Growing Potatoes In Straw

This year I tried something new. I had heard rumors of other people doing it, but I didn’t know of anyone around here trying it.
So this spring, when I planted my potatoes, I didn’t plant them. Instead, I just dropped ‘em on the ground in a somewhat straight row. No digging. No shovel involvement whatsoever. Kinda like this…

Planting potatoes in straw

Then, after I had them all layed out, I covered them all with about eight inches of straw, like this…

Planting potatoes in straw

Then I waited. And waited. And now, about a month later, they look like this…

Planting potatoes in straw

So what do I hope to gain by growing potatoes in straw like this? Well, two things actually.

#1. Less weeding

Thus far in the month that the potatoes and the weeds have had to grow, I’ve only had to pull out about five thistles that have popped through. These have been extra easy to remove because the root goes through the straw and is easily pulled out. Plus, no prickles under the straw either.

#2. Bigger Yield

Last year when I regularly watered my potatoes from the time they flowered until the end, I got the biggest potatoes I had ever grown. So the theory goes, if the potatoes are mulched, the soil won’t dry out nearly as fast. Thus even if I don’t water regularly, my yield will be increased because I won’t lose my water to evaporation. But that part’s still just a theory – I’ll have the proof one way or the other this fall. So stay tuned!

Update: June 22, 2008

And lest I forget…

#3. Easier Harvest

Rake back the straw, and there are all your plump, CLEAN potatoes – what could be easier?

Update: July 16, 2008

Check on the progress of these straw-grown potatoes…

Be Sociable, Share!

34 Responses to Growing Potatoes In Straw

  1. Amy says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this works for you. I really wanted to try growing potatoes in a large garbage can this year but it didn’t happen. Maybe next year I’ll get to try potatoes :)

  2. Amy says:

    I’m going to be keeping an eye on this! Especially if I stay in this clay soil, the less I have to dig down, the better. It looks really promising!
    I tagged you! Check out http://www.garden-of-eatin.com/2008/06/23/im-it/ if you’d like to play along =)

  3. Heather says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this works for you! I have mine in a really deep SQ foot garden box, but I didn’t add straw as early as I should have, I’m afraid.. and next year I’d like to grow a LOT more, so putting them out in the big garden like this may be the way to go next year.

  4. If you have a small garden try putting potatoes on ground and stack tires as they grow, continually adding manure compost etc. Huge amount of harvested potatoes as you unstack the tyres.

  5. Debby says:

    This sounds really interesting but one thing that I wondered about. Do you find that a lot of grains germinate and after a while you are spending a lot of time weeding?

    • Dave says:

      Actually, no. Last year I hardly did any weeding at all in my straw gardens. Only a few weeds were determined enough to push through all that straw and those who did were very easy to pull out.

  6. Becky says:

    I heard about this method of planting potatoes in straw from a lady who lived in Peru several years. She said this is how the natives planted potatoes….so I’m trying it myself. My only question is whether the potatoes produce in the straw or do they produce at the bottom of the straw where you planted the seedlings???

    My thought was to continue to add straw until the plant dies but if this doesn’t help produce more then I don’t that I will continue with this method.

    Becky

  7. Dee says:

    Does planting potatoes in straw cut back on potatoe bugs because we have a lot and they do so much damage to our crop??Do you have any
    suggestions on how to get rid of them for more than just a day or so??If you could send a reply to my e-mail,I’d really appreciate it. Thanks, Dee

  8. MM Graff says:

    Hey:
    we tried the potatoe thingy with hay, not straw and it was a mess. Maybe straw is different???
    ALSO, how many bales of straw do you go thru for planting 100 feet of potatoes?
    AND, (we hill twice) so I’m assuming you need another ___?___ number of bales for the hilling. That’s alot of straw at between 3 to $4.00 per bale.
    Thanks,
    M

  9. Mark says:

    I would stay away from the hay unless it was partially composted as hay has a tendency to have weed and grass seeds through it. Straw bales are usually cheaper in the spring after livestock has moved to pasture or right after fall harvest but before snowfall.

  10. bgraff says:

    Yes my Father did something very similar in his potatoe patch for years.
    Laid them down in a shallow trench, covered them with old leaves, straw, compost, whatever he had on hand, then covered the whole patch with heavy black plastic, and sliced an X where each potatoe was planted. the plant would push through the X, the water would also drain exactly toward each plant and in the fall when he peeled back the plastic he had a great crop of spuds just laying on top of the soil.

  11. Francesca says:

    Thrilled to get potatoes started. I just garbage picked 6 bales of hay this morning and now I have a perfect way to use them besides just mulching the rest of garden. So, here’s the question- what can I do to get my potatoes to get their eyes growing? Do I need to wait till they are a certain size before getting them planted? Thanks for all the great advice so far.

    • Dave says:

      If you lay out your potatoes in single layers in sunlight at room temperature with high humidity, they will quickly sprout. Let the sprouts grow to about one inch long. That oughta do it!

  12. Mary K says:

    Can’t wait to try the staw/mulch idea. I wanted to try the tires but am doing a wooden triangle idea. I have little dirt at the moment so the straw/mulch will get me started.

  13. Rob says:

    Sounds like a great idea, any idea on whether we would have similair success with sawdust or wood chips.

    Thanks

    • Dave says:

      Sawdust might pack a little too close to let the water through – but wood chips should work. I haven’t tried it, but it would be worth the try!

  14. Turlene Nestich says:

    This sounds great. I did something similar in the past with fallen leaves. Never the less, I am having a problem maby you can help me with. I mulched with straw this year. My potatoes have these little holes in them. Like some bug was eating holes right into them. A few wouldn’t matter, but it seems that most of them have this on them. This makes it really hard to peal them. What bug? and what can be done to combat this problem. Thanks so much. I really did enjoy your
    article. Turlene

    • Dave says:

      Turlene, my first thought when you said bugs were eating holes in your potatoes was that perhaps it was ants? Do you have a lot of ants in your area? How big are the holes? Perhaps slugs? If you had a picture of some of the holes, it might give us a better idea of the problem.

  15. jay says:

    i dug out a big tree root. now i have a 5by5ft hole. can i plant potatoes with straw on bottom keep ading straw as thay grow.

    • Dave says:

      Five feet seems a little deep for potatoes… :) The two concerns I have are: #1. Will your potatoes be able to get enough sunlight down in that hole, and #2. Will the hole fit up with water when it rains? But you know what? It’s worth a try!

  16. Remco says:

    Can you use this straw method and build up inside tires? I just worry that with the tires heating up in summer, the straw may combust? Any chance of something crazy like that happening?

  17. Dave says:

    Remco: I really couldn’t say. I would have doubts about spontaneous combustion, but you never know until you try!

  18. Theryn says:

    We tried this last year and it worked great. We want to do it again this year, but so far I haven’t been able to find anyone selling bales of straw near Edmonton. Can anyone offer a source? I have a pickup truck to come get them.

  19. Kevin says:

    Hay and straw of course, becomes terribly compacted under the onslaught of rain and heat, especially after several bouts.
    I wonder what the effects of the compaction of the growing medium (hay, leaves, wood chips, straw, etc. has on the spuds or their parent; the actual plant of course.

  20. Amy says:

    So I’m a first time potato grower and am trying the straw method. Well sorta. I have raised beds so it makes it kindda hard to hill them with dirt and we have an abundance of straw bales, so I decided to hill them with that. I started them out in trench about 6 inches deep and covered with soil, but when they came up and got 8-12 inches tall I packed straw around them, and then a second time as they got even taller. Now I have about an 18 inch thick layer of straw for potatoes to grow in, and the plants themselves are looking pretty impressive so far. Since our summers are pretty hot, I put a layer of dirt on the top of the straw so it will stay cooler, darker, and moister underneath where the potatoes are growing. What do you think of this idea? :) I thought it was pretty genius myself, but then I never have grown potatoes before and so I’m seeking the opinion(s) of all you experienced potato growers :) Oh, and I am watering them with a soaker hose wound between the rows right on top of the dirt with the straw covering it. I do overhead water every once awhile to keep the straw moist.

  21. claire says:

    We tried potatoes for the 2nd time this year in a tiny urban back yard. I’m trying sub-irrigation pot growing this year, so in order to mulch the potatoes, I had to construct a tower around the pot of chicken wire to hold in the straw. But I’m guessing from the comments here, that you need dark moist compact straw/dirt to get potatoes to form? My tower goes up almost 4 feet high (was hoping it was like the tire model but without the petroleum leaking into our food). Anyone know for sure what conditions the above ground potato stems need to make potatoes as you stack mulch higher ?

    thanks!

  22. kelly says:

    i had my most impressive looking potatoes in 2010, big plants very large vines, they bloomed till real late in the yr. (first time I didn’t kill the blooms with bug spray for beatles) and of course here in kentucky it was an unusually dry yr again. yet when I went to dig the potatoes, there was hardly anything under them, some vines had only one potatoe. I am going to try and plant some in straw this yr for first time. hope I do better. I usually plant the red potatoes as my wife and I love the taste more Great for frying with a little green pepper and onions. Red potaotes to me have a very unique taste.

  23. kelly says:

    thisis what my potaoes looked like, yet still very few potaoes when the vines died and I dug them out.
    any comments?
    [img]http://www.albertahomegardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Picture 001.jpg[/img]

  24. Diane Harrison says:

    I want to try the straw method this year, but already have questions. How much water? I noticed some white mold under the straw already,is this normal? Do you mix in dirt? With our terrible winds this spring I’m having trouble keeping the straw in place. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Dave says:

      Diane: Water depends lots on weather – I typically just leave mine to be watered by the rain. But if the rest of your garden needs watering, the potatoes could probably use a drink too. Mold is no problem – the straw will decompose and that’s just fine. I don’t mix in dirt, but you certainly could. As to the wind… I don’t know if I have any great solutions for that. A wind break perhaps?

  25. Kathy says:

    I planted some potatoes in 15 gallon pots left over from some trees I purchased and they have worked great! I really had to monitor the moisture level more so than the ones planted in my square foot garden boxes, but I am very happy with the results.
    I met a lady from penhold a couple years ago that was growing tons of potatoes under straw, she’s in your area and apparently easy to find as her square foot garden is huge!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>