Monday, April 09, 2012

Straw Potatoes

This begins a series of random thoughts about gardening. Over the weekend, I tried to collect my thoughts on some gardening experiments over the last 4 years or so. Today's is about straw potatoes...

Lay down a bed of shredded leaves (2-3 inches) and place the seed potatoes on top of the leaves. Put 3-6 inches of straw on top of the potatoes cover with row cover—you don't need to put hoops on it; the potatoes will lift it easily. I remove the row cover after the maple is done sending out helicopters. Check the straw throughout the summer; if potatoes are showing, either fluff the straw or add more. Pull any weeds that show through the straw.

Last year, I started my potatoes in the basement. I cut them into chunks, put them in egg cartons—one per slot—and let them begin to grow for about 3-4 weeks. Then I transplanted them into the garden, put the straw over the top, as well as row cover. That seemed to work well. The previous year, I had tried starting some early in the cold frame; it didn't seem to make a difference. They all got the same size at the same time.

They say that if you pinch the flowers off the potato, you will get a bigger harvest. I experimented last year: I pinched all the flowers in one bed and none in the other. I didn't notice a difference between the beds...


Tim Bulkeley said...

This is very helpful, I've been doing something similar, but used much too little straw (actually past its use by date hay). I assume a row cover is transparent plastic that gives the potatoes a good start in the colder starting period?

Interestingly our biggest successes were not with the shop varieties but some "Maori potatoes" a heritage variety with deep purple skins.

jps said...


Row cover is spun polyester. It offers some frost protection, but its main purpose is to keep bugs and maple seeds at bay. I have a large maple that sends thousands of helicopters my way every spring. If I don't cover the beds, then I'm pulling small maple seedlings all summer.

Interesting that the heritage owns do best. They sound very interesting.