Growing potatoes in just hay?

champagneJune 27, 2009

I read in a book that you can grow potatoes right on the ground by just mulching over them with lots of hay or straw. Has anyone tried this? I'm must do something different with potatoes next year for sure....they just take up too much room in my premium-space raised beds.

But I don't understand how they can get by without any soil at all. Does the planted potato seed and moisture provide all the nutrients a potato needs to grow? What would they taste like?

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My Dad grew potatoes in straw. He would work some composted manure into the ground lightly then place his potatoes on top. He'd top them off with a good 6 inches of straw and water them every day. As they grew he'd add more straw. He kept the straw in place with boards placed around the bed, much like today's raised beds but his were filled with straw. Be sure to keep a good thick layer of straw over the developing potatoes to keep them from getting sunburned (that green tint that some reports say contains a toxin) and to hold the moisture in. They really drink a lot of water while they are blooming.
After the vines die off you can simply scrape away the straw and collect the goodies!
After harvest he would work the straw into the soil lightly and cover with another layer of straw so his bed would be ready to work in February, his planting date for potatoes. He rotated his beds so only used that area for about 3 years before working more manure into it and planting another crop there.
How do they taste? Better than any you'll buy in the grocery store.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 2:47AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

g'day champagne,

take a look at our instant potato patch, does us well and so easy.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 3:22PM
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Thanks, Len and Digginfool---some good advice. I think I'll try it for sure next year. Len, I really enjoyed your website, especially the animation of how to make a "tyre patch"!


    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 9:49PM
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DrHorticulture_(Z3 Central Saskatchewan)

The root system would penetrate the soil, of course. The tubers would develop in the straw, so actually it sounds like a nice idea. I might try it next year.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 1:13AM
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I've been growing my potatoes under straw for many years. My Dad did this more than 50 years ago. I've heard you can actually lay the seed potatoes on top of sod and cover with straw and they will grow.
I use the same bed every year, just pull back last years straw, drop in the seed potato and recover. When the plants break through I'll add more straw and keep about a 6 inch layer on all the time. One of the best advantages is being able to harvest the first baby potatoes. Just pull back the straw, take what you want and cover them back up.
Some of the potatoes will grow slightly under the soil but most will be laying right on top.
I wouldn't grow them any other way. No weeds, no digging or tilling, excellent moisture retention and always adding organic material to the soil.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ruth Stout/Organic Gardening

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 8:06AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

"champagne said,
the animation of how to make a "tyre patch"!"

i don't have an animation feature on my site can you indicate where abouts it appears please?

for me you can't buy a potato that tastes as nice as mine do, they are eaten as new potato's so ne peeling needed.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 2:08PM
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Len---here is the animation on how to grow potatoes in the tyres, halfway down the page. It's animated in that each step appears with the directions until the three tyres are stacked and the potatoes grow, die back, etc. It's very clever!

I see now that it's a link on your home page, near the bottom left side, under "Site Index", "The Vegetable Patch-Container Gardening."

Which begs the question: Where are your potato patch photos? I'd still like to see them, but can't find them!

It's on this page:

Here is a link that might be useful: Potato patch animation

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 1:00AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

ok champagne,

got you! now it is from a site i have listed, mainly as he is well versed in growing in containers, that is why he holds pride of place in my site index. i was unaware he has added a tyre potato patch in? he is a member of the organic growers/gardeners club in the local area and they generally frown on using tyres, as do i. but all i can say is what others do on their links is removed from my ideas to that extent, for me i'd always recommend against the use of tyres, they are listed as a toxic substance by the EPA.

ther are many other ways of doing it including mesh cages or the way we do without bringing tyres into it. he does have lots of good info' all the same. i know nothing of container gardening (never had to use the process) he has vey good knowledge.

brisbane rganic growers club

see the link below for my 'tater growing presentation.


Here is a link that might be useful: instant potato patch presentation

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:13PM
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I like your method, Len. I'll do that next year. As for growing potatoes in tyres (or tires, as we spell it), that does not appeal to me for the possibility of toxic leaching.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 1:49AM
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I posted in some other thread --something about straw potatoes a disappointment. This is about self-roasting potatoes. Grew my potatoes on top the soil, in chicken wire towers (about 18 inch circumference, two feet or so high). After 29 days of adding straw, with no rain in our normally wet city (Seattle, Wa, USA), watering from below (so the straw wouldn't mold), I was tending my blueberries when I smelled the beginning of fire. I turned to see white smoke pouring from one of the containers and watched a five-foot column of flame shoot up. The potato tower was a science project--- spontaneous combustion!! I was astounded. I got the hose to it before the next 'container" caught and watered the heck out of the remaining ones from the top. I don't know how the others will come out. I had created a compost pile, I guess, with dry flammable hay on top. I do know that they all need watering from above. I think I have the first roasted vegetable farm.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 3:03AM
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Potatoes grow well in the ground, in raised beds or even in containers. Growing your potatoes under hay helps conserve water as the hay protects the plant's roots from wind; here's how to do it.

Things you will need:
* Sprouted potatoes
* Hay
* Sharp paring knife

1) Inspect and prepare potatoes for planting. If the potatoes are small to medium, plant the whole potato. If they are large, you can cut them in half or quarters. Use sprouted potatoes for planting--each section should have two or three 'growth eyes' or sprouts.
2) Spread the cut pieces out on a flat, dry surface covered with newspaper. Let the potatoes dry for 3 to 4 days, turning them daily. This allows the cut surface to callus-over.
3) Plant the potatoes above ground in the hay, and as the vines begin to grow, add hay mulch around the base of the plants. It is important to keep root areas well covered. This results in a yield of very clean potatoes. New potatoes are harvested when peas are ripe or as the potato plants begin to flower.
4) Harvest the potatoes when the vines turn yellow or die. Keep the harvested potatoes in dark and dry storage. Ideal storage temperature is about 40 degrees F. Potatoes that winter over in the garden will grow in the spring.

Note: Certain potato varieties will turn green more readily than others. When potatoes are exposed to light, even in grocery stores, their skins start to turn green. This greening is a sign that a substance called glycoalkaloid is developing. Because glycoalkaloids are slightly toxic, you can become ill if you eat too many of these potatoes. Peeling or cutting away these sections prior to cooking will usually eliminate the chance of illness, because most of the glycoalkaloids are located in the skin or just below the skin.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 4:47AM
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I am looking for a thread that talks about the two types of potatoes.
1 grows tubers on the buried stem, up the side as well asw the bottom.
The 2nd is a bottom tuber growth ONLY.
I need names so I can get the first one.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 8:36PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

jolj, This seems a good time to raise the question: Does encouraging the setting of potatoes higher up on the stem result in a lot of smaller potatoes as opposed to less hilling?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 2:21PM
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terrene(5b MA)

That hay method sounds really interesting and I'd like to try it this spring! I grew the old sprouted potatoes in the garden compost pile a couple of years. It's a cold pile that I keep behind the front garden and there's another one behind the back garden. It consists of garden debris that is pretty loose. They grew well, although the potatoes were kind of small and maybe that's because the piles are in mostly shade.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 5:26PM
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