You Say Potato…

So I’ve never grown potatoes before. Why? I don’t know. Truth is I’ve not grown much in the way of root vegetables until the last few years. Sort of a basic mistrust of what may or may not be going on underground. I like to be able to watch the progress of the food as it grows and potatoes, carrots, beets simply don’t allow you to do that. Yeah, yeah I know. I can watch the part above ground. I’m sorry, but it’s just not the same. I’ve tried carrots with limited success and beets, which we like but don’t need a lot of at any given moment (the pink pee is interesting to my daughter about once every few weeks, then loses its power to increase vegetable consumption). But I’ve never tried to grow the mighty spud. Which is silly, really, because I love potatoes. I mean I really love potatoes. Early in our relationship my husband and I figured out that he had grown up in a rice household and I had, as you might have guessed, grew up in a potato household. Over the years, despite our initial misgivings, we have both come to appreciate the other’s position, but I think I have really won the day. Homemade french fries will do that for you. Yeah, it’s a dirty trick, but somebody has to do it.

Where was I? Right, growing potatoes, so I’m happily clicking away on Pinterest and I come across this:

What’s that you say?  THAT is a potato tower.  You heard me right, a potato tower.  Grow potatoes without using up all of your precious garden space.  Okay, so that idea and the fact that I had 2×2 chicken wire that proved too big to keep rabbits out waiting in the shed convinced me to give it a go.  So I asked my sweetie to pound some stakes in (our street has the word slate in the name, so guess what’s just an couple of inches below the surface) and then we made a round with the discarded chicken wire, securing the back bit by stapling it to the fence.  I was determined NOT to buy new materials for this project because while I am optimistic, I am CHEAP and if it doesn’t work I’d hate to have spent a lot of dough.  I then filled it around the edges with leaves, rather than the recommended straw and supplemented with a little spanghum moss that I had from another project since I thought it might help retain a little moisture.  In the center, compost baby.  Inserted my cut up seed potatoes in layers and filled with compost and leaves until we got about to the top.  Here it is:

Will it work?  I have NO idea.  I’m sure I didn’t follow the directions exactly as that’s how I roll.  While it is my belief that all gardening is an act of supreme optimism, the slapdash version that I usually do is strictly for the glass half-full crowd.  If it does, that’s about 25 lbs of delicious potato magic coming our way.  And if my children have their way, a great many of them will be prepared this way:

Awesome Oven Fries Adapted from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

  • 1.25 lbs potatoes, peeled (if you must) and cut to 1/2″ fry shapes
  • 3/4 to 1t salt
  • 1/2t sugar
  • 4t oil
  • 1t paprika
  • 1/4t pepper (I use white to avoid kid detection)

Preheat oven to 450.  Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper (works better).  Combine potatoes, 1/4t salt, sugar and cold water to cover.  Soak 15 minutes, drain &blot dry.  In dry bowl, combine potatoes with oil, paprika and pepper.  Arrange in single layer on baking sheet. Bake, turning as they brown. 35-45 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt.  Voila.  Fan-flipping tastic.  Yes, you should probably make a double batch.

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56 responses

  1. My Granddaddy loved his red spuds so much, by the end he’d just throw up any chopped up bit of a potato with an eye into the ground as he was rotertilling. He would harvest them with his peas and my oh my, just as good as lobster, fresh potatoes from his garden with fresh picked peas boiled in a little cream and butter!!!! MMMmmmm MMMmmm, I hope your basket works well, it’s a great idea if you don’t have much for table soil!!!
    Best Regards ~KL

    • I had to make potato croquettes for dinner after writing this because my potato need was so intense… I can only imagine if I could bring them into the house dirty… Glorious.

  2. It looks much better than the big plastic tub with holes in the bottom I tried last year. I think the TN sun and the black pot were just a little too much heat. This contraption seems much airier and cooler for those little root veggies. And you gotta love something that you cut up into pieces that grow into new ones….. like the myths about earthworms, or zombies or something. But even better because you get to eat them! I don’t think Zombies taste very good.

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  4. So, it’s been a year since you planted your potato tower. How was the harvest? Is it worth the work for the rest of us to try in 2013?

    • Hi Nancy. It was pretty good. Truth to tell, I’ve never grown potatoes in the ground, so I can’t compare. It did work; we got potatoes and I didn’t have to sacrifice any of my traditional bed for them, so that’s a win in my book.

      • Thanks for the update. How did you know WHEN to harvest? And, did you harvest all at once or just as you needed the spuds? I’m considering planting fingerling potatoes, red, gold, and purple. Any advice to share

      • As I understand it you harvest when the plant above ground begins to look spent. You can harvest early and get the little ones that are so lovely. I did gold and harvested all at once, but only because I had let some sit too long. Pulling some out at a time in this configuration is difficult, so I think it works better to do them all at once.

      • I’m glad you are successful and willing to share your success. We don’t eat taters very often, but when we do I like the fingerlings. You’ve encouraged me to the point that I believe I can do this and I’m going to start with golden and red fingerlings.

        Many thanks for the nudges,
        Nancy in Hershey, PA where it really does smell like warm chocolate most mornings.

  5. Someone sent this on pinterest to me this winter and I’m going to try it. Also one to spend nary a penny for the garden, I have a theory that I can somehow corral the straw in tomato cages to make this work. ANything that doesn’t take up my precious garden space is fabulous in my book!!

    • I’m nearing the end of my potato window this year and have landed myself in injury prison. I’m hoping I can still get them going in time. The nice thing with the tower is that it comes together a whole lot faster than prepping a new garden bed. 🙂

  6. I overwintered some purple small potatoes from our CSA, and when I dumped them out of the bag, they were all sprouted! Looked like a bunch of purple spiders!
    I am going to try this, and I might have multiplied my investment! Can’t wait!

  7. OMG I am doing the same thing. Last year I grew them in a huge pot but this year I bought a compost holder so I decided to use my old homemade wire composter. Good luck to us. They did grow well in the pot by the way.

  8. We just dumped our first tower, basically because something ate all of the leaves! Excited to eat them. Thanks for the WW reips
    Found you on hte Homestead Barn Hop

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  10. That’s how I grow my potatoes & it works great, unless you have a late freeze after planting like we did this year (in NC mountains). All but one seed potato in each tower turned to mush, but at least one in each tower did survive. :~/

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    • It really was very easy. I’ve tried a couple of different methods and for whatever reason potatoes have been one of my most reliable choices for the last few years – no matter how I grow them. So rewarding too to pull those big ones out of the dirt!

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  14. I’ve been wanting to try growing potatoes and your method looks like something I could manage. And I already have the chicken wire! Yay! Your oven fries are something I’ve been doing for years now, seasoning depending on my mood and what it’s being served with. I also add carrots! Baby carrots, the larger ones cut in half lengthwise, since they take a little longer to cook that the potatoes. They will carmelize and taste so sweet. I love them and I hate raw carrots!

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  16. I would like to try this. I have never grown my own potatoes either. We are renting so I don’t want to do too much digging in the yard.

    Also, my husband and I are the same way! I love potatoes and he loves rice. LOL We both are ok with eating the other, but love what we grew up with. 🙂

  17. I just found this post on Treasure Box Tuesday, and after reading through the comments, it sounds like growing potatoes this way was a success?! I can’t wait to try it when Spring finally arrives!

  18. Just found this post on our linkup.. I’d love to see a followup to see how it went, maybe a guest post? We’re trying to plan our garden for this Spring and potatoes are new to us. I’d love it if you emailed me or got in touch with me on Facebook!

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  22. My husband’s grandma used old tires to plant potatoes. She would put out one tire, fill with dirt and compost, plant her potato eyes and when it grew up, she added another tire on top, added more dirt and compost. When that grew up, she added another tire, dirt and compost. She would build up 5-6 tires, depending on the length of the growing season. Who doesn’t know where to get old tires? She didn’t paint hers, but you could paint your tires pretty colors to make it more attractive in your yard. Good luck!

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