Covering potatoes

lowraineMay 5, 2009

Can we discuss potatoes? Mine are starting to grow and need to be covered. I have several squares in one 4' x 4' and two large deep containers. I have heard of covering them with soil as well as straw. How about wood shavings EG.

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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

The basics of hilling is to cover the top 3 inches of plant when it gets to be 4 inches tall. Does that help?

Great that you're growing potatoes, they're fun and easy. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:47AM
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What do you cover them with and what is the purpose of covering them? Can I use lightweight wood shavings?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 1:14PM
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fanfortony(7 Frederick, MD)

I've grown potatoes for YEARS. I have NEVER hilled them. Sure, it might get you a few more....but not absolutely necessary. (personally, think its a pain in the butt, uses soil I cant spare, etc. etc. lol). As to WHAT to cover them with....soil, straw, leaves. As to the wood shavings, I would be concerned about what kind of wood. I'm sure any benign wood would be fine, but not something with chemicals in it. Wouldn't be much different from a mulch would it? Regular mulch wouldn't hurt the plants or leech into vegie is my best guess. Good luck with your taters. (be sure to dig some up when small....ahhhhh, nothing better than new potatoes, smothered in butter....maybe throw a sprig of mint in the water when boiling....HEAVEN!!!!!!!!! And you don't need to peel taters right out of the soil, just rinse under water and the very thin skin comes right off)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 3:42PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

The main thing about covering potatoes with the depth of soil that Sinfonian mentioned, is to keep them from being green....Sunlight exposure to the tubers is what you want to avoid...


    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 12:18AM
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Thanks guys for the help. I can't wait till they are ready for the pot. I have a mole visiting the garden so I hope there will be enough potatoes for us when he gets his share. The wood shavings aren't harmful, they are oak hardwood.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 9:16AM
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I read somewhere that the soil can't be used for another type of crop once the potatoes have been removed. The text referred to sweet potatoes, does that go for regular potatoes? I don't like that idea very well. BTW, sawdust will cover my potatoes.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 9:57PM
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....."I read somewhere that the soil can't be used for another type of crop once the potatoes have been removed."

Lowraine, if that were the case, we wouldn't have any farm land left for growing potatoes! Do you think the farmers just plant one crop of potatoes and then abandon the fields forever? No, you rotate crops in the soil.


Here is a link that might be useful: Annie's Kitchen Garden

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 11:38AM
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Dan Staley

BTW, sawdust will cover my potatoes.

Why are you using sawdust? Do you want to make nitrogen unavailable? Is there too much nitrogen in your soil? Do you want water to run off if it crusts?


    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 12:05PM
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Why would I use sawdust? Because I have lots of it available from my woodworking shop. I have laid it out around the shop and discovered that it keeps weeds down so I put it between the rows of my sfg. I placed it under my strawberries to keep them off the soil and noticed that the sawdust was helping to hold the moisture in the ground and the strawberries are doing great. The sawdust is red wood oak. Nitrogen is something I know little about so if you will explain and advise me if I am doing the wrong thing. If the sawdust keeps weeds down maybe it isn't good for the crop. As to the potato rotation, I understood that soil used for sweet potatoes should be replaced when the next crop was put in. They were discussing pots of potatoes. Teach me please.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 7:59PM
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Wood is made mostly from lignin. The bacteria that feed on the lignin in wood and release that carbon into the soil eat lots of nitrogen.So, you're setting up a competition, to some degree, between your plants' nitrogen needs and the bacteria's nitrogen needs. The increased surface area of sawdust allows the bacteria to be far more efficient, and they will rarely lose the competition.

If you're using a *lot* of sawdust (or grass clippings, or leaves), you might be doing yourself a disservice. But, if you're keeping the nitrogen levels reasonable (lots of compost, "green" organic matter or peeing on the sawdust) then you should be fine.

Either way, plants will grow, it's what they do. Conversations like these are generally about maximum yield, not about basic plant survival.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 7:43AM
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I thought mulching with sawdust wasn't a concern. It's when you turn it into the soil where you run into nitrogen deprivation issues.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 7:51PM
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What kind od saw dust is best for potatoes? I have free cedar saw dust, but don't kno wif it is okay to use. Also, if it is okay, what else can I use it on/ around?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 1:00PM
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you are correct jeremyjs sawdust will not deplete nitrogen unless your mixing it in the soil. blondiebrit an aromatic wood like cedar is probably not the best choice .....but I am guessing . ha

OK OK let me tell you what I know from actual experience using sawdust to Grow Potatoes .
Many years ago I read an article in MotherEarth about growing potatoes in Straw or SAW DUST . So I gave it a try .
The basic idea was to plant three or four seed potatoes close together and once the plants was about 6" or 10" you placed an old tire around them and filled it with straw or sawdust . Then when the plant was 6" or 10" tall you did this again and again tell the end of the growing season.
Then you tip your stack of tires over and the saw dust is full of potatoes NO DIGGING SWEET HA. my stack ended up almost 6'

Well there was a Saw Mill close to me that cut up cotton wood logs into rough lumber to make pallets. the saw dust was rough like very small chips .
I went there and asked for some they gave me a truck load free .
I used this in the tires and grew a bunch of potatoes .

I also used it to mulch my whole garden buy laying newspaper down then 4" of saw dust no more weeding ect rest of growing season help retain moisture less watering.
in the fall I tilled it in with fresh POOP and it was all great soil in the spring then did it again.

IF you do a cpl google searches you will find lots of articles about growing potatoes this way in barrels and garbage cans or buckets.

This year I am using 4' tall plastic hardware cloth to make bins to grow my Peruvian purple potatoes . I am using oak sawdust I get free from a place that makes precision grade stakes.

Have fun with the potato growing ideas .


    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 8:29PM
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One year I tried growing in a container and I used leaf mulch that had saved from the previous fall. It worked pretty good. It was pretty fun to just dump out the whole batch. I have a much bigger place now, though, so I just grow them in the ground in a three foot wide raised bed of three rows. I don't hill because my beds are relatively permanent, but if they start pushing up I'll cover them with a little soil so they don't turn green. I think the main purpose of hilling, as hinted in an earlier post, is to increase yield. Not a problem for me since I have plenty of space, but may meet your needs. I've even heard of using shredded newspaper. So, I don't think it really matters as long as it's not a toxic substance. You can use a liquid based fertilizer if you use something weird like newspaper.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 3:39PM
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