Build Your Own Potato Growing Box

comments (17) February 11th, 2014

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yourownvictorygarden Greg Holdsworth, contributor
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The cut boards and studs.
The two pre-drilled holes at the end of the board. TIP: If you place the piece of wood youre drilling over another scrap piece, and apply firm pressure when you drill, your holes will be cleaner and you wont have the dreaded splintering on the other side.
The corner of the frame.
The finished frame. Now you just need 5 more!
The corner of the frame, with the stud secured to the inside.
The finished base of the box, which resembles an upside-down table.
The finished base with the first frame placed on top of it.
The box in the garden, ready to fill with soil and plant.
Box filled with soil, check. Seed potatoes put in, check.
The box filled up and a mulch layer of leaves on top. 
The box with all of the frames stacked up. Note: this is only temporary... I will remove the top 4 frames as soon as the potatoes start to sprout to give them sunlight.
Click To Enlarge Photo: Greg Holdsworth (All photos)

Don't you mean potato grow box? Nope, that's not a typo. As the areas of my garden devoted to perennials has gradually increased, the need to use the remaining space more efficiently has become more important. Using trellises and other vertical growing methods greatly help in this challenge. 

Though my first attempts at growing potatoes the last couple of years has been successful, it took up a fair portion of the raised bed(s) they were growing in. This year, I am again doing another "first" – growing potatoes vertically. The "potato box" or "spud box" has become an effective method to produce a large quantity of potatoes in a small space. The idea is ingenious – forcing the potato plant to "stretch" upward as it grows allows more area of the plant to produce potatoes.   

The potato "growing" box is just that – a series of frames that stack, or grow, as the potato plant grows. I like to look at the frames as resembling the floors of a building. In this project, our potato "building" will be six stories tall.


The list of things you'll need:

1. Six - 2" x 6" x 8' untreated wood boards

2. Two - 2" x 2" x 6' wood studs (or one 12' long stud)
Note: I actually went with 2x3's instead of 2x2's because they were straighter. For the purpose of this project, we'll stick with 2x2's to avoid confusion.

3. About 65 - 2 1/2" long deck screws (I just got a 1-pound box of them - it's less expensive. You'll have extras, but you'll probably need them later).

4. Drill and drill bits


Skill Level:

Easy to intermediate


Construction:

1. Cut the two 2" x 2" x 6' studs into four 33" pieces (you'll have a few inches left over).

2. Cut the six 2" x 2" x 8' boards into 12 lengths of 21", and 12 lengths of 24".

3. Pre-drill 2 holes on each end of the 24-inch pieces, about 3/4" from the edge. This will position the screws to go into the center of the cut side of the 21-inch pieces.

4. Screw two of the 24" pieces, and two of the 21" pieces together to form a "frame".

5. Repeat STEP 4 five more times. This will give you a total of 6 frames. These six frames will stack on top of each other, creating your box.

6. Place one of the 2" x 2" x 33" stud pieces to the inside corner of one of the frames. This frame will be the base (or the bottom floor) of the box. 

7. Pre-drill two holes on the outside of this frame, so they align with the stud you placed in the corner of the frame. Here, the screws will anchor the stud into the corner of the frame in two spots. 

8. Repeat STEP 7 for the remaining three inside corners of the frame. The base of the box will now look like an upside-down square table.

9. Slip one of the other frames onto the base frame, with the four "legs" being on the inside. These two "floors" will be the area we will plant in. Note: If you wish to dig into the ground to plant your seed potatoes, you can omit this step for now. I simply chose to start the potatoes inside the box, rather than digging into the ground below the box.


Planting & Growing: 

10. Find the location (full sun preferably) for your box and clear away any sod, rocks or debris. Place the box into position.

11. Prepare the soil at the base of the box. You can use your existing soil if it has good drainage and has some organic matter already in it. Otherwise, potting soil, compost, or finely-chopped mulch can be added. I used a mix that was about 40% compost, 40% chopped leaves, straw and grass clippings, and 20% existing soil. I filled the "bottom two floors" with the mix, almost to the top edge of the frame.

12. Plant the seed potatoes about 3"-4" deep, and cover with soil. I added a thin layer of larger leaves as a mulch.

13. When your potato plants are about a foot high, add another frame and fill it with more soil, covering no more than a third of the plant. Continue this process through the season, until the remaining frames have been added.


Harvesting:

14. To harvest, remove the bottom frame's boards to access the bottom layer of soil. When all of the potatoes have been removed from this level, replace the soil and reattach the boards. To harvest more potatoes, repeat those same steps with the second frame's boards. And so on, and so on, until you've reached the top frame. 

Enjoy the fresh spud greatness! 

 


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posted in: potato, growing potatoes, potato box

Comments (17)

Alaskamariner writes: So if you remove the dirt from the bottom, doesn't the dirt above fall down?
Posted: 9:36 pm on November 12th
Alseco writes: I dug the potatoes on Sept. 21,2016.got about a dozen potatoes. The biggest one was smaller then a golf ball. A waste of money and time.
Posted: 4:34 pm on September 22nd
jfbert writes: Hello ,

Did this last year ... used YUKON GOLD , didnt work , started to read ... then saw a Potatoe box plan and in the middle a special text saying ... DO NOT USE YUKON GOLD lol but who reads all the instruction lol

This year i used BINDJE potatoes , they are yellow potatoes, so i planted them in May we are in July and they are 48 inches tall , will remove my first board this weekend to see if its going good .


Posted: 9:04 am on July 8th
SadlyWiser writes: @22chuckie I don't know anything about sweet potatoes, but I have grown white potatoes—Irish Cobbler, Kennebec and Katahdins. If you had rich garden soil you did not need to add manure. Manure adds nitrogen which encourages leafy growth, which you had—good for lettuce & spinach but not so much for spuds. Potatoes love wood ashes which provide potassium to grow strong stems (potatoes form on the stems), and phosphorus which promotes roots, flowers, fruits & seeds.
The directions in the article say to cover no more than 1/3 of the plant—4" on a foot high plant, so that might be another issue. What you add to cover the stems those 4" matters—go back to #11 in the instructions. Spuds need to grow in the dark, so covering the stems has more to do with the dark than the nutrients in the medium—some people use only a straw mulch. The advantage of compost or the other mixtures that actually go into compost is that they are less weighty and the nutrients are a naturally balanced soil builder that you can use in another part of your garden (preferably not where you grow other plants susceptible to the same diseases).
You say nothing about watering, and neither does the article, and I'm not familiar with your climate. I will say this about the size of your box—it's very very hard to access the middle. My previous square foot garden boxes were 4'x8', but when I moved I built 3'x6' (my joints are getting stiffer, so it's easier to reach 1.5' than 2' to the middle, making it easier to pick off potato beetles if I see any.
I suggest the Organic Gardening Magazine and Mother Earth News website(s). In particular Mother Earth has an excellent garden planning section with a TON of information on plants, graphing software, and you can choose between square foot gardening and row gardening. When you set it up you also tell it your zip code & email, and they will send you reminders when to plant different crops. It's free unless you want to save your garden layout from year to year (for crop rotation), in which there's a modest annual charge. Good luck!

These links will help you learn more about N-P-K fertilizers.
http://extension.illinois.edu/firstgarden/basics/feedme_03.cfm
http://www.todayshomeowner.com/organic-sources-of-potassium-for-your-lawn-or-garden/
http://www.plantstogrow.com/Botany/Workshop_notes/Notes/Organic%20sources%20of%20NPK.pdf
Posted: 2:51 pm on February 24th
MidMichigan writes: Has anyone tried this box with sweet potato? Any other suggestions if not?

Posted: 4:13 pm on January 27th
TylerWint writes: Its Great Projects
Posted: 12:48 am on November 30th
WillowMchenry writes: Perfect and it's really impressive! thanxxx for sharing!
Posted: 12:19 am on November 14th
stumper69 writes: Should have added that I'm in Central Oregon and we are just now getting our first frosts.
Posted: 12:30 pm on October 28th
stumper69 writes: I planted a 2x2 box, 7 stacks high with 2x10 risers.
I planted Kennebec and Yukon Golds.
I checked the base about a month ago and nothing going on.
So I left everything growing until the plants died down.
They were 3 feet over the top of the box.
Yesterday, I started harvesting at the top working down.
I harvested 47 pounds of potatoes.
I tried this last year using regular garden soil and got very few potatoes.
This year I used a mulch/soil mix.
The results seem to suggest that soil choice is very important to the process as it needs to be somewhat lighter for success.
Thanks for the article.
Posted: 12:29 pm on October 28th
22chuckie writes: My chart say's that I can plant sweet potatoes in June here in central Fl. Has anyone ever planted sweet potatoes in a potato box ? if I was to try it. Should I fill my box half way and only plant once since S/P grow deeper ? and spread out better ?

Posted: 4:52 pm on May 26th
22chuckie writes: Well after 3 months. I opened up my potato box today and dug it out. No spuds at all. I live in Central Fl. I planted irrish potatoes on Feb. 5. My box was 5 by 5. I only added 5 lifts of dirt. By then, there was only 2 green vines still growing. The vine died 4 weeks ago. I added a lift when the vine was around 12 in. long. I left 6 inch's showing. Any thoughts on what went wrong ? I bought 6 yards of good garden soil to start. I mixed a little rabbit manure and hay along with it as I went. Very little.
thoughts on what went wrong ? I bought 6 yards of good garden soil to start. I mixed a little rabbit manure and hay along with it as I went. Very little.

Posted: 4:52 pm on May 26th
MacAttack8487 writes: I tried the same technique but I used a 33 gallon metal trash can. I started 3 yukon yellow potato's in the bottom 6 to 8 inches of compost, then added compost as the plant grew taller until it was almost full. Then I harvested when the plant started to wilt...It only produced about 6 small potato's. I hope others have better luck, it is a great idea!
Posted: 2:41 am on June 25th
BradC5155 writes: I'd love to know if anyone has successfully grown potatoes this way. And by successful, do you find potatoes in all the layers? I'm trying this this year but heard from a reputable source that it doesn't work. I'd like to prove them wrong
Posted: 12:31 pm on June 23rd
lornaarnold writes: Im wondering why you couldn't just keep all the potatoes in the tower until the topmost plant shows signs of the top layer being ready to harvest--won't the potatoes keep fine until first frost? Then you could dig them up and store them? I can't see being able to dig the potatoes out from the bottom without everything caving in.

Posted: 11:23 am on May 28th
ARMACINGENIERIA writes: Hi Greg

I am not quite sure about the harvesting method you suggest. As I understand your suggestion, you are harvesting from the bottom up. Does this process mean that you disassemble each level of the boxing each time you harvest and then reassemble it when next required. I have assumed that you are endeavouring to leave the potatoes in the ground until required for consumption.
Posted: 5:34 am on May 4th
RWinDC writes: I'd modify the frames to fasten on one side with barrel bolt locks and hinges, allowing for easy access in harvesting.
Posted: 3:22 pm on March 11th
thaliapatterson writes: Simple and effective! Thank you for sharing!
Posted: 4:57 am on February 12th
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