Spuds growing up

It’s the time of year when we dig through our potato stacks, collect the dirty, jewel-toned potatoes and start to pick our favorite potato recipes. This year we grew six varieties in our stacking potato towers. We alternated layers of 50/50 compost/soil and straw. It was interesting to see the layers when we began to unearth the potatoes.

The chickens were super interested in the potato harvest. Pepper was the most involved. Of course, she’s very interested in all human behaviors.


I planted 1# of each variety in the stacking boxes. Here’s the yield:
viking purple – 2#
german butterball – 6#
russian banana – 1.5#
french fingerling – 5#
princess 1.75#
red thumb 2#

Conclusion: 99% of the potatoes were in the bottom box of our stacked wooden boxes. That means our shoveling, stacking, side dressing and work was for naught. We could have achieved the same yield by growing potatoes in the ground. I’m happy we grew potatoes, don’t get me wrong. Nothing beats the taste of a fresh-dug, homegrown potato. The yield of some of our ’11 varieties was good, but overall, the stacking method was a lot of work without a lot of benefit. We’ll be retiring the wooden boxes next year in favor of planting in-ground rows. It will take up more space, but we can squeeze ’em in since we added those 400 square feet at the community garden. Now, we have to figure out what we can reuse these stacking wooden boxes for…. Any ideas?

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24 Comments

Filed under fall, garden, urban farming

24 responses to “Spuds growing up

  1. I planted potatoes for the first time this year, but I got curious and harvested them a while back – next time I’m going to hold out for fall! :)

    • Did you get any potatoes? Really, you should harvest when the plants die back. Each variety varies in the number of days they will grow. Potatoes have a predetermined # of days they will grow. So, depending on when you planted them and how many days they took, you may have harvested them at the right time. I planted mine a little late b/c it was so wet, and I grew loooooong season varieties, so your mileage may vary.

  2. Ray

    You might be able to use the boxes to grow beans?

    Also, your potatoes are beautiful!

  3. Lokyra Stone

    My potato yield was pretty disappointing this year. Next year I will be better prepared.

    I was typing up my update for building our cabin, and I wanted to make a point to tell you guys about part of it. Thought you would get a kick out of it.
    Our closest neighbor is about a half mile off. They have a rooster. This rooster crows at about 5.30 a.m.
    When the rooster crows, the pet geese yell at it to shut up.
    When the pet geese yell at the rooster to shut up, the dog the owners just let out before they go to work starts barking frantically.
    Every time the dog frantically barks at the geese, the pet turkey gobbles.
    This happens nearly every morning. We are sleeping in a tent right now, so we hear it pretty clearly.

  4. I tried some potaoes in a tall grow bag, and had a similar result, so also sticking to growing them in the ground! I haven’t heard of the varietie syou grew, so as always, an interesting read
    How about pumpkins in the boxes, or something that has long tap roots like parsnips, hamburg parsley, mooli?
    Happy growing :)

  5. I’ve been pondering not using our boxes as well. Our experience is that they mostly grow on the bottom as well, with some scattered throughout. I’m going to give it one more season next year for them to prove they are worth it =) I’ve been wondering about how to best re-use as well. Dismantle and make a chicken playground?

    • How many years have you used them? We have tried stacking potato growing for three years now, and had only mediocre success. I have always blamed it on either our slowness-to-mound, or the varieties we chose. This year, we eliminated those variables and I was still disappointed.

      Chicken playground is a good idea! Or chicken obstacle course. Chickens get the food scraps, they may as well get the lumber scraps, too.

      • (browndirt is me too) Anyway- this was our third year using them. It was the first year using mix of things to mound. I’m slow to mound as well. Next year I am going to fill with all straw and mound quickly.
        Otherwise- chicken obstacle course!

  6. We dug up the sweet potatoes about a month ago.We didn’t plant any other variety. It’s good to know that the boxes don’t work.

  7. after tire stackin it last year, I opted to just grow in mounds this year. the yield was about the same–with a LOT less work. I planted my potatoes early and harvested early and now I have to go buy some from the farmer’s market for the winter! next year I need to plan better as far as early/mid/late season.
    your potato boxes might be a good place to grow some long roots like carrots or parsnips–you wouldn’t want to use all the frames, obviously, but maybe the bottom one or two. you could fill them with really sandy soil and probably grow some nice long veggies! I’ve been thinking about building an extra deep raised bed just for those guys.

    • That is a really good idea — using them like mini raised beds for special soil or weird growing conditions. I like the idea of perfect carrots. It might also be good to grow my Jerusalem Artichokes in there… easier to harvest, easier to contain them, since they tend to wander. Thanks!!!

  8. Wow, this is great. I have been thinking about trying the boxes this next spring and was wondering if it would be worth the effort. I think I’ll skip them.

  9. Hillary

    Interesting. We’re considering planting our entire front yard with potatoes next year to break up the soil. Thoughts?

    • What is your soil like currently?

      If the soil is rock hard, the potatoes might not produce. They like loose soil, like carrots and other root vegetables. Have you considered a cover crop with massive roots? I think ryegrass is the cover crop they usually recommend to break up hardpan. Just be sure to plow it under before it goes to seed.

  10. those potatoes are huge and awesome. yum.

  11. john

    The owner of the house I live in (also my housemate) wants to try the tire method for potatoes. I have never done that but have heard about it. Since I do not have a life and love to garden I will be doing the potatoes in a tire. I have never had the space to grow potatoes and this will be interesting. Since moving off the farm I have always grown in containers and I live in Wayne, MI so the yard is ‘normal’ sized and tires/crates are about the only way we are going to grow potatoes. Containers are also MUCH easier on my back.
    Finally, I and my house mates LOVE the rooster story. That is great!

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