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

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

Growing Potatoes In Small Spaces

It’s been over 10 years since I published this post and in this update (2023) I’d like to add a few tips and some notes to keep in mind:

  • Potato varieties matter. The best results will be from late season varieties. See what kind grows best in your area and go from there.
    • Early varieties will only fruit once.
  • If you live in an area with scorching summers, the tubers will be affected.
    • Choose a location in the yard that offers some shelter from the heat.
  • The tower method does work, but achieving 100 lbs. as noted in the original source (which is no longer available), isn’t the typical result.
    • If you have only a small space to work with or wanting a growing method that is fairly low maintenance (no digging up the garden, weeding, etc.), this is a good option.

Now onto the goodies…

First, 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.
DIY Potato Tower (Seattle Times)

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.

He claims that most of his customers aren’t able to grow 100 pounds in the potato box, but he personally had success with 81 pounds one year and another customer did tap out at a whopping 124 pounds! (source: The Denver Post).

In another article on The Seattle Times, 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:

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 (no longer available at source):

How To Build And Use Your Potato Box

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

Tips from another article (Potato Box Yields Scads Of Spuds):

  • Select late-season varieties.
  • Plant in multiple layers (adding a layer of potatoes, soil and side panels as the vines grow 12 inches above the soil. Don’t cover more than a third of the vine).
  • Coil a soaker hose through each layer so the roots at the bottom of the box will get even moisture throughout the season.
  • Plant in a loose soil, like mushroom compost mixed with potting soil.
  • Don’t overfertilize (use a 5-10-10 fertilizer) and avoid Miracle Gro.

DIY Wood Pallet Bin

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.

Reed Screening Towers

Update: (Spring 2011) (web archive link since original page is no longer available)

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!

Straw Towers

Update: (March, 2023)

Straw Towers From

This one’s from Ranging from 2 to 4 feet tall, these are comprised of 14-gauge wire fencing reinforced with a rebar post for extra stability.

Line with straw and compost in midspring, add a layer of potatoes, water thoroughly and repeat until the cage is full.

  • Compost on the inside, straw on the outside…each layer should be about a foot deep.
  • When growing in straw, watering well throughout the growing season is very important.

Once the plants die back in the Fall, kick the tower over and dig through the straw to harvest all the potatoes produced.

Comparison of Methods

Update: (March, 2023)

Comparison Of Methods From Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News: A great article comparing five different potato growing methods to see which provided the best results: Trench; Straw Mulch; Straw & Paper Mulch; Bags; Towers.

They found that along with the straw mulch & straw mulch over newspaper methods, the towers returned about 1/2 pound less per plant on average. Bags were the lowest yielding.

They also factored in time and labor as part of the investment cost. The towers were on the higher end (16:59 minutes per plant) due to the construction of the containers but they require the least weeding and can be used for a few years so the cost spreads out.

The highest yield from one of their participants was 3.38 pounds of potatoes per plant (in the tower method), and with that result, not even close to the 100 pounds we’re after.

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    • angela

    you can also use old tires

    • Cheri Pikett

    Will this work for sweet potatoes too?

    • David

    Will this method also work for growing sweet potatoes?

    • Stacie Martin

    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.

    • pete burnside

    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.

    • charlotte

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

    • OLD GUY

    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.

    • gnasher49

    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.

    • felicia luburich

    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 !!

    • Lillian

    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.

    • Linda Mathews

    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.

    • Kathrn Bixby

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

    • Lyn Prokesh

    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?

    • Lyn Prokesh

    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.

    • charles cassada

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

      • charles cassada

      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

    • misselaineous

    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?

      • dan

      my thoughts exactly.

    • gloria

    Last year I had great success growing red potatoes in a large feed sack and another batch in a wicker laundry basket. The possibilities for containers is limitless.

    • PierrefondsGuy

    as the potato plants grew taller, I added more light fluffy compost. The potatoes I harvested were the biggest, blemish free potatoes we ever had, the skins were very thin, and the whole potato was crispy and full!

    • Svengali

    Would this work in a hot dry climate? Or would this setup dry out too easy?

    TX Zone 7

    • Vic Evans

    I am trying this by repurposing a large homemade router table that I hadn’t used in years . By removing the router table top I ended up with a four foot tall unit that is identical to the one pictured except that there is a band of 2×4″ lumber at both the top and bottom.

    • Tyler

    We use old tires. plant the seed taters in the bottom one and add one tire on top, when the plant gets tall enough, add a 3rd and 4th tire. when they are ready to harvest, just push over the tires and pick up your taters !

    • Ed Rieg

    I just dug up my potatoes. I only had potatoes in the bottom 6 inches but they were plentiful and huge. I planted red potatoes not sure of the type. Seems like I wasted my time putting in the layers of dirt every 6″. A lot of digging to get to my crop. What did I do wrong? I would like to try again since I built all of the containers from old skids and have the dirt. From PA so the growing season is from May to September. Any helpful comments?

    • Bob

    you can also stack old tires in the same way. using straw instead of soil.

    • Tom

    To the Tire thing and treated lumber. I used 3 inch diameter tree limbs secured with screws and filled the gaps with straw and mud. Kids had fun with the mud. My 2 cents. 10.06.2014 since no dates showing on posts.

    • Cliff Hobson

    When using the first method with the removable boards, surely when you take off the bottom board and remove the potatoes the remaining soil + potatoes will drop down under their own weight, rather than having to fill that layer again with soil?

    • Dallas

    I tried this this year and with Yellow Fin and Binjte potatoes. Only got potatoes on the bottom layer. What could I have done incorrectly. I used Miracle grow at each layer as I went up. Plants stayed green all summer and kept flowering but only the one layer.


    • Debbie

    Just took apart our potato box! Total of 8 potatoes! Followed to a tee! Anyone can tell me what we did wrong?

    • chris

    “Being a “just do it” kind of person, I asked my husband to build me one using pallets”- those two phrases just don’t go together.

    • lynch

    would the taters keep in the box tower all winter long

    • shelly

    we did this and the plants grew great, wonderfully but no potatoes grew, it was a complete waste of time

    • Jean

    How do you know when to harvest the potatoes?

    • Chrissy

    I have not grown potatoes like this yet. I am going to this year. There are many articles online about growing them like this. However most of them do not have their harvest rate. You tube also has a couple videos. In the few harvest rate articles I’ve read, you get a decent return of potatoes in the two bottom layers and the top layers do not grow as many, if any at all. I hear buying certain types of spuds, ones that harvest quickly, is your best bet. What I am going to do is build 3 boxes, each of them only 2 rows deep. This way, I will have the best return from each box while still saving ground space (and tilling muscle!). Hopefully I’ll have some success! Happy growing everyone!

    • Susan Small

    This might be a dumb question and I didn’t read all comments to see if it’s already been answered … but … how many seed potatoes should I put in this box??? Someone please answer as I’m about to plant!

    • Bill Geyer

    This is my second year doing a box. Last year was a big ZERO. I tried again this year, but the more I look on youtube, and the internet. I see alot of people saying how to build them, just not alot that it actually works. If you youtube it, mostly is what you see are boxes of dirt and nothing else.

    • KC

    For those needing scientific studies supporting not using tires or treated lumber, why not just use a bit of common sense? If an object is made from harmful bits of this and that, why would you think it would be OK to use as a container to grow your food in? Pesticides are poison used to kill bugs and there’s no way they aren’t harmful to humans as well. Just use a bit of knocking around sense. Good rule of thumb: If it’s made from toxic stuff, ya probably don’t want to use it to grow plants in, use as tableware, etc. No brainer when ya think about it, eh?

    • Rob

    Do you have to take the potatoes from the bottom or can you wait until the end of the season to harvest or will the bottom ones rot?

    • Robby

    So I just harvested 1 of my 3 potato boxes. Each box in made from hardwood from pellets that were untreated. Measurements are 22″ square and 31″ high. Used Miracle Gro Potting soil as the plant grew and as I added a row of boards. Managed to get 20 pounds of potatoes but most of the harvest was the bottom 12″ of the box. Potatoes were perfect. I’m not sure about the 100 lb harvest that was mentioned because when I pulled the potato plants out, there were no roots extending from the stem for for ~18″.

    The seed potatoes I used were russet for 2 boxes and red pontiac in the 3rd. The info above is for one of the russet boxes. I live in Alberta Canada.
    Just wondering what is the best type of seed potatoes to use that offer the best harvest.

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