Last year, we grew our first crop of potatoes. We dug furrows after adding compost and hilled the rows as bright green shoots grew taller. It was labor intensive and in the end fairly difficult to harvest. This year I decided to try a different approach and grow potatoes in straw instead. After the potatoes had some time to form eyes they were cut up so that each chunk had two to three eyes. The raw edges were dipped in powdered sulfur to help prevent rot and then each chunk was buried in garden soil amended with compost. I didn’t plant the chunks very close together because I hoped to improve the ease of harvesting mature potatoes. They were planted roughly four to six per square foot depending on variety, fingerling potatoes are much smaller and were planted more densely than regular potatoes.
Once the potatoes sprouted I began covering them with a light layer of straw. It’s important not to use hay as it’s infested with weed seeds. As the potatoes grew taller I covered them with additional straw.
So far I’ve used two bails of straw attempting to keep the potatoes covered in this 4×12 foot bed. I’ve run out of straw and don’t feel it’s worth another $12 bale to keep covering the plants. I think we’ll have a plentiful harvest from what’s covered, the roots (potatoes) grow where the stalk isn’t exposed to light. It should be easy to dig in and harvest potatoes. The largest, most mature potatoes will be at the bottom. I’m hoping that the straw will allow me to harvest the mature potatoes from the bottom and leave the less developed potatoes near the top undisturbed until they’re ready.
Did you know that Presidents Day in Febrruary is when you want to have your potatoes in the ground? I heard that once at a gardening class and it stuck with me, so I thought I’d share that little tip with you.
Do you grow potatoes? Have you tried straw or something else that works really well for you?
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