Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Building a Potato Tower

Hello Fellow Gardeners!

I'm sure you all have heard about potato towers by now, but if not, keep reading.  I ran out of room for my last 5 seed potatoes, so I decided that I would try a potato tower this year. I like to experiment with potatoes. I'm not too keen on having to dig them out of the ground if I can just tip over a container of some kind and pick them out.

First thing, I gathered my supplies. A straw bale I picked up from garage sale curb leftovers, a bag of topsoil and a bag of compost to mix it with (since I already ran out of my homemade stuff), a bag of seed potatoes, and my tower. Well, in actuality, this was a tomato cage, so it is probably more narrow than what you would want your tower to be, but I'm eager to see if it will work anyway.

Then I stabilized the tower down into the ground with the help of my Little Buddy who was full of questions of what we were doing and why.

Baby Brother had to get in on the action. He couldn't shake the tower down, so I guess it is sturdy enough!

I opened my bag of compost to find this...sprouts. That's not a good sign. That means this wasn't sterilized before packing. In case you are wondering...to sterilize soil is to heat it up so as to kill all the unwanted seeds and/or pests. Healthy compost does this naturally. You can do this more quickly by placing black plastic over the area you want sterilized and let it sit in the sun for several days.  Well, in the interest of saving time, I went ahead and used this as is. I mixed this half and half with the topsoil.

In case you haven't dealt with straw before, here is a picture of the "leaves." Makes it a bit easier to handle. Also, this is a compressed bale. There is a lot more here than meets the eye. A couple *ahem* decades ago, I helped bail hay and straw on my best friend's farm. Those were not compressed bales. This one is much smaller and heavier. I also found out the hard way that this is chopped straw, which means a whole lot of little pieces for the kids to get covered with. It is crazy hard to wash out of baby hair! One last note: Hay is harvested from different grasses with seeds intact and is used to feed livestock. Straw is the hollow stalk that is left behind after grain has been threshed and has little nutritious value. It is used most typically for livestock bedding. Straw is usually what you want to use in your garden. But there is a great article about using hay in your garden HERE.

I put a leaf of straw in the bottom of the tower and formed it into a nest shape.

I filled that with my soil/compost mix.

Then I put some potatoes on top and covered those in soil.

I repeated all the layers one more time in order to use up all my seed potatoes.

Baby Brother is helping by pulling the straw back out. No no, child! Keep that stuff in there! Did I mention bits of straw are hard to wash out of baby hair? Well, he's cute and he's having fun, so it's all good.

I topped the tower off with a layer of straw and watered it well. I water it every couple of days to be sure it doesn't dry out since it is so narrow. I checked it a couple of days after watering and it was surprisingly still pretty moist in the center.

I'll keep you updated on the potato tower's progress. Have you tried a potato tower before? How did it go? What other methods have you tried? I'd love to hear about your potato growing experience!

Happy Gardening!

Jen Hen

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