Potato Power Potato Tower
One of our favorite things to grow in the garden is potatoes. They are easy to grow, the kitchen can always use as much as we can produce, and the treasure hunt of harvesting is always a really fun job for our student gardeners. This past week, we’ve been proud to get several different varieties of potatoes planted in the garden, including Yellow Fin, Rose Finn Apple, Purple Majesty, and German Butterball.
When you plant potatoes it's important to know the origins of your seed. Oftentimes store-bought potatoes are sprayed with chemicals that prevent them from sprouting and even potatoes from the farmer's market could carry disease. The safest bet is to buy certified disease-free seed potatoes from a reliable source.
This year we are growing potatoes in the traditional way. We planted in a trough in the ground and then mounded up soil around the swollen stems as the potatoes began to grow. We are also experimenting with growing potatoes in potato towers, which is a technique used frequently by urban farmers and gardeners alike, as a productive space saving way to utilize vertical area and maintain a small footprint. This method is perfect for small urban backyard plots where you might not want to dedicate an entire bed to potatoes, and can even be successfully done in a space as small as a front stoop.
To build our potato towers, we used round wire cages (reused from our Oyster mushroom cultivation project) and lined the bottom with a thin layer of straw. Then we added about a foot of soil and compost, and lined the outside with straw to hold the soil in the cage (you can also use cardboard or newspaper to keep the soil from spilling out the gaps). We planted our potatoes in a ring, about six inches from each other and about four inches from the outside of the cage. Then we covered our set of seed potatoes with more soil and compost, and repeated this potato tower layer cake recipe until our cage was completely full. Soon enough we will see the green leaves of our spuds popping out from all sides of the tower. Come late summer we will have the pleasure of harvesting delicious potatoes grown in vertical space.