Hay for the cows? Not on this school farm

Potato towerPotato at potato towerWhat in the world are those straw cylinders in the accompanying pictures? In simplest terms, they’re our latest experiment at the garden at Myers Middle School. They’re potato towers. And the leaves beginning to poke out the sides are from potato plants within.

Cremilda Dias, who spurs us to give many unfamiliar approaches a try, says she didn’t invent this. And indeed, a quick Google search for “potato tower” yields 13 million results. Still, chances are this is new to most of us.

Construction is simple. A piece of wire fencing is pulled into a cylinder and fastened to itself. A layer of straw is placed inside. Some compost is layered on top of that. And seed potatoes are set in next. The pile-up is repeated up to the top of the fencing material.

But why? Well, in our case, Crem had quantity of seed potato that wouldn’t last forever. We didn’t have garden beds ready for a potato planting. But the materials for a tower were all handy.

If it all sounds a bit strange, it is important to know that potato growers pile compost over their plants – that is to say right over the leaves maybe halfway up the plant. And they do it repeatedly over the course of the growing season, if they can. This practice, which would kills just about any other plant, boosts tuber production as new stems form beneath the newly covered parts of the potato plant.

C’mon over and take a look at how the experiment is going.

—Bill Stoneman

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