Growing Potatoes, vertically!

Vertical Potato Bin, photo by Sinfonia

This year, we are trying something new in the garden, POTATOES.   Given that potatoes are cheap and readily available at the store, and they can be easily purchased from a local source year round, Why Potatoes?

  1. Amy loves potatoes, 
  2. It involves an interesting new growing technique where we will encourage growth all season by growing vertically, 
  3. Because we can.
  4. There is some concern that potatoes, since they are a root vegetable, have a greater risk of picking up nasty chemicals from overfertilized or polluted soil.

 

So, what’s this about growing potatoes vertically? 

It’s rather simple, really.  A potato plant will produce significantly more potatoes in the same Square Foot area if you add soil upwards as the season progresses and the plant grows taller.  Production can go up significantly; there are claims of up to 100 pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet of growing space.  (I suspect that the planty stem of a potato can send out roots when it comes into contact with additional soil, just like tomato plants.  Both potatoes and tomatoes are in the nightshade family.)

We are going to dedicate 16 square feet, and I would be thrilled to see 100 pounds of potatoes in that larger area, that’s just 1/4 of these enthusiastic claims.  (Important note: Early potato varieties set production once for the whole season, so you would only get one thin layer of potatoes underneath a deep pile of dirt.)

We will be dedicating one of our ten square foot gardening beds to this project.  The bed itself is 7″ deep, but I have already built one 7″ riser which will stack on top.  The riser and bed follow my Modular Raised Bed System for Square foot gardening.  I will have to build a few additional risers as the summer progresses, but I may build them with scrap lumber instead of buying fresh cedar decking to save money and resources.  (Since the soil will only be in contact with the wood for a few months, rather than year round, I expect even untreated pine would last several years in this method.)

I will be ordering “Yellow Finn” variety seed potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange.  A 2.5 pound bag of seed potatoes (10$ + S/H) is described as enough for a 25′ row, so I think it will be more than enough for 16 square feet.  I may be able to share if someone is interested.

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6 Responses

  1. Wilomis says:

    Tom, Amy has red hair and I believe is geneticaly predisposed to eating potatoes.
    By the by I am in the market for that computer we talked about over Christmas.
    Let’s get the conversation started. Is there a way to email you from this site. or should I message you via facebook? Let me know.

  2. John Keane says:

    I randomy found your blog searching for info on an antique potato bin I just found at a used furniture store. If you like sweet potatoes they are super easy to grow I dedicated 2 22inch ceramic planters and a large tree container a nursery gave me to sweet potatoes. I havested about 35 potatoes some over 4 inches in diameter. They are viney decorative plants as well.

    I like the blog by the way. If I had one my intrests would pretty much be subtitled the same way good luck. I may have to try out your raised bed design for adding levels i like that. I have 5 raised beds and a large inground area that I will probably convert to raised at some point.

  3. Tom Alphin says:

    RE: John Keane

    Cool, thank you for visiting and thanks for the kind comments. I hadn’t considered large ceramic planters, but it seems like an easy way to increase my growing space. Potatoes were a lot of fun to grow, so maybe I will try sweet potatoes as well.

  4. Rachelle says:

    So, how was the potato harvest, how did this project go?

    • Tom Alphin says:

      The first year I harvested in the early fall and got about 25 pounds, This year I harvested way too late, (late January) and got a larger harvest but with a few rotten potatoes and mold which set in after a week after harvest stored indoors. I don’t think I dried them quickly enough.

      It is a good crop, but after some issues i am taking a year off potatoes and will come back to it next year with fresh seed stock.

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