Tater Tower

I love to grow potatoes but I don’t like the space they take up in the garden.  Instead I grow them in a tower, or a cage.

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All you need to make one is some wire fencing, compost, straw and potatoes!  I first saw this on Pinterest (of course) from Growing Lots Urban Farm and I thought it looked pretty easy, my kind of project.  I was able to fill 2 towers in about 2 1/2 hours.  You can probably make yours much faster if you don’t have to keep stopping for a drink or a snack or a run to the ladies room.

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  1. Take a piece of wire fencing, 14 gauge works well for this, and cut out a section about 3 feet in diameter and 4 feet in height, to create a cylinder.  Fasten the ends together with zip ties or twisty ties.
  2. Create your layers using straw and compost.  First put a layer of straw on the bottom bringing it up the sides of the cage creating a well in the middle to hold the compost and keep it from spilling out.  Then shovel in your compost and make a nice even layer.  Make your first layer about 1 to 1 1/2 feet off the ground so the potatoes have room underneath to grow.
  3. Place your potatoes inside the cage around the outer edge spacing them about 5″ apart.  You don’t have to be exact here, just leave them a little bit of spreading room.  Make sure that the eye of the potato faces out and if you have more than one eye on it go ahead and cut it up.  You may want to cut your potato the day before so it has time to heal over before you plant it but I never do and I haven’t had any problems.
  4. Now water your first layer in well and then repeat steps 2 and 3, adding layer after layer of straw (just up the sides leaving the inside filled with the compost), compost, potatoes and water spacing them about 8-10 inches apart.  Continue this way until the whole cage is full.
  5. For the top layer I place the potatoes inside the middle as well because they will just grow up right out the top.  You can plant other vegetables in the middle if you would like or even flowers.  Cover the top with compost and a nice thick layer of straw.

IMG_3563First layer…. keep going, you have a few more to do!

IMG_3564The eye of the potato faces out

IMG_3570Kinda like a layer cake!

Now stand back and admire your handy work!  The important thing is to keep your tater tower well watered from the top all the way down to the bottom.  I just run the hose through a section in the top of the cage and set it on a slow flow while I’m busy weeding or working in the garden.  I leave it like that for about 20 minutes or so once or twice a week depending on how much rain we’ve had or how dry it is.  In about 2 weeks you will see your first little sprouts coming out through the sides of the cage, and in about a month you will barely even see the cage!

In the early fall when the vines have all started to die back you will know it is time to harvest your potatoes.  Simply tip over the cage and give it a good roll around the garden.  You will see all those beautiful spuds inside ready for the taking.  No shovels or digging necessary!  4 pounds of potatoes should get you close to 25 pounds of potatoes depending on the variety.  I use seed potatoes that I buy from my local Agway store but you could probably use organic potatoes from the store in a pinch or if you can’t get seed potatoes. Just make sure they aren’t treated with anything.

IMG_3561Nasty looking creatures aren’t they?

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