Do Potato Towers Really Work?

Do Potato Towers Really Work?

An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm

We love growing potatoes in our raised bed and in ground gardens each year. They’re one of the first things we plant as temperatures are warming in late winter, and one of the first “warm season” veggies that we harvest in late spring. Although potatoes are considered a “warm season” vegetable because they are not frost-tolerant (for the most part), they don’t like the intense heat. That’s one of the main reasons why we have to plant our potatoes so early in south Georgia — usually around the middle of February.

What is a Potato Tower?

If you follow any gardeners across the country on social media, you may have seen this thing called a “potato tower.” The basic concept is to plant seed potatoes in the bottom of a container with just a small amount of soil initially. This container could be a bucket, a barrel — I’ve seen folks use many kinds of cylindrical containers for this.

As the potato plant grows, the gardener will continually add soil to the container. This creates a towering potato plant over time as more soil is added and the plant gets longer and longer. When it’s time to harvest the potatoes, they simply dump the container, and the plant has produced potatoes all along the stem of the plant. When done correctly, this method can yield a huge number of potatoes from just one plant.

Can Anyone Do It?

But this potato tower technique will not work for everyone. Let me tell you why.

As I mentioned earlier, potato plants don’t like extreme heat. Once our daytime temperatures start averaging 85-90 degrees in late May, our potato plants start to die and that’s when we’ll harvest them. As a result, a potato tower is not possible here in south Georgia because potato plants don’t make it past May.

Potato towers are possible in areas with milder summers. That’s why most of the gardeners using this technique are in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest. It doesn’t get very hot there in the summer and their potato plants will just keep growing and growing.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Potatoes

Another thing to consider is what type of potato you’re growing. Potato towers will only work with “indeterminate” or “late-maturing” potato varieties. Short-maturing or “determinate” potato varieties won’t continually produce potatoes along the stem like the indeterminate varieties will. Make sure to do your research and choose an indeterminate variety if a potato tower is your goal.

Down here in south Georgia, I rarely use the “determinate” vs “indeterminate” distinction when talking about potatoes. Potatoes don’t grow indeterminately here, regardless of variety. The heat gets them all in late May. But in other areas of the country, some varieties do grow indeterminately — thus the potato tower.

Before you go buying supplies to grow your own potato tower, consider if it’s even possible in your area. If your summer temperatures are in the high 90s on a consistent basis, it’s not going to be possible. But if you’re in the northern states, it should work very well assuming you choose an indeterminate potato variety.

Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hot sauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.

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