Methods to Growing Potatoes, and How To Cure and Store Them


Potato Harvest Number 1 

Why go through all the effort of digging a trench, hilling up your potatoes, and all that digging when there has got to be an easier way? We grow a lot of potatoes each year, usually enough to get us through Winter into early Spring and still have plenty to plant for the next year. We typically shoot for somewhere between 65 and 85 pounds. We eat lots of soup in the winter, and what kind of winter soup would be complete without potatoes?

We’ll go over the different ways we’ve grown potatoes, which methods we liked best and why, and which varieties we’ve liked the best for storage through winter. There may be tips or tricks in this article that you may want to try, or you may already do something similar, or you may have your own way of growing spuds that works perfectly well for you! Let us know what you think, what you do and what works best!

The Traditional Method: The traditional method of growing potatoes works great in some soils, and in some cases makes the most sense. If you have very fine or sandy soil, this method may work best for you. The concept is the same in almost every method, because potatoes will sprout and the tubers (the potato) will multiply. The object is to put the potato as far down as you plan to plant, and layer it or “hill” it with growing medium once it has made sufficient growth--this is usually about 8 inches above the soil. As the plant grows, it will root into that medium and develop more potatoes. In the traditional method, a trench is dug and the soil is piled on one or both sides of the trench. The sprouting potatoes are laid in the trench and covered with a bit of soil. As the potatoes grow, you continue to pull some of the soil around the plants. When harvest time comes, you gently dig with a shovel or digging fork--or your hands--and search for potatoes. The problem with the fork or shovel is we always inevitably spear or chop at least one potato, usually the biggest!

The Potato Tower Method: One method that has gained popularity recently is the Potato Tower Method. In this method, potatoes are planted at the bottom of a container--a large plastic barrel, a circle of chicken wire, a bunch of tires--it could be anything that’s hollow, it doesn’t have to be open to the ground beneath but this helps. Once the sprouted potatoes are placed at the bottom of the “tower” they can be covered with soil and hilled up as they grow more. To harvest, simply wait until the tower is full or harvest time comes--whichever comes first in your climate--and push the tower over! No shovel, no digging! This method works especially well if you have access to healthy soil or compost, maybe even sand could work. This has worked when we have tried it, though coming across soil was tough and we hadn’t made much compost at the time.

The Hay Method: This is the method we’ve liked best and the one we use most often. In this method, we plant sprouted potatoes in beds that have nice and decompacted soil. Instead of digging a trench, we just plant right in the bed and wait for the potato plant to grow to about 8 inches tall. Once the plants are a sufficient height, we hill them up with hay, lots of hay. Try to pack it down as you are distributing it, we’ve used about 12 inches of packed hay. Water this in thoroughly. As the potatoes reach about 6-8 inches above the hay, layer them again. When harvest time comes, remove the hay (which will have partially broken down by then) and harvest the potatoes! No shovel, minimal effort and bending over! We like to sprinkle some compost in every layer to help the hay break down, plus we like when our potatoes smell like dirt.

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