One of the staples for many families is potatoes. They can be used to create a variety of different meals and when stored in a cool, dry place, they have a fairly decent shelf life. For long term storage, you can even dehydrate potatoes, so it makes sense to include them as part of your food stockpile. But if you’re growing your own potatoes to stockpile, they can take up quite a bit of space in your garden plot.
So for those who need more space for other vegetables or for those people who need to garden in a small space, a potato box, which encourages the potato plant to grow vertically, can be a great solution, especially since some online reports yields of up to 25 lbs per square foot.
Most potato boxes are built from newly purchased wood, such as 2×2’s to create four to six frames that are then stacked on top of one another such as the one in the video below:
If you have the budget to purchase new wood for this project, that’s great. But purchasing new wood can make a dent in the budget. So for those that are working with a limited budget for their gardening supplies, below are some suggestions for how to build a potato box for almost free.
Where to Get Wood
One of the advantages of having a potato box like the one in the video above is that you can harvest potatoes from the bottom layers while adding soil to the top. Without a potato box, you’d have to wait until the end of the season and harvest all the potatoes at one time. Below are some suggestions for places to get wood to build a potato box for almost free:
● Find free wood from a neighbor or relative
● Check craigslist or other neighborhood sales apps such as “Letgo” for cheap used wood
● Look around your home for an old outbuilding or wood project that can be taken apart
● Check with your local store managers or storage businesses to inquire about wood pallets they don’t need that you buy cheap or get for free.
● Search out and cut trees or branches from your woods or get permission to find what you need in the woods of a neighbor or relative.
● Consider an alternate container you have on hand such as a 5 gallon bucket, tall flower pot, or even an old laundry basket to use as your potato box if wood isn’t accessible.
Where to Get Soil
To build a potato box and continue layering soil as the plants grow, you will need quite a bit of soil. Below are some suggestions for where to get it:
● Use your own soil from your property if available and feasible
● Create your own soil by building a composting system
● Buy bags of soil from your local home or farm supply store
● Check with neighbors to see if they have soil available and barter something you have that they need.
● Buy in bulk from a local gardening supply store or nursery
Where to Get Seed Potatoes
When it comes to getting seed potatoes to use in your potato box, any potato with eyes can be used as a seed potato in your potato box. Actual “seed” potatoes are sold simply because they are more uniform in size and are ready to sprout. It is better to have mid to late season potatoes because they “fruit” more than once which is what you want for a potato box.
● Save potatoes from a previous year’s harvest
● Buy potatoes from a farmer’s market or even your local grocery store
● Purchase “seed” potatoes from a nursery catalog
● Trade something you have with a neighbor who has leftover potatoes
How to Build a Potato Box Successfully
So that’s it. To make a potato box, you basically need wood, soil, and seed potatoes. You will need to layer cardboard or landscaping/weed fabric on the bottom “floor” of the potato box to keep weeds from getting inside. And you will need to have access to sufficient water to keep the soil in your potato box moist. Now that you know where to get the materials you need for your potato box, below are some suggested steps to help you get the best yield from your potato box.
1. Choose the Right Seed Potatoes
Not yukon gold. Check with your local extension office for help in choosing the right variety for your area. Mid to late season potatoes will yield more in potato boxes because they “fruit” more than once. Early season potatoes will only “fruit” once which means you will end up with potatoes only at the bottom of the box.
2. Choose the Right Time
Colder climates should start planting potatoes in March. Those who live in warmer climates should wait until late summer or early fall to start planting. The potato plant needs cooler temperatures at night, around 60 degrees for best results.
3. Use the Right Soil
Potatoes do best in well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. You want light, fluffy soil that has an earthy smell. If you aren’t sure what kind of soil you have, take the time to test your soil so you know what it needs to be the right mix. You can purchase soil of course but keep in mind that you will need a lot of soil by the time you reach the top of the potato box. If budget is an issue, your best bet is to mix your own soil with compost until you have a mix that potatoes can thrive in.
4. Master the Art of “Hilling”
Potatoes like dark to grow. To master hilling potatoes in a potato box, about every two to four inches of plant growth, you should be adding soil. Adding soil as the plants grow will increase the number of potatoes you will get as a final result. In some cases you may need to add soil as much as once or twice a week in order to get maximum yield. New growth should be covered in soil and not left to sit uncovered for a week or more because it will stop “fruiting” and you won’t get as many potatoes.
5. Keep Soil Properly Watered
Potatoes need water to grow well. When growing potatoes in a potato box, you have to make sure that soil is evenly watered. Too much water will pool in the bottom layer and cause the potatoes in that layer to rot. Without enough water throughout the tower, the plant will dry out and be stunted which will affect your final results.
Have you tried to build a potato box in the past and if so was it successful? Share your experience in the comments below. If you plan to try to build a potato box for almost free this season, let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear about your results.