

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Published: April 7, 2009
Updated: September 4, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
219 Comments to “Grow 100 lbs. Of Potatoes In 4 Square Feet: {How To}”
  1. patricia sutton says:

    HI,
    What a great idea for a small garden like mine!
    I have downsized since retiring and miss growing my own potatoes, i grow everything else in containers and flower beds.
    Has anyone in the uk tried this? as i don’t recognise the varieties of potatoes that have been spoken about in this article, if so have you tried it with any uk popular varieties? i would like to give it a go, i will let you know how i get on, and if anyone else in uk has any luck i would be interested to hear about it. and what varieties have been succsesful

    • colin says:

      UK answer both QVC and Ideal World c640 and 644 both sell kits for growing container spuds with the differing types for the various growing periods up till a Christmas crop
      If you go on line to the QVC site you will find a link to Richard Jackson’s blog
      that will advise you, also you can Email him … no limit to the amount of help you can get with QVC UK ..

    • Paula says:

      Laundry basketss

    • Michael Hawn says:

      Do you plant more potatoes at each layer or level. Or does the one original main leafy stem produce layer apron layer of potatoes?

      • Mike says:

        Potatos are strange – as the lower leaves are covered they turn into roots then produce potatos.

        • Brian says:

          Potatoes and tomatoes are related species. All the little hairs on a tomato plant will turn to roots if you hill the plants and thus, provide the plants with more nutrition.

    • lori murray says:

      Patricia, My brother lives in Montana high in the mountains & grows his in garbage bins which have wheels. Starts them on Good Friday & when the weather is cold he wheels it in the garage. When the bin is full of soil it will be very heavy though but by then the weather should be warm enough. We grow keenebec white potatoes & this year I also tried the red. If using the straw for growing medium it shouldn’t weigh as much. One thing I did learn was to drill 1/2 – 3/4″ holes in the sides & bottom for draining & air circulation. They are in rows going vertically about 6″ apart. I didn’t measure. Also learned from someone else a layer of pine needles between layers of soil/compost is important so am trying that this year. Good Luck!

  2. John says:

    You can grow them in old car tires also.Just put down a tire or 2 and put in your potatos and some straw and dirt.They grow inside the tire,you reach down in and pull out what you need.

    • Ian says:

      PLEASE DON’T USE TYRES. could be very dangerous to your health. I asked my tyre merchant about this and he said the amount of chemical materials the tyres collect off the roads over their lifetime seeps into the tyre rubber and will leach out into your potato crop as the insides become damp with watering. It’s a good idea BUT for your own health, please stop and think of all the chemicals that go into tar production. Do you really want this in your potato crop?
      And before you ask, i did use this method…but now I use the method described above with the boards or with large containers.
      Sorry to be a scare monger…but it’s your health

      • Aintshinbrit says:

        NOT only that.
        But you cannot get out the first layer of tire without disturbing the entire crop.

      • dahut says:

        The whole tire thing is overblown. There has been no evidence to date that supports the toxic leaching theory – it remains just that… a theory.

        Now, it seems like a no-brainer, I admit. Tires are an artificial petro-chemical product, run on the wicked bad roads where cars travel. God knows, but such things MUST be bad, right? But of all the information Ive seen the only substantiated problem arises with tire SHREDS used for mulch, which exhibit high levels of zinc leaching. Millions of people garden in tires don’t succumb to any noxious effects.

        Similar dire warnings have been given about pressure treated wood, too, mostly by people who just don’t like the idea of chemicals around wood. Research suggests that a microscopic amount of arsenic migrates out of the wood, but arsenic levels in the subject soils are no higher than that which naturally exists in the soil.

        As for potatoes, I like the idea of sliding side boards that allow you to extract the bottom potatoes – something the tires don’t have. Make them our of pressure treated wood and they’d be near to perfect. :)

        • Mountain Man, Port Angeles, WA says:

          dont use pressure treated lumber as it is full of toxic chemicals

          • LindainCO says:

            I agree with MountainMan and Ian. No chemicals in my food, please!
            Ahh, I long for the good old days when all of our food was organic!
            Actually, it can be again. :D Happy growing, everyone!

          • Bridy(coalition for proper word usage) says:

            This is a reply to LindainCO, and anyone else who is CONFUSED.
            ORGANIC means carbon based life. Carbon forms the key component for all known naturally occurring life on Earth. ALL food IS organic! If you are eating anything that is not organic, you should see the Dr. because you may have a disease called Pica.
            The proper term for what you are trying to convey is “organically grown”, rather than using synthetic fertilizers such as “Miracle Grow” they use animal feces that is allowed to rot to release nitrogen into the ground and fertilize the plants.

          • BP says:

            That is also outdated advice. Most (arguably all modern and consumer available) pressure treated wood is safe for vegetable garden use. Some is only heat treated, others use safe antimicrobial chemicals such as copper products. (ie the same copper used in my organic-rated fruit tree spray)

            Research your brand before making a decision either way.

        • Deb says:

          ABSOLUTELY chemicals leach into your potatoes from tires. EVERYONE knows tires are all sorts of chemciuals and toxic stuff. NEVER, EVER use them for food. Wood also leaches chemicals into the food. Of course it’s a very slow process that kills over time. Please don’t publish untruths as others can seriously harm their health by reading this. ABSOLUTELY tires and treated wood is dangerous for vegetables.

      • Sara says:

        You can use tiers if they do not smell like rubber any more. They need to leak out the toxin in them at first then they will be perfectly fine to build or grow in. Yes rubber does contain extremely small amounts of certain heavy metals but one needs to know that these compounds are fixed tightly in the rubber matrix and do not leach.If the tires were that porous, they would never be able to hold air. The important thing to remember is to not use cut tires, if you are growing rooted plants.

        • Becky says:

          Tires and pressure treated wood are full of all kinds of toxins.Please don’t use these in you garden. They will poison the soil, and food that you are growing for you and your family. Happy and safe gardening to you and yours. (tires are made of petroleum products surely you don’t want that in your food YIKES!

          • thescientist says:

            Plastic containers and bags are made of petroleum products….. and everyone ears out of them and no harm so far it seems…. you could be right but you reasoning and justification is off a bit

          • Jackie says:

            The is in reply to “thescientist”: No harm comes to them? How many people in this country have illnesses and diseases that never occurred 60 or more years ago, before the advent of the thousands of chemicals we are exposed to every day?? Stop and think before you use things like pressure treated wood and used tires. Do you really want to experiment with your family’s food? Isn’t that why we grow our own, to protect ourselves from commercially grown crops?

      • Anon says:

        What are tyres?

    • sheryl says:

      it doesnt work very well did it for a few years and didn’t get many potatoes out of it..

    • awe says:

      Tires are for cars! They are made for cars. They are tested for cars. They work great on cars. Nobody would care to do any research on growing food in tires. Further more, there is no reason to use tires for growing your food.

      • Keith says:

        Really, cause I have been using tires for years, and I bet I am healthy as an ox. My squash and pumpkins all ready have fruit (July 2nd) where other gardens in the area have little starter plants. My plants are waist high now, with a zillion blooms. Anyone whom has visited my garden has copied it.
        I use discarded tractor tires from local farms. They are bigger and deeper. They are raised and generate heat to the root system.
        Along with the squash I put corn or sunflowers in the middle. Right now my sunflower plants are way over my head.
        Our garden has 29 large tractor, and skidder tires in it.
        Our gardens are made up of recycled everything, raised beds, tires, metal structures (vertical planting), head boards from old beds, old windows for cold beds. I only wish I could post pictures here.

      • Big_Andy says:

        Actually, the tyre methos was developed by savvy gardeners in the UK in WWII when a ready supply of new wood etc wasn’t available, and everybody grow veg to help the war effort. All the illnesses we suffer now rather than 60 years ago is partially down to better diagnosing by docs, worse lifestyles we all live and other combined effects around us. I wouldn’t really worry about any (if at all) chemicals from old tyres that have (probably) leeched any manufacturing chemicals off (and I doubt very much the picking up nasties on the outside walls when you’re using the inside if the tyre.

      • kedwa30 says:

        Lots of people have access to old tires that have been improperly disposed of. Finding ways to repurpose what otherwise might be burned resulting in air pollution is a good way to save a little money. Make do with what you have handy. I wouldn’t go out of my way to obtain tires, certainly wouldn’t go buy them new for this purpose, but there is really nothing wrong with using them as a support for growing potatoes in a limited space when the tires are taking up the space anyway.

        The water that comes off the roof has a little bit of tar from the shingles, and that is going right into the yard where the food is grown anyway. Yes, toxins are in tires, but as long as they stay in the tires then they won’t get into the potatoes. Honestly the fluoride added to drinking water is a lot more harmful. We live in a polluted world and we must eat. There is nothing pristine about the growing conditions on factory farms. If you want pollution free food, you must grow it in a lab environment.

        I think the important thing here is to enable people who don’t have a lot to be able to become more independent. You don’t have to eat them, but if you tend a crop every year and keep a supply of the seed (eyes) then you will be prepared for the worst.

    • Eric Wolf says:

      Tires have not been pure rubber for over a hundred years. If you use tires in your garden you are importing heavy metals into your soil, crop and at some point you. While the chemical into the tire myth is false. The tire does pick up a fair amount of heavy metals dust – also the tire structure it’s self contains a number of toxic metals and chemicals. Tires are not a good idea for human food production.

      • Echo says:

        OK!! for all of you saying that tires and pressure treated wood is bad for growing veggies….

        Remove all tire swings from backyards, parks, school yards, campgrounds, church playgrounds, etc.

        Also remove all pressure treated lumber from your decks, porches, house construction, sandboxes, playgrounds, wooden jungle gym sets, etc…

        i think you kinda get the picture…

  3. Christense says:

    A little white trash, perhaps, but my parents, who are now old enough to tell the same stories over and over, used to plant a potato plant and throw an old tire over it. You don’t add dirt, just put a tire, and the potatoes will grow inside it, perfectly round, and free of dirt. Once the plant grows taller put another tire on top of the first one and you’ll get more potatoes. Continue this process until you have a big stack of tires filled with round, dirt free potatoes.

    • Ryan says:

      How does it work without tires? do you just place the seed potatoes on the ground then add a tire? could you be a little more specific on how that works?

      • MsBunny says:

        I’ve never heard this one! The closest I recall was to grow them in straw. Still eliminates the necessity to remove dirt from the potatoes, but does provide a growing medium.

      • Susan Chandler says:

        Listen up you only put the seed potatoes in the first tire with when you you see green leaves add another tire no more seed potatoes and then use straw REPEAT til your tires are as high as u want the straw makes much lighter and easier than dirt and at harvest time take top tire off and taters will fall out need more remove another tire a friend said his grew so many taters it was lifting the tires and he only used 6 seed taters in first tire Just make sure you feed and miracle grow and they will GROW

  4. Sinfonian says:

    Glad you folks liked it. I too considered tires long and hard in my quest for the perfect growing method for tight spaces. Unfortunately I had no tires to use and couldn’t see buying them. Besides, as the 2005 Times article said, I didn’t want to look like a Jeff Foxworthy joke, hehe.

    That said, however you grow potatoes, do so, it’s easy to do and they produce tons (well, short season don’t but read my blog page for that tid-bit). There’s 100 ways to grow a tomato, so whatever works, do it, hehe.

    Enjoy!

  5. Matthew Abel says:

    You could get very fancy with your boards and add hinges and clasps to your boards. That would make it easier to rob potatoes and maybe add life to the box.

  6. White Trash Ralph says:

    “adding dirt and SEED POTATOES as you go higher”
    You don’t add seed potatoes on every level just the first one and continue to cover the same plants with mulch or dirt when they are about a foot tall being careful not to cover more than a third of the plant. If you had to put seed potatoes on every level you wouldn’t be gaining much. Seems like I have to keep telling this same story over and over…….

    • TipNut says:

      Info corrected–I’m sure I reviewed the post 5 times before publishing and still missed that, thanks.

      • White Trash Ralph says:

        I hope you realize my sarcasm wasn’t directed at you. I am gonna try this myself. Thanks for the post.

        • TipNut says:

          Nope, I’m grateful you found the boo-boo–I was a bit embarrassed I missed it ;).

          • joanna lovato says:

            you don’t need dirt. a long time ago i did this at my parent’s house. they had a lawn (wasteful use of earth) anyway all you need to do is cut up the seed potatoes, leaving a few eye on each part, put them on top of the lawn, no digging needed, and cover with straw. when the potatoes are ready just pull up the plant and presto there are the grown potatoes ready to eat. no digging, no weeding(straw keeps the weeds down) just a little water.

  7. RealPalmTrees says:

    I help grow real palm trees at a Florida Nursery and we do the same concept but with the more exotic palms like the Lipstick palm. I have never tried growing 100 potatoes in 4 square feet but now at least I will have a fighting chance!

  8. Eric Berger says:

    Why do you say, “rob potatoes”, if you grow them, shouldn’t you say “gather potatoes”?

    • Jana says:

      It’s called robbing instead of harvesting because when you “rob” you leave the growing plant intact. Harvesting a crop includes killing the plant and ending the potential for more growth.

      • BP says:

        so, peas/beans, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, certain greens, zucchini, hops, squash, asparagus, etc… that’s all “robbing” instead of harvesting? Those are all examples where you (ahem) harvest the product and the plant continues to produce more that season or next year. Sorry, I just don’t buy your definition.

        • john says:

          REALLY ? Does it matter what you call it ? It’s about growing your own potatoes and eating food without all the chemicals that commercial companies add to thier products to get more profit

  9. Johnathan Vrozos says:

    Pretty clever i must admit. I think it would work well for in the condo for Mrs Vrozos.

    • julie says:

      ‘has anyone tried just putting down a layer of straw and laying out your seed potatoes and covering with a lot more straw? It works, and not much mess as the stray will decompose into the soil and the straw also keeps out weeds.

  10. Bob Elmour says:

    I use a low-tech version of this in the UK. It lets me grow potatoes even though I’m wheelchair bound and can’t really dig. I use old plastic compost sacks. I cut small drainage holes in the bottom and roll the tops of the bags right down, planting the potatoes in maybe a foot of compost/soil mixture. As the plants grow I roll the bags up a little and add more compost/soil, and so on throughout the season. Where the soil covers the stem, new roots and more potatoes form giving a much heavier crop than normal.

    When I want some spuds I just tip the compost/soil out (or cut the bag open if I’m feeling lazy) and presto! There are the potatoes. I find they keep well over winter in their bags of soil as long as I cover them to keep them dry and protected from frost. A bumper harvest, easy storage and no digging – it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

    • Dan in AZ says:

      thats genious my friend i am going to try that

    • LindainCO says:

      Sounds great! I’m trying this!

    • Henry says:

      That is pretty brilliant, for ease of use, and recycling. From what I have read, after the roots are good, you dont need more nutrients on top.you could get the potatoes in upper layers of plain old straw. Actually,going by what I am reading from various peoples experience, all they need is a dark place on the plant to form a potatoe.
      Interesting.

    • Paddy Flynn says:

      What a splendid idea + it gives my empty feed bags another life. Thank you.

    • Kelly Gines says:

      Bob,

      That is genius! I love it so much that I have a use for all the mulch bags I saved and can grow potatoes in a smaller space, living in Arizona I am blessed to grow my food yr round and this will be a fantastic addition. Thank You

  11. kim northrop says:

    Righteous! Must give this a try next year [in Florida, potato season is over]

  12. katelynjane says:

    I hate weeding so this is PERFECT for my garden!! I’m going to try a few of these this year! Store some potatoes in the cold room and give some away. Thanks for the tip!

  13. Vickie says:

    This is perfect! We live on a wooded lot with only one small area that gets enough sunlight. I’ve got to show this to hubby as soon as possible. Thanks for the tip :)

  14. Pinklilys says:

    Great idea but I would use another kind of wood in Florida because of termites. Yikes! Maybe a large planting bucket and cut out the hole in the bottom but do the same planting effect as with wood.

    • Henry says:

      I think I am going to acquire a large stack of food grade buckets and cut the bottoms out. then stack them up and fill with straw as they get taller.Upside down, of course.

    • kodster5 says:

      You can try using a 55-gal plastic drum. I’ve seen where potatoes were grown in a basement, using a grow light, using this method.

  15. Jackie says:

    Brilliant idea. Thanks for posting.

  16. RANJITH says:

    THIS WONDERFUL IDEA NEEDS MUCH PROMOTION AS THE SPACE OWNED BY A PERSON IS DECREASING WITH THE INCREASE IN TIME.

  17. Vinny says:

    I’m definitely going to try this! Living in an apartment has become quite the gardening dilemma. Could this process also be used for yams/sweet potatoes?

    • Heather says:

      Yes. I’ve done it (with tires) & it worked well. If you have a source for enough, sweet potatoes like sawdust better than dirt.

  18. CaptD says:

    I suggest that you consider using some kind of “non rotting” lumber for this project; as it will save money in the long run. Take the lumber plans and material list to your local lumber yard and they will be able to suggest substitutes that will work well. Consider Trex, and similar materials…

    This would be an excellent use for recycled plastic/wood chip products that do not rot and looks very similar to many recycle/composting bins; so you may find a dual use for them!

    • Teresa says:

      But not treated wood – I always worry that the chemicals in treated wood will leech into the garden.

      • Rom says:

        The chemical used in treated wood is called “copper azole”. Snails definitely die when they try to climb up my raised beds that are made from it. I coated my beds inside with two coats of latex paint and then covered that with clear plastic. I’m not totally convinced that was necessary, but I just wanted to be on the safe side.
        I have grown potatoes in S.Calif. in 15 gal. nursery pots. My first attempt was a limited success due to my overwatering, some of the lower spuds rotted.
        I’m going to give the wooden box method a try using old fence wood.I am also going to modify it so that the 6″ slats are slotted in with a sliding door on one side to reach in and harvest.

  19. Michael angel says:

    Good idea. It should work well.
    You may be able to throw some compost material in – grass clippings, tree leaves, coffee grounds – as you go?

    But what about the expense of the wood
    Just use ‘recycled’ old tires instead?

    • Rink Produce says:

      Compost is a good idea, but the coffee grounds may throw the Ph off to a more acidic level than most would use for potatoes.

  20. maverick says:

    wow! great idea.. i will try it with the potatoes i planting on my backyard :) Thanks mate!!

  21. deanstick67 says:

    Hi, I think a better idea, because it costs nothing but a small amount of time, and you can have as small an area, or as large an area as you like, is to re-use/recycle old plastic plant pots, any nursery or commercial landscaper will usually throw thousands away because they arent cost effective to return to the grower. get the size you want, they range from a few inches diameter to a few feet, get a number the same size, rinse them out, cut/knock the bottoms out, fill the first one with your soil and seed potatoes, then as they grow, sit another on top, fill with soil, so on, so forth etc etc etc.
    You can have several small stacks dotted around, the plastic will not rot, you are recycling something that would just go to landfill, and if you can support it against a wall or tree, you can have one a foot across and 5 feet tall.
    thanks for listening.

    • lana long says:

      the nursery garden discarded planters,usually black plastic, sounds great, avordable, easy and can be as big or small as you like. I too have semi-retired, small condo . little out door shared space, but on the postive sounds like I could feed all 21 units potatoes! have enjoyed this. a used to be.80.plus acre land owner. thanks.

  22. isshensane says:

    Great idea but a suggestion for those who are a lil afraid of the construction aspect, Get yourself a plastic garbage can, drill a few holes around the bottom edge for drainage and there you go,works great..Simply add about 6 inches of compost.Put in the seed potatoes and cover with a few inches of compost.As the tops grow up add more compost and reap the rewards at the end of the season. Get a can with wheels and it makes for easy moving and is reusable for years..:-)

    • Bladerunner says:

      Actually, no, wheels on the garbage can are not terribly useful – unless you have a seriously heavy-duty garbage can. I’ve got horseradish growing in three 32-gallon garbage cans right now. My first plant is in a can with wheels. Once you’ve got the dirt in there and you’ve watered it, the can is too heavy for wheeling around much. I broke the handle on mine trying to tip it back, and the weight of the dirt, plant and water makes the can kind of sag around the wheels. So I just put them in a good place and leave them alone all winter.

    • dj evans says:

      I grew mine in a plastic garbage can. I drilled holes in the bottom and had left over red cedar mulch so I used that. It worked like a charm and i do it every year now. I got the green can at Walmart for under 20 bux.

      dj

      • SandyB says:

        How big a hole did you drill?

        • Rink Produce says:

          Basically, all you need to do is drill 5 holes in the bottom. 5/16″ is adequate and big enough for this project. One in the center and 1 on each corner for drainage. Be sure not to over water potatoes because the bottom ones will rot. Holes will help drain excess water to prevent the rotting.

    • lori murray says:

      I also drilled holes on the sides of the garbage can for air circulation – gets really warm. Used the big cans with wheels for the white potatoes & 18 gal. rubbermaid tubs for the reds. Very heavy with soil & this year I put them on bricks & they seem to be doing better.

  23. Cindy says:

    I read about doing this sort of thing years ago in The Mother Earth News, but I never tried it. They didn’t use soil in the planting beds, though–just straw. They were using larger beds, but same concept. I suppose the plant feeds itself from the layer of roots underground and the potato-producing portion just needs protection from sun/wind/etc.

    We live in a very short-season area, but a bed this small could be easily protected or even grown in a greenhouse. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks!

  24. Sailor says:

    You need not buy lumber. There are plenty of used wooden pallets that are free for the taking. They are usually made of hard woods and last a long time. Just cut the pieces from them. You will recycle, help clean up Mother Earth and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

    Before sailing the seven seas, I was privileged to be a steward of a 98 acre organic farm in south central Kentucky.

    • Boston MA. says:

      Want to try this potato growing concept but what about potato seedlings. Any suggestions for potato starter seeding varities sources etc. in NE area. Can you just carve left over potato that came from supermarket allow to dry then plant. Can you start grow inside in say basement then move out doors as weather warms up. Suggestions on seeding and seed preperation for best results. thx

      • Mike says:

        Store-bought potatoes have been treated with a growth inhibitor to keep them from sprouting. The absence of this inhibitor is what makes seed potatoes seed potatoes.

        • Davilyn Eversz says:

          This does not apply to “organic” potatoes. I use organic potatoes from the store for my crops. In fact, if you leave an organic potato in the mesh bags they come in, they will all begin to sprout within 30 days.

          • Joann says:

            My red potatoes from the grocery store were sprouting so I thought I would try cutting them and planting the eyes and sprouts in the container with my tomato plants. I now live in an apartment so I am limited in the space. I am delighted to see red potatoes popping up out of the top of the soil! I am amazed at their size! I have no idea what may be developing below the surface. I guess I will find out when the tomatoes are finished producing and I pull the plants out.

  25. Rosemarie says:

    Regarding those compost bags some call them Smart Bags, you can make your own by taking landscaping cloth and sewing up the side to make a tube. roll it down and plant the spuds and as you said roll it up as you go.

  26. Steven Pozder says:

    The thing I found with tires is that the “empty space” where the potatoes grow is an excellent enviroment for bugs and most aren’t “good bugs”. The wood seems like a better idea. I used plastic garbage cans(med. size) and always had a good crop. Sold lots of spuds at the Farmers market here in Great Falls MT.

  27. Ron Yon says:

    let m,e see if I can summarize.
    1. Raise the bed as the plant grows.
    2. Add loses soil-basically mulch
    3. Use late season plants.
    4. Dont use tires- could be toxic.

    Question-doesn’t the garbage can method limit the sun that the plant gets?
    I guess that might be good, I don’t know enough about potatoes to guess…

    • isshensane says:

      I’ve been using garbage cans forever and have great luck..You don’t completely cover the plant leave a couple inches out and that’s all the sun they will need i guess that’s what keeps them growing up is the search for sun? Anyways just let them get about 6 to 8 inches tall and then cover with compost or straw and repeat.When they start flowering i stop and let them finish making their taters

  28. chris mc says:

    good way to grow spuds in confined space…. place several car tyers on top of one another fill quater way up with soil and spud seedlings it’s really good way of doing it. my cousine use to live in a block of flats and use to do this on his varander it really works.

  29. riddlywalker says:

    Hi- In Scotland we start the spuds in an old tyre, and just keep piling up tyres and compost until it’s time to harvest, not exactly beautiful- but you can plant around the tyres to hide them, or make the stack near your compost bins where they won’t be so visible. Zero cost, lots of potatoes.

  30. shadow says:

    What a great way of getting some fresh food, when the next oil crash wrecks the world’s economy permanently. I’m sure you guys have heard of “peak oil” haven’t you? Oh, but don’t worry. At least we’ll get rid of greenhouse gases.

    • Daniel says:

      We’re talking about growing potatoes. Why must every blog or article on the Internet devolve into politicking?

      • Penny says:

        Amen (politics totally out of the blue, so annoying).

        I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea, I can’t WAIT to try it since I’m so limited on space to grow food! This is awesome!

      • Henry says:

        Politics are the duty of a responsible citizen. Apathy leads to fascism and slavery. That is why.

        • Rick says:

          While politics may be the duty of citizens it does not need to be brought up in every discussion. At that point it becomes a rant and belittle’s the person bringing it up as it shows that their mind only works in one direction.

          • gaphaw says:

            hmmmmmm. potato politcs ? i ;think i will get involved in that as soon as i finish reading { how to avoid becoming a procrastinator} first yeaar of suburban gardening am finding this very helpful

  31. Kat says:

    Even easier to handle than soil, use straw! Loosen the soil of the planting area, place your potatoes on top, cover with 4″ to 6″ of straw. As the plants grow, add more straw. For harvesting, just push the straw aside, take what you want and put the straw back. No digging, no heavy soil to shift, and the straw beaks down over the winter to enrich your soil.

  32. polly says:

    What i do not understand is if all you add is straw what is the potato plant going to FEED from ? If there is not any dirt or compost and the straw is not going to be able to breakdown all that fast -does not the potato plant STARVE ??

    • J the Bear says:

      The plants use photosynthesis to make food, like most plants. I’d put a small amount of good soil or finished compost in on the seed potatoes, though. Then you can add straw to encourage more potatoes. You can always spray with a foliar feed fertilizer, too, such as soluble kelp. And water with compost tea every couple of weeks.

    • Henry says:

      The understanding I have, is that the roots stay at the bottom, with good soil, and straw or whatever it is, is just to provide a dark place where potatoes form. It is still feeding on dirt and compost.

      • Jimtom says:

        You can also use pine straw to cover! You can also use it for mulch in your garden. Many of my neighbors in FL have pine trees and rake and throw the pine straw in the trash. This way you can use things that would many would consider trash, and it makes your soil more acid for those plants that like acidity!

  33. 24680 says:

    So the potatoes just grow really big?

  34. Cornish says:

    I think I will try this in my poly tunnel. We have three acres but this will allow for very early planting. Should get first new potatoes by mid Febuary.

  35. Zoozooni says:

    I’ve been using pantyhose for years. Much easier access to the potatoes and yams. Don’t have to fight your way in between tires or pull apart wood. Pantyhose stretch, you can cut with knife and then re-tie.

  36. frankbhoy says:

    I am in Scotland and this sounds ideal for my small garden. The Government are subsidising composting bins here just now of various sizes and designs starting from £6. I am definately going to try this.
    What variety for our climate.
    maris pipers
    golden wonder
    kerrs pinks
    marfona
    king edwards
    estima
    spunta

    anyone in the uk got any suggestions

    Frank

  37. Eva says:

    Watch out when using straw, it is great to grow in and add to your compost as long as your compost pile heats up enough to really break it down good and keep it’s seed from germinating. If not you will have straw growing everywhere and vigorously. The best sustitute for staw is Hay. Most hay is seedless when harvested. It has the same characteristics as straw for its use, breaks down at the same rate,is a great addition to compost and ammendments for your soil. Plus in a vegetable garden it acts as a wonder mulch to help retain moisture, suppress weeds and helps deter some pests. Not to metion it looks good as well.
    I work at a state historic site and design and maintain the working kitchen garden and have been using hay for over 10 years. It’s great!

    • Yonder says:

      You sterilize straw or grass trimmings, or lawn-grass cuttings, even leaves–by putting in a black garbage bag, tie it, leave it in the hot sun and any seed in the straw or grass will die, and then you can use it as compost for your potatoes or anything else without the danger of growing weeds in your garden. Any root crops do better in straw compost than in dirt, especially in hard clay or soil with poor drainage.

    • Mike says:

      I’m going to try this and when the potatoes are finished I can use the leftover straw for my chicken coops.

      • sally says:

        I do the same, but the other way round. I use the spent straw from my coops to mulch with. It has added chicken poop fertiliser and the chickens get it when it’s clean and dry :-)

      • faith says:

        They say that you should not use straw for your chickens and hay is better. Only because straw is more tube-ish, and gives great hiding places to the bugs that are a nuisance to your chickens. Just some information I have run across. I use hay for my chickens.

    • Robin says:

      Here in Texas, the hay if full of grass and weed seeds. Straw is a by-product of raising grain such as oats and wheat. The oat and wheat seeds have been removed.

  38. Frank quinn says:

    I am not sure that pallets are a good idea. Many are soaked in chemical preservatives. Years ago arsenic was the potion of choice but lord knows what is put on them in strange countries. A lot of them may be hardwood and Ok……………but then dont ever cut them indoors as the dust is hazardous.

    As I am already the prophet of doom could i also add its not a good idea to inhale smoke from burning pallets.

    • J the Bear says:

      Frank, pallets are not made from treated wood, it’s more expensive than untreated, and for a shipping pallet that’s most like going to be discarded, they’d have no reason to make them from treated wood. I have seen a few that have some paint on them, I don’t know why, maybe they were made from recovered wood, maybe they were painted for some reason. I wouldn’t want the paint in contact with something I’m going to eat. Sometimes they have oil or other substances on them, so it is something to be careful with. But in general, pallets are safe to use.

      • Cate says:

        Actually they are treated. It doesn’t matter which country they come from, most countries, and especially first world countries, by law, will not allow an untreated pallet entry into their country, purely because all sorts of bugs can burrow into the wood and they have to provide certificates proving that the pallets are treated.

        • Joanie says:

          All pallets are not treated. I work for a pallet company. Pallets being shipped from one country to another country must be treated or heated in a kiln. Most pallet companies I know heat treat the pallets in a kiln. The reason for treating with a chemical or a kiln is to kill any bugs that might be hiding in the wood. This stops the transfer of bugs from one country to another. But pallets used exclusively within the US (and not shipped outside the US) do not need to be treated and are not treated because of the cost of the treatment.

      • junkmistress says:

        Pallets made here in Southern Ohio are made from fresh cut lumber…no chemicals.

    • J the Bear says:

      I forgot to add, treated wood also has a green tint to it, so you can tell it apart from untreated. I think there’s a new one with a yellow tint, called “Yellawood”. It’s probably not likely to be found in pallets, though.

      • sacredhairball says:

        pallets that are used fro different uses have stamps on them to tell you what they are treated with there is different codes so beware they are harmfull

    • Henry says:

      CCA, or, chromated copper arsenic, is the main culprit you all speak of. There are processes that do not use the heavier metals, and do not toxify. At one time, they were more expensive, but I think pricing has leveled out a bit. Man, Its fun to finally use that knowledge.

  39. Charles Avent says:

    That seems like a lot of trouble, to dig out the potatoes from the bottom. My grandfather, Emery Mullendore used to just lay the “eyes” on the ground about 6 inches apart, then cover them with hay. He’d water them, during “not so wet” times and keep them moist at first, then when they were ready to harvest, just lift the hay, pick the potatoes up, from the ground and take them in the house, for my grandmother to cook. Never any digging or hard work.

    I can see where the “box method” would be good, if you have no room, but if you have the room, the “hay method” seems like a winner to me.

    • Pat in Kitchener says:

      Yes this works wonders. My Dad used to dig a trench then lay the potatoes in and just add straw, as the potatoes grew he added more straw. You just need to make sure there is enough straw as the potatoes grow so they are covered and don’t turn green. But very easy picking and no cleaning, they are already clean and seem to me to grow bigger.

  40. Virginia in VA says:

    I have a raised vegetable garden bed. When the growing season has finished and harvesting complete, then during the winter months, I throw my scraps into the raised garden bed (no dairy products/meat by products, etc.). Once in awhile during the winter, the soil is turned over. There are some leaves in the garden bed too. Potatoes??? Wow, I had russet, red bliss, yukon gold potatoes and all from the peelings thrown into the vegetable garden bed. Didn’t purchase any fancy spuds at the garden center to use….mine just grew from peelings. Bountiful supply in the spring.

    • Cherie says:

      My great-grandparents never bought seed potatoes. They of course wanted to eat all the potatoes (food was scarce in their day), so they would save potato eyes on the peelings to replant in the spring. I always thought you had to have a chunk of potato with the eye, but not so. The peelings with eyes will regrow potatoes!

      They also covered their potatoes lightly with soil and straw and just added more straw or lawn clippings.

      My father, raised in Mississippi, said his mother used to create a manure hotbed under a small area of the garden to start some vegetables early. About a 4 foot thick bottom layer of hot manure, then add soil to plant on the top-most layer. The heat from the manure layer would warm up the planting soil enough to start earlier during cold weather.

      The older generations sure knew how to grow things! I grow organically and have always had bumper crops without fertilizing during the growing season by simply tilling in good organic fertilizer (we have cow, chicken and pig manure mix on the farm) in the fall or early spring. Seems like the fall tilling of the manure works better–time to leach into the soil??

      Best of luck to all the green thumbs out there!

  41. Sydney says:

    This is a truly AWESOME idea. I’ve copied all your plans so that I can try this as well. I have a large back yard but everything I grow tends to spread everywhere and turns into a mess, so I like the confinement. The tire idea sounds excellent as well. I don’t think it’s ‘white trash’ – that’s just some silly prejudice. It sounds practical to me. And by the way – I could eat all 100 pounds of potatoes. :-)

  42. survivalist says:

    Good article, and good information – thank you. Even though regular pine boards get termites in them and rot rather fast, try not to use treated boards. The plants are supposed to be able to pull the chemicals out of the treated boards. Its better to replace rotten pine boards then to risk getting chemicals in your food.

    I have heard of using tires, but its nothing that I recommend.

    • Donna says:

      Have you ever tried the black landscape fabric ? Lay it down put potato on top lay next fabric on top cut small hole on top of potato , put straw or hay on top water potatoes grow between fabrics. Donna

    • Henry says:

      Funny, there is a lot of cedar on the family land. Cedar is resistant to rot and insects. Good red cedar can last decades, Might want to try it. Chestnut was good as well, but is almost extint, due to a disease.

  43. Madelon says:

    We have used the stainless steel tub from our defunct washer for growing potatoes for the past few years, although we have only planted one layer. I will be trying the suggestion of planting on the very bottom and then covering the plant as it grows. (To stop the dirt from leaking out the holes, put a liner if weed barrier fabric around the inside of the tub.)

  44. Su says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for the great info. I blogged about potatoes and included your link. My customers love information and I love to bring it to them. This is something they could do on their own. Thanks so much.
    Su from Zoey Farms, Shingle Springs, Ca

  45. mh robertson says:

    Last year I build one of these potato wood bins as you called them. I went to my local builder store and had them cut the boards to the length that I needed and bought the screws. I already had some extra compost from my composter and extra potting soil along with some regular soil so all in all it cost me $28 to build my 32″x32″ bin. I planted my potatoes and grew 40 lbs of them, the best tasting potatoes ever. Two things I noticed when I did not water them enough that layer had little to no potatoes, could estimate by my vacation time and where the soil had not been softened with compost that layer had few potatoes. I have had excellent potatoes all winter. The funny part was I was gone and then got sick and forgot about picking them so after we had a major freeze here in Colorado I expected them to be mush but I needed to take my bin down so started digging them out and it turned out they had not been affected by the freeze at all.
    Excellent way to grow…how many different things.
    Just wanted to share this with others, I did not get my 100 lbs but who cares and with paying more attention to them with regular watering and good soil who knows…I was thrilled for my first year it was GREAT.
    hr

  46. Joe says:

    Don’t use leaves unless they are sterilized first. Hardwood leaves, especially oak carry nematodes that will keep your crop on the smallish, disfigured side.

  47. Mike says:

    A friend told me to buy a large bag of compost poke holes in the bottome for drainage and cut a slit on top and plant potatoes in the bag. To havest slice the side and pull out only what you need.

    • Virginia Nancarvis says:

      This is the method I am going to use. My cousin is a gardener and has been pyramid gardening. I am buying the garden soil..a 2cubic foot bag cost around $7.00 and going to use “left over” potatoes that I bought at the grocery store that have eyes on them. Then cover that with hay. Compost would work too. I see no need for the box or container. I think potato plants are pretty. My mother use to grow sweet potato vines on her kitchen window sill. Place toothpicks closer to the bottom of the sweet potato as supports. Then put in a glass container with enough water to cover the bottom third of the potato. It is grown for the foliage only and a very pretty vine.

      • Cherie says:

        I’ve always been told that grocery potatoes are sterilized or something and they won’t regrow or at least won’t grow well. I did try planting some store potatoes once and they were a complete flop. If you save from your own potatoes each year you should only have to buy seed potatoes once.

        • CJ says:

          I’ve used store bought potatoes, I got them free from the product people because they were starting to sprout. I cut them in sections making sure each section had an eye or two. I had the best potatoes.

  48. Tom Lynch says:

    Due to cold wet spring I was late getting to the garden and all the seed potatoes were sold out. Guy at the store suggested going to Whole Foods and getting small Organic potatoes as these supposedly are not treated with chemicals to retard sprouting. They are in the ground in my box. We shall see.
    TJL

  49. Homayun says:

    Hi.
    How can I grow the same size potato tubers for minimmizing sorting needs.
    Homayun

  50. Brian says:

    I do not see any post about actual yields. How accurate is the 100 pound claim (or even 25-50LB)?

  51. Paul says:

    so I could not figure out through out all the posts which potatoes are the best for tower growing?

    anybody have a final verdict on WHICH potato is best?

    Paul

  52. Betty says:

    Here in North Dakota we just plant the eyes of the potatoe with a little bit
    of the flesh.

  53. Cat says:

    Where would all the dirt go if you actually got 100 pounds in that space?

  54. Karen says:

    Can anyone who has actually done a vertical potato garden with success say what variety of potato was used. Here is Florida most gardeners use an early season potato (Yukon Gold, LaSoda). I have read that these are definitely not good for vertical culture. Please, if you have actually have good success with vertical culture (either wire cages, boxes, or pallets), could you post which variety you used?

  55. marie says:

    im growing potatoes in my flower box that i got off my potatoes t hat i bought from walmart that i for got abou tin the back of my pantry.. i have had no problems…. tires are safe. i get them from the junk yard and clean them off with saop and water and let them air dry for 2 days then use them. treated lumber is NOT good to use,my mother did this stuff all her life and we used wood off our property or that someoen was getting rid of that was from a tree they cut down a lil more werk but better for you! n:)

  56. marie says:

    o0o n the garbage can thing… they have the cool ones with wheels that are very sturdy and you can roll them anywhere!! perfect for anyone and you can get alot of potatoes out of them!!

  57. KENNY THOMPSON says:

    KENNY ASK;
    IF YOU PLANT POTATO IN SOIL & COVER WITH STRAW AS IT GROWS WHEN & WITH WHAT DO
    YOU FERTELIZE THE PLANT?

  58. Connie says:

    My husband and I tried to grow potatoes in the boxes like above. We put dirt over the plant every time it reached about 4″ and left 1″ showing, some of the smaller ones eventually got berried. It is about mid June and all of the potato plants died. We dug them all up and no potatoes at all. Can anyone tell us what happened?

    • Henry says:

      what I have read indicates at least 8-12 inches above ground before adding mulch. One inch left exposed is not enough to support a healthy plant. You were only overzealous. Remember, the worst farmer is the one who doesnt try. Trying too hard is another issue. Youi just needed to let them grow a bit more, and cover a bit less. No more than a third of the plant being covered in a material addition seems to be a rule of thumb, as well as the 12″ tall (or more) before you cover that part.

      • Cherie says:

        I read the same thing. Let it get 12″ or so and then only cover 1/3 of the plant. Plants still need sunlight…..

        • Ronald says:

          Nobody has yet suggested that the potatoe must FIRST BE PLANTED PROPERLY IN SUFFICIENT SOIL! My first effort failed because the spud had NOT been planted properly.

  59. Michele Slack says:

    This is the second year I’ve tried this. I put grass clippings on. Both years, the plants were big, & doing beautifully. I had several levels of the wood added on. And both years, all of a sudden one day, the plants withered & died within a few hours. If I tugged on the withered plant, they would come easily unattached from beneath the grass, where it was slimy & smelled bad. I would love to figure out what I’m doing wrong before I try again.

    • Kim says:

      If you were using uncomposted grass clippings, it’s possible that you reached the amount of clippings in the container that then began to compost themselves. They’d get hot enough to kill your potatoes. If they didn’t compost, then they’d start to rot, damping off the potato. Straw would be be better.

      • Cherie says:

        I agree with Kim. It sounds like they came off easily because the stem of the potato plant had rotted. Either too wet, which grass clippings really hold moisture, or possibly too hot as the clippings started to decompose. Ever reach into a pile of grass clippings and feel the heat, moisture and watch the steam rise up?

        Try straw next time with just a few grass clippings maybe.

    • JPR says:

      This happened to one of my potato plants in a black container. I overwatered it and then placed it where it was extremely sunny. It was smelly and rotten. Definitely the case of Bacterial Soft Rot.

  60. steve r says:

    i have been planting yukon gold and red pontiac in saw dust and planner shavings for years, i also have about 25 chickens and use planner shavings for bedding. in early spring i cover the garden with the chicken manure/sawdust, lay in the potatoes then cover with 6″ of planner chips,when the plants grow through i add more to about 2 ft. has always worked well

  61. Heff says:

    Car washes get their soap in plastic 55-gallon drums. The soap is usually completely non-toxic and washes out completely. Trying it this year for a fall crop with Russets in a drum. :)

  62. Sarah says:

    My husband and I tried this method this year, growing the potatoes in wooden towers like this and building up as the plants grew. To compare, we also put in some with the traditional mounded dirt method of growing. The tower method simply did not work as “advertised.” We got potatoes at the lowest level of the tower, but nothing in any of the layers that we added as the plants grew. The traditional method of growing yielded a larger crop.

  63. Fred says:

    Use a 5 gallon bucket with the bottom cut out. Cut a vertical slit from the ridges down to the bottom. Put the bucket on a piece of plastic. Plant the first layer with six inches of soil. As the plant grows keep adding soil to cover about a third of the stem at a time. Let the plant grow to a foot over the soil when it gets to the top of the bucket. Depending on the variety the bottom will be about ready. The first harvest will give a good indication of how much time is needed for harvesting. The growth rate varies widely with the variety.
    Pull up the bucket letting the soil slide down to expose some of the soil at the bottom layer. Tip the bucket and pick a few potatoes out to see how big they are. If the potatoes are not ready let them grow. Remove all but a thin layer of soil from the plastic and tip the bucket upright. Add enough compost to make up the soil that was consumed and add it back into the top of the bucket. Repeat the process until the potatoes are ready. When the potatoes are ready pick out as many potatoes as will be consumed. Just keep adding more compost to the excess soil each time.
    Repeat the process as many times and as often as desired.
    Note that the sides of the buckets are slightly tapered. Slitting the bucket makes it so the soil slides easily when you pick it up.
    Leave the handle up so you won’t have trouble getting it in the center when it’s time to pick the bucket up.
    This method allows for a continuous harvest without ever having to stop and start over, as long as there is sufficient light and water. Only as many potatoes desired need to be harvested at a time. Storage problems are eliminated.
    Potatoes can be kept growing indoors in a window all year with enough artificial light to make about sixteen hours of combined natural and artificial light. The better the light the faster the yield but almost any light will do. The duration is what is important. For more yield use more buckets.
    I can’t tell you how long the plants can be kept growing because they have more patience than me. I always end up either screwing up and neglecting them or starting over with new varieties.

  64. Ann says:

    We use a large trash can with the bottom cut out. Plant the seed potatoes…cover with soil and straw (Some times I use grass clippings) and as the potatoes grow tall- keep mulching it. At harvest time- you simply lift the trash can up & over so you can loosen everything to find the potatoes..usually they are very clean too!

  65. SusieQ says:

    We use to do this with old tires stacking one on top of the other. Great way to recycle old tires if you don’t have wood. Works well and much easier to harvest the potatoes.

  66. Fred Rickson says:

    Try hay. Put your starts on the SURFACE of the soil and pack the hay around the growing plants……the plants put out new stolons and potatoes into the hay……more hay, more potatoes…..just reach Into the hay anytime to harvest, and at the end of the year rototill it all into the soil. No digging, and your soil mulch is already in place. Enjoy.

  67. Tracy says:

    Has anyone ever tried this using vinyl fencing? We have a huge problem with termites, and I have left over fencing that I thought might work.

  68. Kim says:

    What about just using plain old tomoato cages or a rolled piece of fencing held together with wires? Would that work? Just a thought. Maybe potatoes could still be easily harvest by reaching into the bottom as needed, you could still keep adding the layers as described. Just not sure it would hold enough moisture??? I had planned on using a barrel, now you guys have me thinking of all sorts of options. Maybe just use some 5 gallon buckets, without cutting out the bottoms, easy to dump out. Our local winery sets out boxes from all the grapes they use just for anyone, they are a lightweight wood, obviously must be OK for food, they held grapes, and they look moderatley nicer than tires to sit in the yard. I have a lot of hay and stray from used bedding from goats and rabbits, between the hay and straw and the animal droppings I have HIGH hopes of bountiful harvest!!!

    • Trina says:

      That’s what I was thinking…why not use wire fencing. Just need to make sure the potatoes aren’t exposed to air or they will turn green. So using straw around the outside of the plants up against the inside of the wire will probably work well. Let me know how yours turns out?

  69. Trina says:

    I use my husbands old racing tires for my potatoes. These tires are wider and shorter than normal tires so they don’t take up much space. I start the potatos in the first tire, then add another tire and dirt as the plants grow. I also inherited his old tire holding rack so I put all the un-used tires on it for storage. This year I am using some of the tires to make mini raised beds in my larger garden. I have them spaced about a foot apart with metal stakes, in this area I plan on growing my tomatoes. Doing this will raise the soil temp for my sun loving veggies, keep out weeds, roots from other plants such as my strawberrys and help with moisture. You can’t really go wrong with tires unless you live in a hot climate, the northwest they work well.

  70. Dale says:

    If you have a sawmill nearby, you can get cedar lumber for a low cost. I know I can buy it here for 50 cents per board foot. This is an excellent idea for people who have a limited amount of space to grow a garden.

  71. Kate says:

    I have had great success with this method of potato growing. I use recycled black plastic pots (really big ones) that I buy at OSH for a buck a piece. Then, when the potatoes are ready, I get my daughter to tip the pots over and find the potatoes. She does it with her friends and they have so much fun counting the potatoes, lining them up from biggest to smallest, and, of course, eating them! A great project for kids and their grown-ups!

  72. Kim says:

    I am using a tall Laundry hamper with landscaping fabric to block the soil from falling out! This way the holes in the sides still let the light in!

  73. tami says:

    Hi all how about a complete organic way of growing potatoes …All you do is take straw lay it down one leaf at a time to make a row then set your seed taters on the leafs of straw then go back over them and cover with a leaf of straw or old hay even works….

  74. Pam says:

    Can you use old, rusty metal trash cans to plant in? Thanks

  75. jb says:

    I am trying straw bale gardening this year. I have the 4 bales placed in a square with the middle open. Thought I may try potatoes in the center. Either fill with dirt/mulch or use a large pot.

  76. Kathymarie85 says:

    I’m not sure if this question has already been asked but I just haven’t found the time to read every comment! LOL. Does anyone have a list of what potatoes are good for this I have heard that some kinds are not very good at growing in a system like this?

  77. Georgene says:

    I made a potato tower this year for the first time. I used chicken-wire, straw and mulch. I made an 18 inch diameter circle, used 3 stakes to stabilize it. Then layered the mulch and straw planting 6 potatoes eyes facing the outside. I planted 30 potatoes and it looks like most of them have grown. Not a very pretty thing but I cannot wait to have my own potatoes to eat.

  78. Laura says:

    I am doing this for the first time this year, we used russet burbanks, shepody’s and red pontiacs. All are doing pretty well, the shepody’s seem to really be taking off tho! I simply took a piece of wire fencing and made a large circle with it. Nothing too fancy. I also tried just piling straw on bare ground, tho it’s much harder to keep the straw in place (esp with the neighbor’s chicken’s continuing to fly over my fence and dig under the straw for bugs!)

  79. Mandy says:

    I tried this technique for the first time this year, and I am not finding any potatoes. Why? I did everything that I was told to do, but o potatoes. Please help. The plants are done flowering and starting to wilt.

  80. carl says:

    I like Mandy tried this for the first time and got 0 potatoes. Some on the ground but none up the stem, I just dug them today. What did I do wrong?

  81. daw says:

    very excited to try this . extremely disappointed in the end results. enjoyed doing this all summer .watching the plants grow , no potatoes. very disappointed. What the heck happened?

  82. John Baxley says:

    I have nine stacks of tires with soil in only the top tire. I put a barrel lid in the top one. Growing seventeen different vegetables. All are doing great. I’ll take my chances on possible toxins in the tires compared to what may be in the food we get at the grocery store. Evidence shows some foods have many toxins from herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, etc. in them. Do you hear of anybody having trouble from food grown in tires?

  83. Terri says:

    I’m new to gardening and really like this idea! Could you tell me please, how long does it take for a “layer” to be ready?

  84. Dan From Ohio says:

    I just started using gardenboxes last year and had overall good results. I’m excited about trying this method of growing potatoes. My question is can the same method be applied to sweet potatoes?

  85. Chuck Huntington says:

    I built 4- 4 by 4 boxes 8 in” high .Used 1+8 hemlock boards untreated on leges and braces at waist high,Lined them with black garbage bags.They last longer than the clear.put drainege holes in the bottom.Filled with peat moss and vermiculite.compost Blood meal.mulched them with chopped leaves. Got about a bushel of potatoes out of the 4 boxes.I could dig them out with my hands.Just right for an 87 year old man.
    Going to try the above method next year .Besides my way.

  86. Jen says:

    Has anyone had experience using pine straw/gathered pine needles instead of straw or hay?

    Thanks for any input!

    • Annabelle Twilley says:

      Some years ago, a radio call-in show horticulturalist advised putting old pine needles into the same hole with the seed potatoes when planting, to keep various plant fungi away. Worked pretty well for me, and helped adjust soil to increase acidity where I needed it. Would not advise using only pine needles. Also from my experience, although hay worked as well as straw for me in covering potatoes instead of hilling with soil as they grew, next year did I have weeds ! Grain straw a better option if you have a good, free, supply. Potatoes are not then as affected by soil borne diseases.

  87. Denise says:

    We have used old tires the same way, and the plants grow, add another tire. Be sure to only water once when planted then wait. They can very easily rot with too much water. I give them a good drink then wait to see several leaves before another drink.

  88. Tim says:

    I have yet to see any method grow 100 lbs of potatoes yet. I have watched numerous youtube video’s and either they didn’t post an update or didn’t have luck higher than the first board or two. I did a 55 gallon barrel and that didn’t gain 100 lbs. I hope if someone gets it to work they post a video so we can all see it. Most pressure treated lumber now a days are much safer than then the old method.

  89. Dunnit says:

    Have tried this in multiple bins and had good results in most, this is what I have learned so far.
    Variety used makes all the difference with most maincrop varieties being the favored seeds to use for vertical growing because of their longer growing period.
    Using waste spuds or peelings from the kitchen will give a crop but unless you know what variety they are results will be unpredictable often only limited to bottom of bin.
    Watering regular & evenly without water-logging is a major part of producing good results and high potash fertilizer will help too (Comfrey leaves can be added to the soil/mulch without the need to compost them first but that’s a whole new subject =)
    if bin was started early enough try using earlies and maincrop at start then add a few more earlies part way up the bin near the sides but not too late in the season as they wont have time to develop fully

  90. Kris says:

    I wonder if this method would eliminate mice/voles (voles are like mice only slightly larger with short tails) getting into the potatoes. Two years ago, I ended up with very few undamaged potatoes (red and russet varieties) because the rodents had dug up under the rows and had eaten the potatoes during the growing season. Many of the potatoes were completely hollowed out! We went to dig the potatoes in the fall and from two 75′ rows we were only able to salvage probably 20 pounds of potatoes when we normally would have had 200 pounds or more. During the summer, I didn’t notice any holes in the soil but once the plants died down some, the holes were visible. In 35 years of gardening here in Idaho, I have never once had a problem like this with potatoes! I didn’t bother planting potatoes last year being afraid of a repeat of the previous year. We did have this happen to some carrots one year that we left to winter over in the ground. When we dug them in the spring, we discovered mice literally living inside of hollowed out carrots. The barnyard cats and our dogs had a great time chasing mice as we dug the carrots and stirred them up from their little carrot nests!

  91. jamornagan says:

    Does this work for sweet potatoes?

    • Linda Mathews says:

      No. will not work for sweet potatoes. White potatoes set potatoes on the stems as they are covered with dirt. Sweet potatoes set sweet potatoes on the roots as they grow down into the ground. That is why traditionally, you plant white potatoes in a trench and fill in around the plants as they grow. You plant sweet potatoes in the top of a hill or long mound and they make babies on the roots as they grow downward; then you dig them up in the fall.

  92. Knobby says:

    Will this work for carrots or long radishes

  93. garden girl says:

    Any suggestions on keeping field mice out of the garden. Last year they destroyed my potatoes, watermelons and cantelopes. I am afraid to put out poison because I don’t know if their droppings will be toxic.

  94. Heather says:

    My husband and I tried growing potatoes in 3 layers of tires last year with poor results. We started with 5 potatoes in the bottom tire, covered with soil. When the plants were about 8 inches high, added another tire and more soil. Another tire was added when the plants were 8 inches above the second tire. Then we watered and fertilized; there was an abundance of foliage so we were looking forward to a large crop of potatoes. Unfortunately we got no more potatoes from the 5 than we would have from planting one potato. I would like to try it again, but trying to figure out what we did wrong. Any ideas? Oh, we planted Yukon gold potatoes which usually do well in our area.

  95. Mike the Gardener says:

    Works great on all potatoes not named Yukon Gold … in my opinion anyway … I do better with the Yukon Gold’s in a bed

  96. Rose L. says:

    So, I’ve read all the comments and have done some research on the potatoes themselves. I hope this will answer a lot of peoples questions. Traditionally potatoes are grown in 12″ deep trenches buried in about 4″ of COMPOST and then as the potatoes grow the soil is mounded up around the vines for another 6-12″. If using actual potatoes place the cut side down and the eye side up facing toward the sky. Potatoes need good compost at the roots not along the vine portion of the plant to produce big healthy potatoes. The potatoes grow laterally (out to the sides) not downward into the soil so much like carrots would. In a trench the potatoes would be spaced 18″ apart to allow room for the potatoes to grow BETWEEN the vines. So if you grow on the ground without a box, tire, fence round etc. you will only need to dig down as deep as your trenches would have been to begin with in order to harvest them. The benefit of the containers (whatever it is you decide to use) is that the lateral distance they can spread out is limited by the container. Some potatoes can spread as much as 40″ laterally so a narrow container would probably not give much of a yield. Most potatoes only grow to 18″-24″ tall (the vines). So a deep container is not needed either. Really two feet deep is more than deep enough. You will only want to add soil (traditional planting material) until the vine begins to flower (feel free to experiment with straw, hay, grass, leaves etc. they are your potatoes!). Water well during the flowering period as this is the point at which your potatoes will begin to form. Potatoes have a set period of time that it takes to reach maturity (check your product growing periods when ordering) depending on species. Short season potatoes take from 59-85 days USUALLY. Long season growth potatoes can range from 85-110 days or so. You can sometimes get 2-3 successions of plantings in with proper planning and potato species choices. Potatoes are not ready to harvest until 2-3 weeks AFTER the leafy growth has died back. This means that early harvest of the bottom portion of the potatoes is not going to really happen so there is not really any need to tip your containers or dig around in the soil etc. until it is actually harvest time. Once the vines have died back you need to wait the 2-3 additional weeks for the tubers to complete their growth cycle. They will continue to grow for that long without need of the vine on the top. This period of waiting time is also necessary so the skins of the potatoes can firm up and toughen a bit, if you will, to get them ready for long term storage. Most species will store well in any cool, dark, dry area. A cellar, a dark cool closet, an old freezer buried in the back yard (do a Google search for directions on this) etc. Most “seed” potatoes are not sold as potatoes, they are sold as tubers so the name is a little misleading. Old potatoes that are sprouting can be used but as mentioned before, some of the potatoes from the store are treated so they don’t sprout for quite sometime. Do some research to find the best potatoes for your own area by looking at nurseries that are in a climate similar to your own area, check the growing time, the height of the vines and the spread of the lateral potato growth to find the type of potatoes that will grow best in the containers you want to use, whatever type they may be. For myself…I like to use fencing rounds and line the outer edges with straw as the vines grow, using a good compost filled garden soil so the soil stays nice and soft and holds just enough water without rotting the potatoes. It takes most new gardeners a few years to get all the kinks worked out so don’t give up after trying only one year. Good luck to all of you!

  97. Mary says:

    the last 2 years I have used milk crates. I cut the bottom out of several and lined them with mesh to keep the dirt in. As the potatoes grew I just add another bottomless milk crate and more dirt. At the end of the season I just had to start removing milk crates and collect the bounty. You can go as high as you want. Hope this helps someone. Happy Gardening

  98. Mike L. says:

    Hi Rose I haven’t read all the posts so if I’m repeating something already said, sorry about that. I agree with most of what Rose says except that I have used a variation of this method and it works fantastic. Where I disagree with Rose is the 40″ lateral growth meaning that a confined container will necessarily cut down your yield. If the tuber encounters a barrier, it doesn’t just stop there. It will turn and grow in whatever direction it can, so it will use up more of the volume available to it. I have seen potatoes grown in trenches and this method and in the containers you get many more per square inch of soil.Also yes the plant only grows 18 to 24 inches tall above ground level so if you have a container that is 3 feet tall, that is filled layer by layer, the plant will grow 18 to 24 inches beyond that three foot height of the soil and the three foot high container will be full of potatoes. As the plant grows and you keep covering up the new branches with soil, those branches now become tubers that will produce potatoes. As I said,I use a variation of this method but I use large garbage cans, or rather plastic garbage containers with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. I love these containers for this use because they have a lip at the top of the container, which makes it almost impossible for potato beetles to get in, thereby making the use of pesticides totally unnecessary. :-) If you try garbage containers, make sure that you get one with a lip that turns out and down.

  99. Tim says:

    Would this work with sweet potatoes as well?

  100. Sean Hauser says:

    When I was a kid, we did this in my agriculture class using tires. I do not remember which varieties we grew. With the tires, there is no harvesting the bottom layers early but I do not remember that being an issue. As the plants would grow, we would simply stack another tire and add more soil. Once we had it up about 3 feet we kicked the tires over and harvested

  101. angela says:

    you can also use old tires

  102. Cheri Pikett says:

    Will this work for sweet potatoes too?

  103. David says:

    Will this method also work for growing sweet potatoes?

  104. Stacie Martin says:

    I tried this method last summer and it worked terrifically. My red potatoes did much much better and were bigger than the Yukons, but out of 2 lbs. of seed potatoes I yielded around 30 lbs. in two 2 ft. By 3 ft chicken wire formed cylinders. I would have yielded more but I used the entire seed potato instead of cutting it. I planted mine all at one time alternating between compost, seed potatoes(placed close to chicken wire in a circle with majority of eyes pointed out), and a layer of straw. Everything was planted at one time and watered about every third day. I also planted a tomato plant on top. Great tasting potatoes and they seemed to last much longer than store bought.

  105. pete burnside says:

    When I first bought my house the garden had a hard clas and sandy surface full of broken bottles and dog bones. I dug it all up and screened out the trash and was given big barrels of rabbit manure/straw which I dug into the soil to give it some substance. I planted potatoes and had wonderful shaws(potato foliage). The shaws grew almost 4 feet high and were loaded with flowers and later little tomato-like potato seed pods. When the shaws died and I dug up the potatoes I found that there was a load of potatoes all about the size of marbles. The bottom line was that there was way too much nitrogen in my rabbit/straw mulch.
    I love this concept of layering and will be trying it.

  106. charlotte says:

    I’m trying this with burlap potatoe sacks. Seems to be working so far!

  107. OLD GUY says:

    This is my first attempt and I went to my local Earl May store and they gave me some large containers that trees come in. Just cut the bottom out and add another on top. Keep adding straw as plants grow.

  108. gnasher49 says:

    Where I live in Europe we have a real problem growing potatoes, because as soon as we get some leaf on the plants, Colorado Beetle munches it within a few hours.

  109. felicia luburich says:

    workers that make plastic siding for houses are KNOWN to have substantially more cancer than the general population. Frogs living in bodies of water where effluent is dumped from plastic factories have eggs in their TESTICLES !!

  110. Lillian says:

    I use old tires that I fill with dirt and plant my potatoes in it. Then get the fencing they lay in concrete forms and pull into a round circle the width of the inside of the tire. I use wire to tie it off to keep it in the tire. I then just put hay over the plants when they got above the initial dirt layer. I kept building hay over it as it kept pushing through the hay until it reached the top. When I wanted potatoes I would just reach in and get them without all the dirt.

  111. Linda Mathews says:

    I planted white potatoes in the bottom of a half-50-gallon plastic barrel that had holes drilled in the bottom to let it drain out water. Covered with some dirt; then when the plants started growing and as they got taller, I shoveled in more dirt and more dirt. It is almost to the top and they look fine. Except the other morning I went out and all the leaves were gone!! I found four really big tomatoe worms on the plants; so I fed them to the chickens; and watered the plants. The next day new leaves were growing and they look fine now. I started them late tho, so I am not sure if I will get a crop or not.

  112. Kathrn Bixby says:

    5 gallon buckets or large garbage bags work as well if you only want a few pounds.

  113. Lyn Prokesh says:

    I used a circle of corrigated iron which was about 24 inches tall and bound by two metal hoops (top and bottom). As it was started in mid Spring (South Australia) and potatoes harvested in early Summer, the rains were intermittent. I watered every second day if no rain. I added soil to about a third height of the plant occasionally. I fed the soil and added compost layers. I harvested when plants had totally died. Results: only potatoes in the original layer. What went wrong?

  114. Lyn Prokesh says:

    Reading earlier comments, I like Bob’s idea using compost sacks and just rolling up the bag when needing to add more straw or soil. Then he tips the bag upside down when harvesting or slits the bag open.

  115. charles cassada says:

    Great information will try thed box method or maybe sack. Old tires are for recycling.

    • charles cassada says:

      I have a lot of trouble with potato bugs how is best way to keerp them off they also get on the tomatoes if close by

  116. misselaineous says:

    This is interesting. I’m new to growing my own vegetables and I’m a little confused by this… it says to remove the bottom slats, take out the potatoes, replace the dirt and put the slats back on. When removing the bottom slats, does all the dirt not fall out and cause the upper layers to collapse? That is what I envision happening. And how would you get the dirt back in if that happened?

    Also how often and how much do they need to be watered?


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