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Potatoes in raised beds: with companions or alone?

 
Posts: 19
Location: Hungary - 7B, mixture of chalky and clay soil
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Total beginner here...

I prepared raised beds of about 3 feet wide and 12 feet long. One of the crops I am going to grow is potatoes.

Due to the spacing requirements, it seems either 2 rows of potatoes will fit into one bed, or only 1 row plus companions (beans, peas, corn, and/or onions).

Which do you recommend (if any) and if companions, which ones?
 
gardener
Posts: 382
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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Personally, I wouldn't grow potatos in a raised bed, I'd grow them in the ground covered in mulch and save raised beds for things that really benefit from the extra effort.

That being said - I'd probably plant them without companions in a raised beds, or with companions filling in the gaps between plants which finish earlier. When you dig out the potatos you will disturb the roots on everything else - so maybe peas might work, trellised on the sides of the bed (and still fitting two rows of potatos in). Beans may mature too late, corn is a heavy feeder and may mature too late, onions you would need to reduce to one row of potatos...
 
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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As my potatoes are planted quite early and pretty much grown by late May early June I plant in some zucchini/squash or pumpkin with them.  These plants seem to like to crawl over the top of the potato plants.  They shade a bit but the potato plants seem to like it.  The tall potato plants offer good support for the vines to travel across, my best squash was grown in among the potatoes last year.

Different growing situations may make this less desirable, here I cannot plant warm weather crops until late so it works well for me as the potatoes are pretty much largely done growing (75 to 90 days old) by the time I plant the squash and whatnot.  In a place where the squash can be planted earlier it may compete more with the potato plants and cause issues.  I have noticed that the heavy shade of all the thick potato leaves ( I grow them much closer than I am supposed to) with the over covering of squash it seems to help keep all the plants cool and retain moisture well even in the heat of the summer.

I suppose a lot of it also depends upon how you plant your potatoes as well.  The greater the spread on the potato plants probably the greater the options for companion planting, would be my guess.  If you try the squash idea I suggest doing as I did and plant the squash on the north side of the potato plants and allow them to grow over the potato patch.
 
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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If you want to grow something alongside potatoes, it should generally be something that gets harvested first, does not have an extensive root system, and doesn't require richer or more alkaline soil than potatoes.  I tuck in lettuce and small greens around potatoes.  The potatoes are going to form large canopies, so plants that need maximum sunlight are going to get shaded out and plants that can compete with the potatoes are going to shade them out.  I don't care if my lettuce doesn't get optimum conditions because I just grow more to compensate.
 
Miroslav Chodak
Posts: 19
Location: Hungary - 7B, mixture of chalky and clay soil
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Thank you everyone for replying. It seems the consensus is to either grow the potatoes alone or plant alongside plants that mature earlier and don't take away much from the nutrients.

The idea to combine potatoes with squash for cooling effect and support is fascinating, Roy.

Btw, the reason I will be using raised beds is that it's the only place in my garden with rich enough soil. Also, both my potato varieties are non-early ones, so the growing period will go past summer.
 
pollinator
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If I can piggy back on this thread, I won't have potato places ready for another 2 weeks but my seed potatoes (tubers grown from true seed last year) already have 4 in long sprouts on them! What should I do?
 
Roy Long
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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My potatoes commonly have sprouts 4 to 6 inches long or longer, I have never found it to make a difference.  I have always figured it simply gives it more root system to start off with.  Though I always plant full potatoes often pretty good sized potatoes so mine have a great deal of energy to work with.

You could make sure that the ends of the runners terminate not too far from the surface when you plant them if you are concerned about them not making to the surface.  I am currently doing a test on 2 root growths that were broken off of a potato when I pulled it out of the bag.  I noted that they had the little white root growths coming out of the base of the eye already so I went ahead and planted them in some soil.  I am curious as to whether they will grow without even being attached to the potato, potatoes can be propagated easily by cuttings if I could find specific types of eye growth that I can start on it's own that could be handy in the future.

In the end it is about energy, does it have enough reserves to grow, the more runners you have and the greater size they are the faster they can draw energy from the potato.  As soon as those runners get into the light they will begin to photosynthesize and create food stores for the plant, so at that point the more there are the more they will produce and the larger root system they can support.

I have also noticed that by planting entire whole potatoes I often find the original potato that I planted in as good of shape as when I planted at the end of the season.  I have many times harvested the original seed potato in the fall and then planted it again the next year.  I tried eating a couple of them once but they tend to get a strange texture with the root systems grown into them.
 
William Whitson
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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The sprouts aren't a problem, other than that they are fragile.  If you are planting by hand, no big deal.  You can also just trim them back, but be aware that if you use the same cutting tool on different potatoes without sterilizing, that is an excellent way to spread disease.  

When a potato has many long sprouts, that is an indication of increased physiological age.  The first sign that tuber aging is becoming a problem is when they start to develop sprouts all over the tuber, rather than just at the distal/rose end.  This indicates a loss of apical dominance, which is the first sign of hormonal changes due to tuber age.  Plants grown from tubers with increased physiological age tend not to yield as well and also produce more small tubers due to the increased number of stems.  The difference may not be so much that you notice, but it is generally something that you want to avoid.  If you often have long sprouts on your potatoes by planting time, it would be a good idea to find a way to store them colder.

The mother tuber only lasts a year, so there is no point in replanting it.  They do sometimes remain in very good condition, but they won't grow again.
 
Posts: 27
Location: USDA Zone 7a
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I would grow potatoes alone, and instead of a raised bed, I would grow them in something that can have soil added on top, to boost potato harvest. You can use a pot that is foldable and keep adding soil, or create a mound of soil and continue making the mound to accomplish the same thing. The image below explains how to plant potatoes in a mound row, and the progression of what it should look like. The next image is for a large pot/bag. You can apply this to a foldable pot too, because I have rocky soil, and since you are in a similar situation without being able to grow from the ground, I would prefer a foldable pot. Its quick to setup, and won't take up space in precious raised beds square footage for additional produce.

Mound grow on the ground setup and progression



This image is for the grow bag setup and progression



This video will instruct how to setup the bag, but it is much too small for my tastes


Instead of such a small pot/bag, I am going to use the several 'compost sak' products that I used for composting at a temporary home site. The bonus here is that you can use this pot/sak for both composting and growing a ton of potatoes off of a few plants. The first image below shows a compost sak on the right hand side that is used for growing food instead of composting.


Here's an image of what the product looks like for sale. You can buy online for $30-40. This method is much easier than making a mound in/on the ground, and mobile before/after harvest! The pots this company sells are made of the same material - so this can be viewed as a big pot or a compost sak.



Best of luck to your potato growing and harvest! :D
 
William Whitson
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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Yeah, this is basically just a slightly modified version of the potato tower idea.  The plants just don't grow that way, unfortunately.  There is no point in hilling up beyond about six inches.  What is depicted will not happen.  The tubers will only form just above the level of the seed piece.  And they are putting too many seed potatoes in a container, which is generally going to mean smaller tubers.

It is amazing that there is so much material that shows how to grow potatoes this way.  The information battle has been lost.
 
William Whitson
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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This has been studied a lot and here is the conclusion that is invariably reached: hilling increases the marketable yield but not the total yield.  That means that the main function of hilling is to protect the tubers from sunlight and pests.  You get the same amount of tubers, but because they are covered by soil, they are in better condition.  But this also means that you don't get any benefit from hilling much more than just over the maximum diameter of the tubers.
 
Vinson Corbo
Posts: 27
Location: USDA Zone 7a
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Thanks for sharing about this method - i'm going to try this growing season. From what it sounds like, I should expect marginal results, but still get potatoes.
 
Vinson Corbo
Posts: 27
Location: USDA Zone 7a
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I hope this video helps in your raised bed potato gardening!

 
William Whitson
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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That video was pretty good.  I give it 4/5.  The main thing he didn't get quite right is the relationship between seed piece size and yield.  This has been studied extensively.  You want seed tubers that are about two ounces.  This translates on average into a plant that forms three stems.  This gives the best compromise between tuber size and total yield, although there is a little room to optimize this depending on variety.  Larger pieces will form more stems and therefore more but smaller tubers and a lower yield.  Smaller pieces will form fewer stems and therefore fewer but larger tubers and a lower yield.  Each stem will form a certain number of stolons, each of which will usually produce one tuber (more than one in some varieties), so the more stems you have, the more tubers, but all of those tubers will be competing for resources.  People often think that cutting is a way of economizing on seed potato purchase, and it is, but it is moreso means to optimize yield.
 
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Absolute newbie to gardening so this might be a stupid question. With the potato tower, what if with successive layers you also added more seed potatoes? Would that result in tubers throughout the tower? Or would the potatoes added higher and higher up amount to nothing?
 
pollinator
Posts: 187
Location: WV
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Dusty Wrangler wrote:Absolute newbie to gardening so this might be a stupid question. With the potato tower, what if with successive layers you also added more seed potatoes? Would that result in tubers throughout the tower? Or would the potatoes added higher and higher up amount to nothing?



Yes, but the added seed potatoes would mature later than the original if they were all of the same variety.  You would also need to keep in mind the volume of the tower as adding more might decrease your total yield due to too many plants competing for the same space.  This would be a good experiment if one were to plant a late maturing potato and add an early variety when adding more soil/compost/mulch.
 
William Whitson
Posts: 99
Location: Washington coast
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I assume you are thinking of a design where the plants grow out the sides?  You will have a hard time getting any water to the lower plants.  By the time you factor in the limited part of the structure that will get full sun and the reduced production due to water and heat problems, I doubt you come out ahead.
 
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