Wednesday, June 10, 2015


In the February post “The Gift of Gold Begins with Quarters and Eyes to the Sky” my colleague, Mindy Beltramo, shared how growing potatoes with children is not only a great learning moment but also fun, rewarding and relatively easy.  I decided to give it a try in my own garden. After doing more research I chose to grow my potatoes in a “tower”. The tower approach could be a way for schools with limited space to plant potatoes as well. Another benefit is that the growing medium can be replaced every year which cuts down on diseases (potato blight) and pest problems (potato beetle). 

Check out the UNH Cooperative Extension publication for more information on growing potatoes. The Maine Potato Lady is a great resource for tips and if you are interested in growing certified organic seed potatoes.

Green sprouting potato seed
I bought a variety (6 total) of blue, red and yellow  seed  potatoes at  my local farmers supply store about two weeks before planting and left them on a bright windowsill to allow the eyes to “green-sprout” before planting.The aim of green sprouting is to develop very short, strong sprouts that emerge and grow rapidly when planted. 

Just before Memorial Day I made my tower using 2 x 4 galvanized heavy duty fence  in a roll that was 36” high and 50 feet long. This is available at most farming supply stores like Tractor Supply. I wrapped a section around a trash can to make the form and overlapped the wire ends to secure it in place.

Ready to plant!

The potatoes had sprouted and I cut them into sections with 3- 4 eyes on each. I located the tower in a corner of my garden. I decided to use the method of lining the sides with straw. This keeps the soil contained in the wire tower. After lining the sides with straw I filled the bottom with about 4” of loam mixed with the composted manure. 

Potato sections with "eyes to the sky" before covering with soil 

I was lucky to have a source of Llama manure (thanks Mindy!). I set the sections in the bed with the “eyes to the sky”, added more straw to the sides and added another 4-6” of soil on top. I didn't have room for all the sections so I popped them in the ground nearby to see what happens. I did not add any fertilizer because of the nutrients from the manure. I watered well and walked away.  It is now 2 weeks later and the leafy sprouts have emerged!  

During the growing phase more soil is added to cover the leafy foliage. I am sure I will be calling more experienced gardeners for reassurance when I get to that phase.

I will keep you posted!