small potatoes

i finally got around to taking pictures of the potato towers in sprout and thought i’d throw together a little visual tutorial of the process for anyone interested in a fun and easy garden project. we had to delay a lot of our expansion plans because of the fire, but as i’ve grown in knowledge and confidence i still wanted to find ways to add new crops to the garden this year while working with the space we have. i chose to use some left over wire from last year’s tomato cages (we need to go bigger this year anyway as our tomato plants spilled over them and then some) but you can find a roll of inexpensive wire at any hardware store that will do the trick. this was originally from a roll of fencing wire. i combined two cages to make each roughly 3-4 foot tall wire tower. they measured about 2 feet in diameter and held together nicely with some coaxing from a pair of pliers. we used straw to build a sort of “bird’s nest” in the bottom of each cage. once i had a little under a foot high layer of straw i added dirt. just enough to cover the the straw thickly. now here’s where i forgot to snap any photos! a neighbor (and new friend) came by with the extra organic potato starts she’d offered me the month before. she left smaller potatoes whole and cut bigger ones in halves or quarters. they had been left to dry some in the sun and all had started to sprout. starting with the bottom layer we laid potatoes or pieces thereof around the edge of the circle with the sprouts or “eyes” facing one of the openings in the fencing. we left 3-4 inches between each spud and then repeated the process until we reached the top…and ran out of starts! we also watered each layer before adding the next. i ended up with four layers in each tower. straw, dirt, potatoes, water. straw, dirt, potatoes, water…you get the idea. after that i added one more thicker layer of dirt on top of the tower and planted a mix of salad greens so as not to waste space or water! supposedly potatoes in these towers need to be watered about once a week for twenty minutes, but with all the rain i’ve hardly had to touch them. the straw seems to work a bit like a swamp cooler in the way it moves the water and even during drier weeks i don’t find myself watering for as long as suggested. they’ve grown beautifully! i’m noticing the buds of the flowers are forming and as soon as they bloom and then die back we can start digging around for potatoes through the openings in the wire.  there are three different kinds of potatoes in the mix so it will be a surprise every time. it’s perfectly okay to store the potatoes in the towers (no need to water) and take from them as needed. any left behind will volunteer for next year! i intend to let them do so and get two years out of these before starting fresh.

potato tower 10potato tower 9potato tower 11potato tower8potato tower7potato towerpotato tower 5potato tower 4

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