Growing Potatoes in Mulch

No matter your soil type, you can try Dorothy Johns' easy method of growing potatoes in mulch.

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    Push back the mulch, pick up the potatoes...and let the squash vine take over. Raising potatoes has never been easier!

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It doesn't matter where you live or what kind of soil (even if it's rocky old hardpan) you have to work with. I’ll bet raising potatoes with a "no-work, no-care, trouble-free" method will provide all the potatoes your family can eat if you know just one gardening secret: Grow these potatoes in mulch, and lots of it.

It doesn't seem to matter what kind of mulch you use either. We've tried pine needles, sawdust, leaves, moldy hay, and straw so far, and they've all produced the same excellent results.

It's OK to plow, fertilize, or otherwise work the earth when you grow potatoes with this method ... then again, it's not really necessary. I like to just scratch my rows slightly into the earth with a hoe, drop in my cut potatoes, and then cover the entire bed with 6 to 8 inches of mulch. The rows should be 12 to 15 inches apart, each piece of potato must — of course — contain at least one or two "eyes," and the chunks of seed stock are best spaced about a foot apart. And when I say to cover the bed with mulch, I mean just that: No dirt at all need be raked over the pieces of potato.

Once the sprouts are up about four inches, you may (if you didn't work manure into the plot before the potatoes were planted) want to add a balanced fertilizer to the bed. But that's about all the care this section of the garden should need all the way through to harvest time. I doubt that you'll even have any insect problems.

Curious gardeners and children will enjoy lifting the mulch occasionally throughout the growing season to see the little sections of cut spuds multiply and grow into big whole potatoes. But the real fun takes place once the vines have died and it's time to "reap what you have sown." Hey! There's no laborious digging necessary! Just pull the mulch back with a rake, and pick up the clean, blemish-free potatoes by the handful. The mulch can then be put around late tomatoes or other vegetables to keep down the weeds and hold in moisture.

12/15/2010 12:04:58 PM

Some 30 years ago I read an article (I think from Mother Earth) about planting potatoes in post holes. From what I remember, dig holes with a post hole digger, about 15 inches apart, 18 inches deep. Put about 6" of chicken manure in the bottom of the hole. Then put about 6" of mulch, such as straw, then drop in seed potato and cover with soil. They can go in the ground in January since the manure heats up the ground from below. As the leaves emerge, pull a little dirt over them and keep doing this until danger of frost is over. I may have some of this wrong so I am open for correction. My elderly neighbors tried to kindly tell me I was planting way too early and didn't plant with the moon. They were in awe though when I started harvesting! Huge early harvest! If I can find the chicken manure, I hope to try this again.



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