Growing Just Photos

Better Late Then Never

After getting started tremendously late (due to landscaping issues), my garden isn’t looking too bad – all things considered. My corn and beans are growing nice. Peas… not so much. After the birds pecked them to nothing they’ve been slow to recover. I might get a taste, but certainly not anything for the freezer. Carrots…well, let’s just say that their current average height is about one inch. Radishes grew tall, flowered, and had nothing to show for it at the bottom.

But potatoes…. Now they might do something. I’ll at least have a good stock of baby potatoes if nothing else.

Potato flowers

Now that my greenhouse is up, my tomatoes are coming along too. I’ve got some good golfball+ tomatoes right now and lots of flowers.

Tomato Flowers in my greenhouse

And of course, old reliable. The one that never fails. Rain or shine, sheet or hail. Nothing can stop… the weeds! But at least something is growing. And they’re kinda pretty too.

Pretty Weeds


Those Are Some Very Baby Potatoes

I just thought I update you on how my ‘potatoes grown in straw‘ experiment is going.

Right now, my Red Norland potatoes that I planted on May 19th are just beginning to bloom. That would be eight weeks from planting. (This, by the way, is a crucial time to keep your potatoes regularly watered to get large, scab-free potatoes – read more about that in this article.)

Potato Flower

One cool thing about this style of growing potatoes is that you can easily check on the progress of the tubers forming underground (or rather, understraw). I was curious to know just how big my little potatoes were at this point, so I carefully pulled away the straw at the base of the plant. And lo, and behold…

Very baby Potato

There it was. A tiny little potato not much bigger than a large pea.

So I learned/confirmed a few things today.

#1. Flowers on plants = formation of little spuds

#2. Potatoes grown in straw are going to be wonderfully clean

#3. I won’t be eating baby potatoes for at least a couple of weeks.


My Secret Potato Garden

This spring I had quite a few leftover seed potatoes. I hated to waste them, but I had no other places I could plant them. Then I got an idea. But first, let me give you some background…

Last spring I dug out a good chunk of sod to make way for a hedge. I threw all that sod in a pile out in the pasture. By this spring it had all decomposed into lovely soil. In fact, I had used scooped out some of the dirt for my raised beds earlier.

So now with extra seed potatoes and no place to plant them, I decided to just dump them at the base of my sod heap (where I had scooped out some soil earlier) and kick some dirt over top of them. (There was a pile of old hay nearby, so I threw some hay on a few of them to see if it would make a difference.) If they grew, great – extra potatoes for me! If they died, well, no big loss.

Since then, I’ve done nothing with them (no water – no weeding). I went out to the pasture to check on them this afternoon, and what do you know! Potatoes were growing. And they looked pretty good. They weren’t even covered in weeds! They looked… well, like this…

Potatoes in a dirt pile

Potatoes in a dirt pile

Needless to say, I was impressed. So I will continue to neglect these potatoes and see if, at the end of their life, they will yield me any freebies.


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…

Hints, Tips, and How Tos

How To Grow Amazing Scab-Free Potatoes

For my family, and I imagine many other North Americans, potatoes are the most common food eaten in our home. Whether it’s mashed, baked or boiled, or made into french fries, hashbrowns or chips, we eat potatoes almost daily. It’s no wonder that nearly every vegetable garden has at least a few hills of those wonderful, all-purpose tubers. My complaint comes when you dig up your spuds in the fall, and they’re covered in ugly, brown scabs.

In 2006 I grew the scabbiest potatoes I had ever seen. They were covered with about a 1/4 inch of scab from top to bottom. I couldn’t even use a regular peeler to peel them – I had to cut the skin off with a knife. They were terrible. The inside still tasted fine, but who wants to deal with 1/4 inch of scab?

So that winter I searched the internet and asked the advice of more experienced gardeners – namely my parents – and got some really easy to follow suggestions. Then, following that advice in 2007, I grew the biggest, scab-free potatoes I had ever grown. Want to know how I did it? Here’s what you need to do: