I am planing to build a tower of bricks, about four by four and three feet tall. The bricks will have lengths of rebar dropped through the holes to keep them together.
Then I will fill it with a mix of wood chips, compost, and sand.
As it goes up, every few courses will have sweet potato slips inserted through chinks in the brickwork.
The goal is to grow a large amount of a staple crop in a small area, have a good looking feature, warm the soil for the potatoes, provide easy harvesting (pull out the rebar and knock the whole thing down) and use free materials. (I already have the bricks (salvaged), rebar, and wood chips.
I would scavenge a length of PVC pipe a bit taller than the tower. Drill holes all along the length of it. Put in the center of the pile as you put the compost and wood chips in. Then water by putting the hose in the pipe. I do this on a smaller scale with strawberry pots. It really works to keep the plants moist all the way to the bottom. And I've reused the same piece of PVC for almost 20 years. (That makes me sound old.)
Just want to put this out there, though it may not apply to your situation: in my garden, slugs, woodlice, and other pests absolutely love dry stacked bricks/stone raised beds. There are so many crevices, it's nice and cool and moist--and it's right next to the best kind of food there is--my vegetables! The mortared brick beds do not have this problem, nor does my one wood raised bed.
I really like the basic idea, but it might need a lot of watering. The bricks will wick the moisture out. That may not be an issue depending on your summer weather. Hot and dry here. I'd use a heavier soil mix if tried it, and I may. Maybe just good garden soil and a little compost. Too rich soil will give you all vines. You might try planting just in the bottom and filling with soil as they grow like a potato tower for Irish potatoes. Not sure if that would work but might work good. Too many plants will also give you a lot of vines and potatoes may be too small to use. I think it'd be fun to experiment with.
William Bronson wrote: Do sweet potatoes like woodchips?
I want to know this also, because I have a lot of wood chips. My native dirt here is too much like concrete for sweet potatoes to do well, and I haven't managed to build a bed of better soil for them yet. I like the idea of a tower; I think I might construct one of notched stacked logs like building a round-log cabin. Then just take it apart in the fall.
I've used chips for mulch, just a couple inches deep. Tilled them in a year or so later. Worked great.
Location: Denver, CO
posted 3 years ago
I built a simpler version out of wire mesh and black plastic. I had a lot of problems with it; the thing sort of slumped, and a hail storm and cool spell killed more then three quarters of the sweet potato slips. However, the remaining six slips produced ten pounds of potatoes, and they were of a good size, something I have never done here before.
So I will pursue this further.
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