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Hoping to avoid a total potato disaster

 
William James
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Posts: 1008
Location: Northern Italy
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This winter I got really jazzed up about growing potatoes in Burlap sacks with straw.

The theory was: Instead of growing in the ground, use sacks and save space. Instead of earthing up the potatoes, use straw.

More details on the recipe are here:
http://www.nwedible.com/2011/04/bags-arent-just-for-chips-potato-sack.html

Then this spring, just after I had finally found and purchased the burlap sacks, got the earth into the sacks, got the potatoes into the sacks, I read this:
http://www.nwedible.com/2011/07/total-potato-fail.html

DOH!

So...any suggestions on how to avoid a complete failure using this technique?

I thought of staking the bags to get more stability.
I also thought of adding earth to the straw when I earthed up. Perhaps the lack of soil is why the potatoes are not branching out. Also those plants look yellow, could be nitrogen hunger brought on by the excessive use of straw. Could also be they got burnt or they're just at the end of the cycle.

Thanks,
William
 
Willy Kerlang
Posts: 106
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I am not an expert, and this is not very scientific--just my own observations. My worst failure with potatoes came when I tried something similar. I had seen a guy who made boxes about a foot square, and he planted a potato in each one. The boxes were built so that he could continually add to the sides and make them higher as the plant grew, piling dirt up around the plant. He had great luck with it.

This is the link to what I read: http://tipnut.com/grow-potatoes/

I tried the same thing, only for some reason I decided I was going to use seaweed instead of soil. I had read that in bygone years, the farmers around here used seaweed instead of dirt and did well with it. What I forgot, or chose to ignore, was that they planted their potatoes in trenches, not in boxes.

My potatoes grew, but when I pulled them out they were horribly mushy. Not even fit for seed. Then I remembered that when the old-timers used seaweed, it was in a ditch, not a box.

My takeaway from this was that potatoes grow best in the ground. You can pile all kinds of stuff on top of them instead of dirt, but they need nutrients from the soil. For all the extra effort I went to building this box and hauling seaweed up from the beach, I would have been far better off just digging a hole and sticking them in it. No more fancy-pants techniques for me. From now on I am growing potatoes the old-fashioned way.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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always seem to have the best result when I grow potatoes in sl acid soil in the ground..period..any other way I have had no success (oh of course years ago I got great spuds out of a compost pile)
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 353
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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This year I'm doing an experiment. I'm trying one of those grow bag thingys and then doing it the old fashion way (in a raised bed dumping straw on top). I will gladly report back which works best.
 
Chad Hadsell
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Location: Portland, OR
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Shawn Harper wrote:This year I'm doing an experiment. I'm trying one of those grow bag thingys and then doing it the old fashion way (in a raised bed dumping straw on top). I will gladly report back which works best.


I'll be looking forward to your report! I've only tried growing potatoes in Portland twice, and both times I used a "tower" approach. The first time failed completely, and the second time only yielded about 3 gnarled little taters per seed potato.

I used a 18 inch wide, 3 foot tall ring of wire fencing. I filled it up with straw, and used scraps of weed-blocker cloth around the outside edges to keep out more light as the plants grew.This year I'm just growing 'em in the ground. Different year and a different variety of potatoes, though.

It will be interesting to see your results, to really be able to compare the bag/tower approach to the ground with few other variables.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 353
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Chad - in full disclosure, I use a weird potatoe. My parents let me Gurella garden their place in return for veto privilege. Since my mom was skeptical of growing potatoes I am growing blue and purples, the types you won't find regularly in the store. They did ok last year, but this year I'm adding some beans in the mix and plan on mulching with a better variety of mulches.
 
Patrick Mann
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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I've had good luck using sacks filled with soil, adding more soil as the potatoes grow.
I recently read that late season potatoes are more suitable for 'tower' style cultivation than early or mid.
 
Jason Tomblin
Posts: 31
Location: Fraser Valley, BC Canada
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I'm trying a few different methods this year. I did some by digging holes, and some by digging ditches and putting the soil on top of the potatoes. I've also planted two long rows a little over a foot apart by laying the seed potatoes on the lawn, throwing bone meal and worm castings at them, then covering with straw and hay that was used as ground cover over the winter, then covered it all with a layer of soil. It saved me a lot of time digging, so if the harvests are a bit less, it will probably be worth it considering how many seed potatoes I have to experiment with.

I plan to add soil and plant between the rows with Horseradish, Peas, and maybe some other cover crops that can be chopped and dropped during the growing season. The mounds themselves will be topped up with soil once more, and then mulched with grass clippings. I hope this will keep the lawn down, leaving me with a harvest of potatoes and an area clear of grass.


 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1008
Location: Northern Italy
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Thanks for the help.
I think my plan right now is to go through with it, but on a smaller scale. I'm going to mix in earth/straw and new potatoes as I "earth up" so that I'm increasing the total seed and the total earth content.

I'll let you know how it goes.
William
 
Rianna Stone
Posts: 12
Location: Oklahoma
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We decided to try a hugel kultur bed for our potatoes this year. The bed is 17 feet long but we only built it up to about 2 feet tall. I know Paul prefers them much taller but I plan on adding more soil after we harvest. They are growing really well and we have been using leaves to mulch them. Hopefully we will have a better year this year than we did last year.
 
Jason Tomblin
Posts: 31
Location: Fraser Valley, BC Canada
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So how is everyone's potato crop? Mine are a bit slow, but doing just fine, and are now providing some tasty new potatoes. As you can see, the grasses and some tansy grew up tall around the hills, which I've now tucked around the plants as a mulch. My plan is to give them another feeding on top of the mulch (rock dust and bone meal), then cover them with more soil to bury the grasses and hill up the vines. I've been a bit lazy in keeping the grasses down, but so far the plants are doing well for having been frost bitten early in the season and having a rainy June.





I've got a few different experiments going on, and this method seems to be working better than my in-ground potatoes and my grain shaded potatoes, but they are slightly smaller and less bushy than my trench dug potatoes. What everyone else is up to potato-wise this season?
 
Lloyd George
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taters came out ok, gonna rais them in aboveground wire tubes next year with alternating layers of straw and soil...ground here stays too wet to do it otherwise...I got taters this year by mounding up a big honkin' row...and not as many as I wanted..but oh well.
 
Jay Green
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Jason Tomblin wrote:I'm trying a few different methods this year. I did some by digging holes, and some by digging ditches and putting the soil on top of the potatoes. I've also planted two long rows a little over a foot apart by laying the seed potatoes on the lawn, throwing bone meal and worm castings at them, then covering with straw and hay that was used as ground cover over the winter, then covered it all with a layer of soil. It saved me a lot of time digging, so if the harvests are a bit less, it will probably be worth it considering how many seed potatoes I have to experiment with.

I plan to add soil and plant between the rows with Horseradish, Peas, and maybe some other cover crops that can be chopped and dropped during the growing season. The mounds themselves will be topped up with soil once more, and then mulched with grass clippings. I hope this will keep the lawn down, leaving me with a harvest of potatoes and an area clear of grass.




WOW, that's rich and lovely soil!!! This is how I garden now.......plow narrow rows in turfed lawn/pasture and mulch immediately after planting. No weeding, good moisture retention, etc~makes gardening so much easier. The garden looks lovely and better than those who are using more traditional gardening methods in the area~and this place has very poor soil. I just mow between the rows and keep the mulch thick.

My potatoes are lovely...planted Red Pontiacs only this year and they have lovely tops, blooms, etc. that are now starting to lay over and go through their final phase. Still green and even have seed pods formed on some of them.
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 353
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Yeah mine are doing great, the bag ones are slightly better, but it's close
 
darius Van d'Rhys
Posts: 56
Location: SW Virginia Mountains, USA
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I've tried all the ideas from above, including stacked tires. The best results I have ever had came from just putting the tubers on top of the decomposing straw bales from the previous year's straw-bale gardening. Then I covered the tubers with some of the excess decomposing straw and let them grow, I think I added a bit more old straw as they grew to "hill" them, but probably not much. Best, and cleanest, potatoes I have ever grown.

I decided I like sweet potatoes better (plus they have a lower glycemic index) so last year I planted a big SP bed in-ground, in some loose and well-amended soil. They grew like gangbusters, but I got nary a one to eat since some underground critters got there first and chomped a big bit of every single one. The harvest was awesome in quantity, just not worth eating.
 
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