How to Build Potato Boxes

Short on garden space? Then a potato tower or potato box may be just what you need and we can show you just how to build a grow tower.  We currently have a smaller yard that we have worked hard to create an attractive edible landscape.  Growing potatoes in the ground doesn’t exactly conform to the small tidy asethetic we have going on.  I had taken a class on intensive gardening and recalled there was such a thing as a potato tower.  You can google potato boxes, potato towers, grow towers, and grow bags to get a visual on options.  All of these items are ways to grow potatoes in a small spaces, however, some are more aesthetically pleasing than others.

The basic idea of a potato box is you start at a bottom level and plant potatoes.  Then as the potatoes grow you add a level of wood, fill in with dirt, leave a few leaves poking out the top, and continue on up. Growing potatoes in this method should yield potatoes all along the buried stems.  The drawback to this method is you usually have to screw in each level as you go, buy tons of dirt, and it ends up looking like a plain wooden box. Don’t even get me started on the aesthetics of grow bags… While, we can’t help you with the dirt (it will take a lot), we did design a box with slide in slats, that matched the porch and trellises we have around the yard.  Using untreated wood (we aren’t huge fans of tons of chemicals around food we plan to eat), conduit, and some bolts, we made two potato towers that should last a few years.Potato boxes

How to Make a Potato Box

Materials

  • 1 – 2″ x 4″ x 144″
  • 1 – 2″ x 4″ x 96″
  • 5 – 2″ x 6″ x 96″
  • 2 – 3/4″ x 120″ Conduit
  • 16 – 5″ Hex Lag Bolts
  • 2.5″ Wood Screws
  • 1/2″ Drill Bit
  • Drill
  • Hammer (may be optional)
  • Nail set/Hole Punch (may also be optional)

Cut List

  • 4 – 2″ x 4″ x 33″ (From the 144″ board)
  • 2 – 2″ x 4″ x 24″
  • 2 – 2″ x 4″ x 21″
  • 10 – 2″ x 6″ x 24″
  • 10 – 2″ x 6″ x 21″
  • 8 – 3/4″ x 30″ Conduit

Potato Tower Construction

Construction of a potato box is rather straightforward – you’re just going to build a box several times over!  But first, we need a frame….

Potato Tower Frame

Lay two of your 33″ boards side-by-side with approximately 14″ between.  Use one of your freshly cut 2″ x 4″ x 21″ as a guide (3.5″ + 14″ + 3.5″ = 21″) to make this step a breeze.  Once evenly spaced, place one of the 2″ x 4″ x 21″s on top of one end the 33″ lumber and securely fasten with screws.  Your finished product should look something like a big U:

basic frame for a potato box

Repeat this same process using your two remaining 33″ sections and single remaining 2″ x 4″ x 21″.

Next, connect your two frames using the 2″ x 4″ x 24″ sections you’ve already cut. The 24″ board should fully overlap the existing frame.  Once fastened with screws, the resulting frame should be 24″ square around the bottom.

Conduit Slat Bracing

This is by far the hardest part of this project.  This is where you put in the work ahead of time to make management of your potato boxes easy.  This is where you wonder why you chose this route in the first place.  This is where the desire for an awesome look and feel comes together and you realize it was worth all the effort.

Why is this step so tough?  In order to use conduit as a bracing mechanism, you’ll first need to drill a through-and-through hole at the top and bottom of each piece of conduit.  Prior to drilling, mark your conduit 3/4″ from each end (and make sure your marks are in alignment!).

If you’re using a drill press (highly recommended to make this process a breeze), clamp your conduit to your drill press base and slowly drill a hold completely through the conduit where marked.

If you don’t have a drill press (like us), get ready for some fun….  Using a nail set/hole punch, make a small dent in the conduit where marked.  This small dent will allow your drill bit to grab enough of the conduit to start drilling.  Manually drilling into conduit is hard work.  Even after punching the conduit, starting the hole may be easier said than done.  Take your time and don’t rush the process.  Wear safety goggles, be patient, and stay safe.

Once you’ve drilled your 16 (gasp!) holes, it’s time to attach them to your potato box frame.  Using you 5″ hex lag bolts, begin screwing the conduit to the frame at the BOTTOM of the frame just above the bottom of the U.  As you do this, use one of your 2″ x 6″ boards as a spacer.  Repeat at the top of the conduit, then repeat for all remaining conduit pieces around the frame.Attaching bolts to potato tower

Make sure not to over tighten the conduit at this step.  You need to be able to slide the 2″ x 6″ boards in and out easily.  If you did over tighten, back the lag bolts out just a bit and you should be good to go.  Test sliding boards in and out of each side to ensure proper installation.

Test Fitting the Potato Box
We test fitted all the slats before installing

Slats

If you’ve already cut your 2″ x 6″ x 21″ and 2″ x 6″ x 24″ sections, this step is complete!  What do you do with them?  Keep reading….

Installing Your Potato Tower

If you have a nice level surface all you will need to do is put your tower on the ground, remove all the slats, and fill the bottom with dirt.  The frame and conduit make it nice and sturdy without a lot of fuss.  Unfortunately for us we live in the mountains; level surfaces are in short supply.  In those cases you may need to dig down slightly and make a level surface.  Since we had gone to the trouble to make such pretty boxes we used them to screen our HVAC unit.  The location meant that the backside of our boxes were slightly covered.  I figured, no big deal, as we were going to fill the first level with dirt.  In fact I used some of the excavated soil to begin filling the bottom of the boxes.Installing a potato box

Growing Potatoes in a Potato Box

While there are lots of techniques and details for growing potatoes in potato towers we are just going to go over the basics in this post. I highly suggest starting with a quality seed potato (Affiliate links to follow).  Luckily my favorite seed store, Sow True Seed, also has seed potatoes!  They even taught a potato planting class for free.  Love local companies!   We pre-sprouted (chitted) our potatoes, which involved setting a bunch of potatoes next to our grow lights a few weeks in advance.  Then we simply made sure each piece had at least a few viable sprouts put them in the dirt and covered them up.  Just water and go.  They have shot up much faster than expected so we have already had to put in a few levels and more dirt.  The one drawback of this method is the need to haul in soil.  However, my plan is to use the pile the dirt behind the boxes at the end of the year and mix in chicken manure to let it mellow all winter.  I figure after a couple of uses I’ll move it to the raised beds and get some fresh soil.  Basically making an in-place crop rotation.First tier of the potato tower

The nice piece about using the slide in slats is that we are going to attempt to pull out some potatoes mid-summer.  Slide out a slat, reach and and pull some potatoes, replace the dirt and put the slat back.  Not sure if it will work as expected but figured that is half the fun of gardening: Experimentation Potato Box Style!

growing potatoes in a potato tower

How to make a potato tower

40 thoughts on “How to Build Potato Boxes

  1. I may have missed something, if so, forgive me. Do you only plant the original chits at the bottom or have to add more with each layer?

    • You just plant the original chits at the bottom. As they grow keep adding dirt. The stems turn into roots that grow more potatoes up the length of the plant.

  2. One thing we’ve been looking for is a way to get at potatoes during the growing season (“stealing from the bottom”). Did you do this? Were the slats easy to slide out and back in?

    • Yes and yes. We were able to enjoy many fingerling potatoes through early harvest and the slats were quite easy to slide back into place.

  3. my dad had used all of our backyard for his garden when I was growing up I like your idea better more efficient with less space. Growing your own food is always a good idea especially when you have a lot of kids. I grew up in a family of 5 children. I’m thinking about having a garden when I buy a house and growing some things. thanks for sharing have a great week pinning and sharing to my followers

  4. Adam, I love these! We haven’t done potatoes because I don’t want to take up yard or garden space, but this would be awesome. I wonder if I could do them on the shady side of the house, which is kinda hidden from our patio area, or if the lack of sun would affect the growth of the potatoes? I haven’t fretted much about not growing our own, but like you, we use organic measures and if we can know exactly what’s on or in our potatoes that’s Priceless!

    BTW, I hope the new owners of the home appreciate all the special touches they are getting! Lucky them!

    • I am pretty sure potatoes need full sun. One of the nice things about these planters is that I do not mind seeing them. You could technically put in a bottom and use these on a patio or hard surface area if space is lacking.

  5. This is SO SMART! I’ve never heard of a potato tower before. But, it’s a brilliant idea and I love how you made it simpler to add more as needed. I wouldn’t like having to screw more slats in each time. The way you made it ready ahead of time so you can just slide them in is genius! I’ve been wanting to grow potatoes for years. Right now I don’t have any space outdoors. You bet that once I get some space I will give these towers a try!

  6. Brianna…you are brilliant. Like you, I keep my vegetable garden organic and used untreated wood on all our boxes. We have grown potatoes in the past, but this is a fantastic way to get more out of each ‘seed’. And, it is good looking too! I’m all about functional aesthetics!
    Thanks for sharing this great idea.
    Hugs, Lynn

  7. This is really such a marvelous idea! You make it look easy. I also like the idea of using untreated wood. Who wants more chemicals in their food?

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