The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Potatoes, But Not For Eating

April 28th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Posted in garden

potatoes42809-003It was only a few weeks ago that two pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes arrived from Wood Prairie Farm in Maine. We’ve had a fluky spring. It was too cold to plant potatoes at the usual time in mid-March. Instead we spread them on a baking sheet in the kitchen and let them sprout. In addition, we had a few spuds from last fall that were sprouting up a storm in the back pantry. Have you ever seen a sprout turn into an eight-inch-long stem? Those potatoes were dying for a place in the soil.

Eventually we did get around to planting our potatoes and what a thrill to see them finally emerging from the ground. Potato plants have lush, deeply-etched leaves that make them look quite ferocious as they break the earth’s crust and climb into view. There’s nothing shy about them. They have an almost animal energy.

This year we planted an entire bed–about 15 feet long and three feet wide–with three rows. That should make quite a lot of potatoes. Except that I am no longer eating starchy carbohydrates. I will certainly miss the potatoes, but that will leave plenty for daughter, as well as for trading with the neighbors.

Planting in beds isn’t the only way to grow potatoes. The potato itself isn’t a root, per se, but rather a stem growth. Hence, you can produce lots more potatoes from a single plant if you can get it to grow taller, and keep the stem covered with soil. I’m starting to see more mention of “potato towers.” You can build one even on a concrete surface using old tires. Just fill a tire with soil, plant the spuds, and as they grow, keep covering them with soil–leaving a few leaves exposed–and add more tires as you go. When the spuds are ready to harvest, you just remove the soil and work your way down the plant, pulling the tires away in reverse order.

The potatoes towers I’ve seen mentioned lately are a bit more elaborate. They involve building a structure out of wood. Sam Fromartz, a fellow District of Columbia resident who writes the Choose Wise blog, recently described his interest in growing potatoes this way. And our friend Rob at One Straw also has been busy building a tower of his own.

A potato tower is a great way to grow lot of calories vertically in a small space, even if you don’t have a garden. Even if you aren’t eating carbs, this would be a fun way to teach kids how to grow food, either at home or for a school project.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


  • maggie

    I’ve grown great “new” potatoes in a big ol’ pot in the corner of the green house. As the plant grew I added more potting mix. Fresh new potatoes with Easter dinner are a treat! Ours are jumping out of the ground now. I can’t wait. We’ll have to survive on bought ones for awhile (I actually just stop eating them…). I’m interested in how your cutting of the carbs is going. Intriguing.

  • espringf

    I’m tempted to try this and just plan on giving all the potatoes to the food shelter.

  • Ed Bruske

    Maggie, I am very jealous of your greenhouse. I am adding up all the foods we would be eating (and not buying at the store) if we had our own greenhouse. I will post at some point about life without carbs. It’s a much better life, indeed.

    Emily, that’s mighty generous of you. But I agree: growing potatoes is fun–almost as much fun as making compost.

  • Amelia

    Wow, I knew you had to hill up a few extra inches of soil or mulch onto the growing vines, but I didn’t know you could keep piling on more and more dirt after that. Next year I’ll dig deeper trenches so more can get piled up on top.

  • Ed Bruske

    Amelia, you just described an alternate technique: dig a deeper hole, and continue to pile up soil as you potato grows. That’s a nice looking blog you’ve got. Where did you grow all those salad greens so early? And the radishes?