Country Lore: Growing Potatoes in Hay

Growing potatoes in hay can keep them from rotting in heavy clay soil.

| February/March 2008

I live in Texas where most of our soil is a heavy black gumbo, but I’ve learned a method of growing potatoes in hay so they don’t rot before harvest time.

I have a raised bed of black soil, compost, manure and autumn leaves, which decompose over the winter. I till the bed about 10 to 12 inches down and plant my seed potatoes on top of the ground. Then, I place a 2-foot high tomato cage over the potatoes and put hay in the cage until it reaches the top. I add a 1-pound coffee can of soil on top of the hay and water it thoroughly. This compresses the hay, so I add more to bring the hay level up to the top of the cage.

During the growing season the plants do need to be watered, but this system retains the water.

The potato plants eventually grow out of the top of the hay and trail over the side of the cage. At the end of the season, I get a good harvest of potatoes without fear of their having rotted.

LaVonne Nowlin
Fort Worth, Texas

Tym Tucker
4/13/2009 5:38:55 PM

I tried this and as I suspected would happen, the plants have simply shot out the side of the tomato cage at the bottom. What now? I think I'll remove most of the hay, shift the sprouts back toward the center of the cage, cover them just a bit, and repeat as they (hopefully) come out the top?

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