How to Build a Potato Tower

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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).

What the Potato Tower Looks Like Finished
Once the potato plants grow to about eight to twelve inches tall you will add another rows of boards all the way around the box, and fill it with soil.

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.

Lay Out the Hole Spacing for Each Board

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.

Drill All of the Pilot Holes In Each Board

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.

Lay the Corner Posts Down 24 Inches Apart

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.

Place Board On Top of Corner Posts

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.

Put One Screw In the Bottom Holes of Each Board

With the one bottom screw tightened up, check the sides to make sure they are square.

Check Each Side to Make Sure for 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.

Two Assembled 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.

Put a Screw In the Bottom Hole of the Side Board

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.

Two Halves of the Potato Tower

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.

Check to Make Sure the Potato Tower 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.

Completed Potato Tower

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.

Awesome Potatoes for Your Vegetable Garden!

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Comments

  1. Debbie Davis says:

    Now that I’ve built a potato tower, what do I do with it???

    • Hi Debbie, once you have the potato tower built, fill it with a soil mix and plant your seed potatoes in it. I have an article on that coming tomorrow.

  2. I tried with stacked tyres and got to seven high with the plant still thriving out of the top but not one potato (except the original seed). Any explanation?Thanks

    • Hi Sy – I’m not real sure what went wrong. Did you add soil, or straw as you went up with the tires? You need soil or straw for the potatoes to grow in.

  3. A website where you can buy great potato towers is: henleypotatotower.co.uk

    They have a tower which stacks up. It also has holes in the side so you can put some of the stalks outside at all levels so that there is more foliage which means more potatoes can grow. It also comes with a polycarbonate lid to keep the frost off in the early weeks. It’s a very good product that lasts a long time and works!

    If that’s not enough they also have a £500 competition for the gardener who produces the most potatoes in a tower in a year!

  4. Awesome set of plans, wanted to try it for my first year garden this year, but was too busy. Going to be a fun winter project – definitely going with the 2″ x 6″ composite boards… Thanks for the plans and posting! Semper Fidelis!

  5. I built a 4 foot high tower, 2ftx2ft, this last summer. I used Mel’s Mix for the soil. The plants grew wonderfully all summer as I dutifully filled the box as they grew. At harvest time, only the top 6 inches had any potatoes. The bottom 3 1/2 feet had nothing but dirt. No roots, nothing. I have no idea what happened?
    Any ideas?

    • Hi Josh,

      Sorry to hear that your plants did not produce as you’d hoped.

      To be honest, these towers did not produce as well as I’d hoped too. I grew two towers – one with Red Pontiac potatoes, one with German Butterball.

      I received maybe 1 pound of potatoes total.

      After considering what went right and what went wrong, I believe it comes down to:

      1) You need to use the right kind of potato. Most people I’ve talked to that grew potatoes successfully in a similar tower have said late season potatoes work best. So you shouldn’t use early or mid-season potatoes.

      2) The tower needs to be shorten by at least a foot. I think building a 2-foot or 30-inch tower would work much better.

      I have a photo gallery on the Veggie Gardener Facebook Page tracking the entire progress of the potato towers from start to harvest. You can check it out here – http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150173734413358.300961.219530763357&type=3

  6. linda hergert says:

    will this work for sweet potatoes

    • Hi Linda – one of fabulous members of our Facebook Page tried this with sweet potatoes last season and it worked really well. I think it actually worked better for her sweet potatoes than it did for my potatoes. It’as worth a try! I will note that she lives in a warm climate and the long season helps with sweet potatoes!

  7. Are you sure about those plans? If you screw each side 3/4″ in and 1″ down , when connecting the sides the screws will hit each other !!

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