After posting several days ago about starting my sweet potato slips it amazed me at the comments with different ways to plant potatoes. So I decided to investigate some of them. As for myself you can see in the picture above that I grow my Irish potatoes the traditional way by preparing my garden soil and then planting seed potatoes. These seed potatoes are cut into pieces and planted directly in the soil. As the plant emerges and grows soil is pulled up around the plant or hilled to provide dirt around the stem for the growing potatoes. You see what most people don't realize is that potatoes grow UP and not down. The plant blooms and then put on potatoes under the soil that has been pulled up around the stem. When the tops die down the potatoes are dug and consumed over the winter months. Usually reserving enough for seed the following year or purchasing new seed potatoes.
See in the picture above the large potato at the bottom? That is your seed potato. See the small potatoes growing along the stem? They are above the seed potato growing UP the stem. So as your potato plants get taller you pull soil around the stem for it to have plenty of loose soil to make potatoes in. I stop when the mound gets about 18 inches high.
I do not lay down any mulch between the rows until after then so that I am able to pull the soil up. After my mounds reach the height I want I then can put down a mulch sometimes of hay or grass. This is the traditional way of planting potatoes.
I am seeing people now that are growing potatoes in gro-bags and buckets. I think for someone with limited space and especially patio gardeners this is a really interesting idea.
Another growing method that i had heard of before was growing them in old car tires. Although a great recycling idea I was always concerned about chemical leaking from the tire onto my food.
Another method is growing them in straw. I have mulched mine with with straw or grass late in the growing season but have never grown my potatoes directly in straw. My problem with this method is that my garden is surrounded by hay pastures. So at times I fight a healthy population of voles. I also have a healthy population of hawks, owls and garter snakes which all eat the voles. Because of this I do not poison them but rather put netting over my chicken pens and let the hawks and owls feast on the voles. I do try to discourage the voles in my garden by limiting the deep straw mulch which they love to nest in. I think that if I grew my potatoes in deep straw that the voles would eat up my potatoes.
Another interesting way to grow potatoes is in towers which are made of wood or wire. Really this is the same concept as the grow bags just putting the soil in the bottom and the potato and then as the plant grows upward continuing to either fill with soil, compost or straw.
As for me right now I have plenty of land so I see no reason to conserve space by using buckets. Besides with the amount of potatoes that I grow the cost of buckets would not be feasible. I have to admit I find the hay method interesting and may experiment with it in the future.
I am interested to know how you grow your potatoes and the problems you may have encountered with any of these methods.
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter