Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are cool-season plants grown as annuals in all U.S. Department of Agriculture zones when planted four to six weeks before the last frost. Traditional planting methods of underground vegetables require large spaces and loosening the soil deeply for proper growth. An alternate method for growing potatoes is to plant them in tomato cages above ground to lessen the labor in planting and harvesting tubers.
1 Place tomato cages in an area with full sun. Put one hand on each side of the top, and press the cage legs down into the ground.
2 Wrap landscape fabric around the exterior of the tomato cage to size it. Add about 3 inches to the size, and cut the landscape fabric with scissors. Insert the landscape fabric into the tomato cage and smooth it along the sides. Wrap the excess at the top over the exterior of the tomato cage. Cut the exterior excess fabric with scissors about 1 inch below the second horizontal section from the top of the cage. Pierce through both layers of fabric from the outside through the inside with scissors on four sides. Secure the four sides with zip ties to the horizontal section.
3 Place two wooden garden stakes directly across from each other inside the tomato cage. Drive the pointed end into the ground using a hammer. Install wooden stakes that are the same height as the cage or taller to support it in windy and rainy conditions.
4 Cut seed potatoes into pieces with a sharp knife. Each piece should have one or more eyes that are sprouting on them.
5 Place seed potatoes into the tomato cages with the eyes pointing up and spacing them about 4 inches apart.
6 Add a large handful of straw on top of the potatoes. Water the straw with a garden hose to moisten it. Keep the straw moist, but not soaking wet throughout the growing season.
7 Add handfuls of straw around the plant stems under the leaves as they germinate and grow upward in the cages.
8 Remove straw with your hands to observe tuber growth. Harvest new potatoes when they are small by plucking them out of the straw. Harvest storage potatoes after the tops of the plants die back and turn brown.
Items you will need
- Landscape fabric
- Zip ties
- Wooden garden stakes
- Garden hose
- Layers of straw around potato plants keep the sun from “burning” the tubers and turning them green. Use of straw as mulch also conserves moisture, controls weeds and cools the soil.
- Northern states produce higher yields of potatoes due to a cooler climate and longer growing season.
- All varieties of potatoes take about 100 to 120 days to harvest after planting them.
- Use seed potatoes from a local gardening supply store or feed store. Do not use potatoes from a grocery store because they have a growth inhibitor treatment on them that does not allow sprouting.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images