Without a doubt, potatoes are one of my favorites vegetables to grow. It is just hard to beat home grown potatoes fresh from the vegetable garden!
Sometime last year I was browsing the interwebs in search of seed potatoes for my garden. I came across Irish Eyes Garden Seeds website and found an awesome set of plans for building a potato tower. The plans claimed you could grow 100 pounds of potatoes in a four foot square area.
Oh, I have to try this!
The Concept Behind the Potato Tower
Here’s the concept behind the potato tower. You build a 2′ by 2′ box with these 33″ corner posts in each corner. You place soil in the box and plant the seed potatoes in the soil (here’s how I planted the seed potatoes in the potato tower).
Continue this as the plant grows until you reach the top of the box.
If at any point the potato plants start blooming (usually 40 – 70 days after planting depending on variety), you can harvest new potatoes. You simply take the bottom boards off and dig out the potatoes.
Wait a few weeks and take off the second row of boards and dig out the potatoes. You can continue this throughout the season.
You can also just wait until the plant begins to die back and harvest all at once.
Materials Needed for the Potato Tower
24 – 1″ x 6″ x 24″ boards
4 – 2″ x 2″ x 33″ boards
96 – 2″ wood screws
For this project you will need some materials to build the potato tower. You can build this out of anything you like such as cedar, redwood, or other lumber. You can even use composite boards if you like. That would last forever, but does come with a higher cost.
The plan from Irish Eyes mentions you can use pressure treated lumber. The is much debate about whether pressure treated lumber is safe to use in vegetable gardens. Some say it is fine, some say stay away. You can use your own judgement on using it.
I used regular pine boards for this. Pine will not last as long as the above mentioned materials, but you should get about 5 years worth of use from it.
You will also noticed my materials list differs a bit from the Irish Eyes’ plan. I decided to go with 1″ x 6″ boards instead of the 2″ x 6″ boards because the 1″ boards are a bit cheaper and lighter. You can use which ever you prefer.
Assembling the Potato Tower
Once you have all your pieces cut to the desired lengths it is time to begin assembling the potato tower.
Pre-drill the Holes
The first thing you want to do is to pre-drill two 1/8″ holes in all of the 24″ boards on each end. Mark the holes 3/4″ from the edge of the board, and 1″ off the top and bottom of the board.
It should look something like this.
After you have all the holes marked, it is time to drill them using the 1/8″ drill bit. Drilling these pilot holes will make screwing the boards together much easier, and prevent the wood from splitting.
Assemble the Sides of the Potato Tower
With all the boards now drilled, it’s time to assemble the sides of the potato box. You may need a friend to give you a hand in the next few steps, or use a couple quick-set clamps to help you hold things in place. It will make it much easier, trust me!
First, lay the 2″ x 2″ boards down, at 24″ apart, on the work surface. These boards will form the corner posts of the potato tower, and are what you will attach the sides to as the potato plants grow up.
Next, place one of the 1″ x 6″ boards on top of the corner posts. Make sure the edges of all the boards are flush.
With the edges flushed go ahead and put one screw in the bottom holes on each side. DO NOT put all four screws in just yet. Use a clamp to hold the boards in place while inserting the screws.
With the one bottom screw tightened up, check the sides to make sure they are square.
Once you have the corner post and side board square, clamp them in place and insert the top screw.
Repeat the same process for the other end. You should now have one side of the potato tower completed.
Simply repeat this to assemble the other side.
You should now have two identical sides of the potato tower.
Completing the Potato Tower
Hang in there, we are almost to the finish line!
The next step is to attach a side board to each of our assembled sides.
Lay one of the assembled sides over on its side and clamp one of the boards to the corner post. Make sure the edges are flushed. Go ahead and insert a screw into the bottom hole. Here’s where you may need a friend’s help.
Check the pieces to make sure they are square, clamp them in place and insert the top screw.
Repeat this step for the other assembled side. You should now have the potato tower assembled in two halves.
Now the two halves need to be connected to form the completed potato tower.
Start on one corner and line the edges up so they match the others. Clamp it in place with the quick clamp and insert a screw in the bottom hole. Repeat this for the opposite corner so the box is loosely assembled.
You will need to check the box for square. There are several ways to do this; you can measure diagonally across the box from corner to corner, you can use a framing square, or you can use the 3-4-5 rule for squaring.
I just measured diagonally across each corner. You simply measure from corner to corner diagonally both ways, and each measurement should be the same. If they are the same, the box is square.
It is also a good idea to measure the top of the corner posts to make sure they are 24″ apart from outside to outside.
Once all of the measurements are correct, screw in the top screws on the two corners, re-checking the measurements each time to make sure nothing shifted.
You now have a completed potato tower!
Setting Your Potato Tower in the Vegetable Garden
Loosen the soil up really well where you plan to place the potato tower and simply place it there. Check to make sure it is level and make adjustments accordingly.
You can also add the side boards all the way up the potato tower on one side to form a “back” if you like, but it’s totally optional.
Once the potato tower is home and level, fill it with a high quality compost and soil mixture. A mix of 1/3 compost and 2/3 organic potting soil is what I used.
You are now ready to plant potatoes.
Feel free to do the Happy Potato Tower Dance!
For information on planting your seed potatoes in the potato tower, please see our article – How To Plant Potatoes In a Potato Tower.