With spring already underway, many of us are looking forward to spending more time outdoors and in the garden. Maybe you have already gotten a head start, but some of us are still in the planning stages and figuring out what we would like to accomplish this year.
Instead of simply growing flowers again, why not try your hand at growing a vegetable garden? Concerns about the use of pesticides and genetically modified produce have made growing your own food a very popular hobby for people living in both urban and rural areas. It's become very difficult to know what is going into your food prior to it reaching your dinner table, so the only way to really be sure is to grow your own. Foods labeled as organically grown are available in many grocery stores, but the exorbitant prices are hard to reconcile with your budget on a weekly basis. Hence, growing your own is the perfect alternative.
Even with the means and motivation, it can be difficult to grow any meaningful amount of produce if you simply don't have enough space in your yard. Luckily, Laurie Ashbach, from the blog Dan 330, has come up with a method of producing huge yields of potatoes in just a couple of square feet! This solution is ideal if you don't have a lot of space, but it is also a work-around if the soil in your yard happens to be of particularly bad quality.
Supplies needed for this project:
- 4 fence posts
- 8′ section of wire fencing, about 4′ high
- Wire snips and pliers
- A bale of straw
- Compost or bags of dirt
- Seed potatoes
For this project, Laurie purchased seed potatoes from the Seed Savers Exchange in late winter. They were delivered to her and ready to be planted by late spring, and these potatoes are "Certified Organic" by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
You can choose to grow any potato to your liking, but since you are already taking the time to grow them, it's a good idea to spend a couple of extra dollars to buy organic. Also, Seed Savers Exchange describes itself as "A non-profit, member-supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations."
With her potatoes ready, Laurie and her husband, Dan, inserted four 18-inch fence posts into the ground at the four corners of a square. The area can vary depending on your needs, but try to make it so that it is at least a few square feet in size.
After, they wrapped the wire fencing around the posts while leaving a little extra wire to secure the fence to itself at the ends. A pair of pliers was used to bend the extra wire together so that it was secure.
The fenced area was then filled with hay to create what resembles a nest held together by wire.
Afterwards, the center was filled with compost.
Then, it was time to get the potatoes ready for planting. Using a knife, the potatoes were cut and planted so that each piece contained at least four eyes.
"I started with 2 pounds of potatoes which translated to 8 medium potatoes with about 4 eyes each which meant there were 36 eyes total to plant. About 9 eyes were placed around the outside edge of the nest in 4 layers. Next year I will double the number of potatoes per tower and keep going up. On the top, I planted the eyes right in the middle so they could grow up," Laurie said in her blog post.
Laurie planted her potatoes on the 1st of June. By the 4th of July, her potato tower was already looking like this:
The foliage was starting to thicken and the flowers were starting to bloom.
Laurie advises that it is important to keep watering throughout the summer, and that it is a good idea to set up a soaker hose in the bail if possible. A soaker hose will make it easier to add in more moisture during the summer months when the heat can easily dry out the tower.
By the end of summer, it was time to harvest. Filled with excitement, Laurie took apart the entire tower and began to shake loose the potatoes from the soil and hay.
Laurie recommends not watering the tower before harvesting. Doing so will result in having to dig through a huge mess of mud to retrieve the crops.
Can you imagine that such an impressive yield came from a small tower of hay and dirt?
Successfully growing a treasure trove of veggies is a reward unto itself, but imagine all of the scrumptious meals you can make with delicious, organic, homegrown potatoes.
To learn more about this project, check out Laurie's blog post here, and be sure to see the video below for additional footage of her potato harvest.
H/T: Dan 330