Planting Potatoes!

As a eastern coast North Carolinian this weather has really thrown me off for gardening.  It feels just like back home which is a zone 8 and here is supposed to be zone 6b.  It has been so warm though that I am taking some chances on planting things a little early.

On Tuesday afternoon Daniel, his two sons Travis and Andrew, along with Noah, Eric, Brie, and I planted our summer crop of potatoes.  For one person it would have been a daunting task to plant the 300 lbs. of seed potatoes, but with all of us it was tons of fun!

We planted them a little differently then normal and I can’t wait to see how they grow!  First we tilled the top few inches of soil.

Eric running the tiller for us.


Next, we went along and snugged the potatoes in the soft soil, trying to space the potatoes 12 inches apart and the rows 30 inches apart.

Instead of covering them with soil we unrolled large bales of straw 6-8 inches thick over the whole area.

Travis and Andrew helping Noah unroll the straw.


Some of the reasoning behind the straw is first off it saves tons of time in the planting process of covering up all the potatoes with soil.  It will also help keep the weeds down, eliminate most of the Colorado potato beetles, and when we harvest we will have cleaner potatoes because they will have grown in the straw.  This being my first time planting potatoes like this, I am planning on adding more straw mid-way through their growing, kind of like when you would hill them with soil.  I will let you know how they turn out.

Many thanks to Brie for taking the photos!

What are you planting this week?  Anyone else ever grown potatoes in straw?


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About Leanna Hale

Leanna Barth, born and raised in NC, first came to Polyface in July 2010 to attend one of the Intensive Discovery Seminars. She loved it so much that she applied for an internship position and was accepted for the 2011 season, after which she took the inventory/gardener position. Before coming to Polyface, she sold produce from her family’s market garden, along with homemade baked goods. This venture was mostly inspired by having read “You Can Farm” by Joel Salatin. Having always loved the outdoors, animals, and gardening Leanna is excited about this coming year, all that she will learn, and how the Lord will use this job later on in her life.

12 Responses to Planting Potatoes!

  1. Gleamer says:

    We plant our potatoes covered with straw. It works wonderfully!

  2. Rachel says:

    Have you seen any of the youtube videos about Ruth Stout’s gardening? It’s fascinating viewing:

    (And there’s a section in there about her method of “planting” potatoes.)

  3. Grace says:

    I love Ruth Stout’s methods and I love making gardening practical. We put some potatoes in last week. Our soil is pure clay. So I’ve been stirring things up a bit by digging just a little when we plant. So many worms. I still have some potatoes left to plant, it’s going to be fun to try this method and watch what happens. This utube of Ruth is inspiring to say the least. Thanks Leanna!

  4. Caitlyn M. says:

    I plant my potatoes in straw! Works great!

    But I am green with envy over y’all’s weather… We have an inch of snow over here in Oregon! Shucks, it was warmer when we were still stuck in winter!

    And that is such a cute picture of Travis and Andrew helping Noah unroll the bale. 😉

  5. Amanda says:

    Hi, we are just harvesting our potatoes now in Florida. Can’t wait to plant more. This was only the second time growing red and white potatoes. We cut the potatoes into chunks and let them dry a few days, then we planted them. I dug them up by hand and was very grossed out when I dug into the gooey potato chunk full of worms. We harvested about 3-4 small potatoes and a few really tiny ones from each plant and they were fine. Only the original planted potato chunk had worms. We dug them up because the plants got Blight and died. Are you supposed to cut them into chunks with eyes before planting or just use the whole potato?

  6. Jamie Coffman says:

    We joke that a glacier had a bowel movement millions of years ago, somebody built a house on it, and then we bought it. Our soil is a witches brew of quartz, clay, and just enough sand to help bind it all into a primitive form of cement. Steel tiller tines create quite the display of sparks, as the steel is reduced back to its elemental form. Trying to completely extricate ourselves from the industrialized food complex has had its challenges to say the least – especially living on just a few acres in suburbia.

    This year we’re adding a tater plot that’s a layer of reclaimed cardboard laid over some gypsum and a little lime, covered with composted chicken and yard litter, seed spuds, and chopped straw. Plan on adding a few inches of compost and more straw as they grow, just as you would normally hill ’em up with soil. Doin’ the same with a big patch of sweet corn and beans as well.

    The original construction in this part of the ‘burbs was back in the 60’s, and the first thing that the builder did was to strip off all of the top soil and sell it (probably to the owners of the last houses that they built). What greeted us 7 years ago was a ragged overgrowth of locust, chickweed, crabgrass, and nettles, clinging to the edges of eroded ditches on a steep bank. By adding more beds and rotating these each year, we eventually hope to create a living soil where we started with the equivalent of a desert in the making.

    I would bet that with the health and tilth of the soils you already have established, you could probably skip the tilling part altogether. Where we have created these beds, the plants in the compost and straw have worked their way down into the caliginous scrabble and begun breaking it up with their roots. As the organic matter continues to break down and find its way south, the earth worms have followed and left us with something quite lovely. I just hate tearing up all of their good work with the tilling. Y’all at least have a living soil to begin with, so you get to skip my layering of compost. Besides, all of that tillin’ looks like work, which I’m sure you already have enough of.

    Love the farm, love yer Dad’s books, ‘n Go Ron Paul!

  7. Katy Bennett says:

    I stumbled upon blog and was excited to see that you are planting potatoes in straw. I am experimenting with straw bale gardening this year for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. and found someone who grows potatoes in containers with straw (much fewer than you guys). 6 in of soil–grow plants to 6 in. tall–fill the container with straw. The straw keeps the light out and that is really important to avoid turning the potatoes green (sort of poisonous at that point, as I understand). Thanks for showing how to do this on a MUCH larger scale. VERY fun! I look forward to seeing how it all works out for you and for us 🙂

  8. I have used straw in the past, especially with Sweetcorn when it was young to not only keep weeds down, but shade the ground from the sun so that it wouldn’t dry out as quickly.

    The straw did however draw critters like sowbugs and earwigs. They weren’t a problem for me except with the Potatoes where the earwigs had burrowed down and eaten some holes in a couple of potatoes. So I’m hoping you do a follow up and documaneting here of how well it goes for you.

    We still had plenty of potatoes, but what mostly impressed me was the benefits of inoculating with aVAM mycorrhizal. The potatores themselves were Russets as we wanted a variety that would store well and they did. In fact the amazing thing was that these potatoes were when fresh harvested absolutely ROCK-HARD. Cutting it with a knife was a chore, but I love the hardness as that would indicate a long keeper. The other amazing fabulous benefit was the end use which was eating. As a result of using mycorrhizal fungi as an inoculant, these potatoes when cook have an incredibly storng rich earthy flavour, something the commercial potatoes don’t have. That’s why most folks have to spice them up or bathe them in some sort of sauce. We made Hash-browns out of the first ones we cooked.

    I found a video that closely describes what I did with them back in 1985.


  9. Sorry, but I had to give one more reference for growing mycorrhizae for late potato inoculant. Glad I did a google on this. The paper here is from 2007, but some great ideas are mentioned for do it yourselfers.

    Thanks, Kevin