Friday, October 9, 2009

Po Tay Toes

On Tuesday, we had our monthly outdoor class, and while we were sorting acorn shell from acorns (so that we could grind them for flour ... of course!), another mom and I were chatting, about potatoes. Of course!

She mentioned that potatoes are her family's staple during the winter. I said the same.

We're both concerned about the Maine potato harvest, which, for most commercial growers here in Maine, especially the organic farmers, was dismal. Those who want organic potatoes will certainly have some tough choices to make this year.

I harvested my last potato tower yesterday, and I made the following obsevations:

**The potatoes did not grow up through tower, like I expected they would. Most of them were concentrated at the bottom of the tower, and I still had to dig for a few of them, and I was actually surprised by how deep they were.

**The number and size of the potatoes far exceeded the ones growing in the "bed."

**I will plant potato towers in the future.

**I need to be sure to have a good supply of mulch and compost for my potatoes next year.

I am very pleased with my experiment this year, and given how important potatoes are to us, I think expanding the tower system to cover the whole 5'x 5' bed will be the wisest use of our space. Besides, hardware cloth is cheap, compared to other types of materials I've seen used in this sort of vertical garden.

I think I could probably grow a substantial amount of my own potatoes with this method, and while I'm not so concerned with organic or not, mine are completely organic. I've never used chemicals in my garden ... mostly because I'm too cheap to buy them, I'm too lazy to figure out how to use them, and I have no place to store them.

Every spring, when I plan my garden, I move closer to being able to feed us, mostly, from this small space, but it certainly has been a very steep learning curve. The key is to know what and how much we eat, and the big mistake I've made over the past few years is trying to grow things that take up too much space, but have too small a yield. We eat potatoes, we eat cornmeal, we eat pumpkin, but I've never devoted enough space to these crops.

So, for next years' garden, my plan is to concentrate on expanding into some currently uncultivated parts of my yard using small-space gardening techniques, specifically, containers. This year, I planted field corn (too late), scarlet runner beans (with other edible flowers) and a couple of squash plants (the flowers of which my ducks and chickens loved :). Next year, I plan to use a bucket system for these three plants and, hopefully, (finally) have my 3 Sisters Garden. We already have the buckets.

And I will definitely have more potato towers ... probably in the same bed ... after it's sat for a season under mulch and snow.

By the way, here's a picture of the harvest from the one tower:

And for perspective, this is me holding one of them.


  1. Your potatoes are gorgeous, thanks for sharing all the information about growing them in towers, I'm definately doing this next year!

  2. GReat Spuds!

    Thankyou for the surprise today!

  3. I'm so doing this once we get well...a real house! I don't think Zorba the landlord would take too kindly to tater towers.
    At first I wasn't very impressed with your haul--until you showed the scale shot--holy crap those are huge!!!

  4. I may try this next year. I got some potatoes bags this year but had no yield at all from them. Not sure why. Did you use dirt or compost or straw?

  5. Christy - Mostly I used the spent straw from the bunny hutches and the straw (etc :), from under the bunny hutches. The potatoes certainly seemed to like it, and the nice thing about bunny manure is that it can go straight on the garden without composting first, as it won't burn the plants :).

  6. What a monstrous potato! What kind is it?

    My towers (I had three, made from planks) didn't yield much. Some had a negative yield! It was very disappointing because potatoes are a staple for us too, along with onions (all of which rotted in the deluge - I'm in MA). They just didn't get enough sunlight, and then blight struck. I am now struggling with the question whether I should grow them. I thought of getting a community plot just for potatoes, but the community gardens were riddled with blight, so I guess that's out.
    Love your blog, great ideas. And courage too!

  7. Kaat - I think I ordered the kennebec variety from Johnny Seed. The catalog said they're a good variety for this area ;).