'straw potato' disappointment

dab07August 22, 2008

This spring I planted 20 red gold seed potatoes the way I always have, in the ground and covered with soil. Later I mulched them with straw. Then I planted 60 seed potatoes of other varieties, in the method I understood to be the "straw method". I dug a trench and placed the seed potatoes in it, covering them with straw until the trench was full. I also shored them up with extra straw as they grew. The red potatoes had a moderate yield -- not heavy, but several good sized tubers per plant. The other plants look huge and healthy, but there's nothing underground except a few dime-sized tubers hugging the roots. It's so disappointing! My only guess as to what happened is that the slugs had easier access to them and ate them all? what else might have caused this, any ideas?

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did you plant the straw thick enough? i have a friend who does his like this and swears by this method!! i wonder how thick he puts on his straw layering? ~Medo

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 11:18PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

we sue the straw or i should say hay method, we don't dig any trenches though simply throw them on the ground and go from there (pic's of our instant potato patch on our site), we are happy with a 5:1 ratio return for so little effort.

do you wait until the potato plants have died before harvesting? that is the best time we find, our potato's are in the ground (so to speak) from around march/april until around october, that's how long we find it takes to grow good spuds. we use sebago's and red-pontiacs as they are the better producers for our clime'.


Here is a link that might be useful: len's garden page

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:00PM
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I would suspect insufficient moisture, because loose straw is very poor at retaining moisture, and potatoes don't produce much if they don't get a minimum amount. Dirt is much better on that score. If you aren't going to be irrigating, it's probably best to avoid the straw/hay method entirely. Ditto if you have a very dry climate.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:22PM
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I tried the potato box with straw (first time). I had beautiful plants. Problem was, they were in a spot by a retaining wall, that the sprinkler system in the front yard above apparently oversprayed. I was out of town for a couple weeks, and when my husband saw the plants turning yellow, he watered them. By the time I got home, they were pretty well dead/rotted. I was able to pluck out a few potatoes that were good. I will try again next year (new, drier location though). I just find it's really hard to tell how wet things were at the bottom of 18" of straw (wetter than one would think...)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 2:03AM
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Sorry it took so long to respond, we had a family emergency.

The straw was thick, no doubt about it. It's possible the plants were underwatered, but we had a lot of rain this summer. It could be that they weren't in the ground long enough, I did plant them late. But the plants are dying, so I think they reached maturity. There are very few potatoes, and most of them are partially eaten. It's weird to dig up potatoes that have already been eaten! There were tons of slugs, and there are now tons of slug eggs! My theory is that the small ones were eaten up by the slugs before they had a chance to get big, but I could be wrong.

I"ll chalk it up to an experiment that failed, tho I wish I understood what went wrong. Next year I'll go back to planting them in the ground, earlier in the season, and maybe I"ll mulch them with leaf mulch instead.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 9:31AM
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What happened was too much nitrogen! Excessine nitrogen produces large vibrant top growth and very poor tuber production. You could also add some bone meat for strong root (tuber) growth.

You can grow a good crop taters right on top of the ground, under a good 18" of loose straw. Sprinkle some bone meal right on the ground, set your cut seed potato pieces right on the soil surface and cover with the 18" of hay or straw. In a few weeks you will see the vines poking through. In Fall, when the vines die off, pull the hay/straw aside and your crop will be laying on top of the soil, requiring no digging. I used to fill my root celler this way!

The Garden Guy!
Soil Tests Available Through My Blog

    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 7:41PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Hubby found some potatoes growing in the basement this spring, told me to plant them. I don't like to grow potatoes and just pulled the sprouts off 3 of them and we ate those potatoes, but the other one was growing wholeheartedly so I planted it.

I had already filled my gardens, so I stuck the potato into a plastic children's pool that I had filled with "extra" compost. Of course I had already planted several other things there, but I stuck it in one side. The pool/garden is very shallow so as the potato grew I put straw and a little more compost on the top of it. Harvested the one potato plant last week and got this as my crop.

Wow! 7 gigantic potatoes, 3 regular ones, and a couple dozen babies. Plus I could just grope around in the fluffy compost and pull them out with my hand. Normally when I have to dig potatoes I inevitably stab one or more with some tool. Anyway, I was quite impressed, haven't weighed them but seems like an awful lot of potato for planting just one.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 2:42AM
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Here's the best!!! I tried straw over my potatoes this year, after reading about how easy it was. I made 18-inch columns from chicken wire, and put my potatoes on the ground, after preparing the soil somewhat.I covered them lightly with compost. Then, as the potatoes grew, I added straw each successive week. After 29 days of dry spell out here in Seattle, with my watering them at the ground level, thinking I was keeping the straw from molding, I was out tending the blueberries when I smelled the beginning of a fire. It was the wrong time of day for a BBQ, so I looked around at the houses nearby. I live on a hill. When I turned back, there was smoke pouring from one of the potato "cages" and suddenly, a five-foot tower of flame was shooting form one of the cages. This must be the first case of a roasted vegetable garden. Isn't that odd. Spontaneous combustion!!! Fortunately, nothing but more potatoes was near this conflagration. I doused it with a hose and wet down the others from the top.The charred remains are startling even today.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 2:38AM
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Wet hay is known to spontaneously combust. A neighbor of ours lost their barn that way when I was a kid.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 7:07PM
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