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Growing no-dig potatoes

 
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Nick Williams wrote:I do a bit of a hybrid. Bury potatoes under 6 inches of dirt or so, and then put 6-10 inches of straw on top (they eventually grow all the way through). Very consistent temperature and moisture levels and good yields, no hilling or piling mulch throughout the year...

EDITED TO ADD: Important around here, such depth of dirt and mulch really helps shelter the sprouting potatoes from late frosts.



So you put all the straw on right after planting?   I kept on piling the straw on after a few inches of green peeked through, and was unsuccessful at growing in the straw.  
 
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Susan Mené wrote:

Nick Williams wrote:I do a bit of a hybrid. Bury potatoes under 6 inches of dirt or so, and then put 6-10 inches of straw on top (they eventually grow all the way through). Very consistent temperature and moisture levels and good yields, no hilling or piling mulch throughout the year...

EDITED TO ADD: Important around here, such depth of dirt and mulch really helps shelter the sprouting potatoes from late frosts.



So you put all the straw on right after planting?   I kept on piling the straw on after a few inches of green peeked through, and was unsuccessful at growing in the straw.  


Yup. It's always grown through for me. Takes quite a while to finally make it through.
 
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Nick Williams wrote:I do a bit of a hybrid. Bury potatoes under 6 inches of dirt or so, and then put 6-10 inches of straw on top (they eventually grow all the way through). Very consistent temperature and moisture levels and good yields, no hilling or piling mulch throughout the year...

EDITED TO ADD: Important around here, such depth of dirt and mulch really helps shelter the sprouting potatoes from late frosts.



"Very consistent temperature and moisture levels and good yields, no hilling or piling mulch throughout the year..."
That is an advantage that deserves to be highlighted: Bare soil invites weeds and the sun bakes the soil, making more irrigation necessary. Most plants like a more even amount of moisture. Here, it is quite sandy, so laying the potatoes in a very shallow trench [like 2"] and hilling later [twice, as the plants grow bigger]]seems to work best for me. Since the soil is so sandy, hilling really doesn't take much effort, and digging deep to harvest is not a problem either. I tried to add straw to this. Well, the straw stayed down in between the rows of potatoes... and I got voles eating my potatoes, a problem I have not had with hilling alone. My soil PH is 6.5, which is just about ideal for potatoes. Our area [the Central Sands of Wisconsin] is very big on growing potatoes! In fact 2 years ago, we had the record for the longest baker. [12" if memory serves - but that was chemical farming. Booh!]
Another great point: "such depth of dirt and mulch really helps shelter the sprouting potatoes from late frosts". So true. Especially here: sand does not hold heat, so if we have a cold snap when the potatoes are coming out, you may lose some plants. Early hilling and keeping an eye on the weather solves that.
 
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Thanks for this post, Daron Williams! And great blog post too, by the way!

And thanks to all the folks who added valuable insights here as well.

I'm a big fan of Charles Dowding and his no dig videos, thanks to Morag Gamble, an Australian permaculturist who stole my heart with her barefoot gardening...

Since we live on heavy clay (is there any other kind?) in the hills southwest of Eugene, Oregon, no dig is pretty much a no brainer for garden beds.

But we do have tunnelers so I'm excited to try Faye Streiff's suggestion of gypsum. Faye, one question I have is how would you 'put down' the gypsum for the no dig bed? Just spread around under the cardboard when you start? I'll cut the grass short before I sheet mulch, but not sure the best way to apply the gypsum.

We don't have PermaTil here, but we do have pumice and I wonder if that might not also be helpful. It's not so sharp as the baked crushed shale, but its volcanic rock and its other benefits mean I'm using it in our tree nursery beds already so maybe it would help?

I also like Al Marlin's idea of storing the potatoes in a box of coir, since I use that quite a bit to build our gardens.

I'd love to get good potato crops like we used to get when we lived over by the McKenzie River in that amazing loamy river soil... But hey, maybe this is my year! I'm sure going to give this a try outside the main garden and I think I know just the spot!

Thanks everyone for all the good information in this thread -I've actually re-read it all about three times now. Every time I find some new morsel I'd missed.

 
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What a great success!

We recently built some new hugelkultur mounds in our backyard and I'm trying a hugel/potato hybrid by trying to grow the potatoes on pine boughs with straw. The front half of the buried log is built up in normal fashion. Did not add any soil to the back, instead I layered extra branches. On nests made by the branches I planted six organic red potatoes. I then filled around them a bit with soaked straw and added some more branches on top, then added a bit more straw. I laid the bottom branches in a way I hope to just lift the entire plants out by the branches and shake potatoes free? I'll go back over the next few months and layer more branches, straw.


I think our most successful potato experiment so far was my son, with his beginners luck this year. We had a pile of wood chips for around 2 years while working through them. It was in a lower corner of our yard. My son had to choose something to plant and I wanted potato's planted there now that the pile is gone. He went out, stuck the shovel in the ground and pulled back, dropping the potato in the crack he created. Around ten of them. Six months later we harvested almost 40 lbs. of potatoes with zero intervention. No watering, layering, nada. I think with layering they may have produced at least twice that. They are some type like Peruvian Purple and delicious but starchy. They also have a cat poo like appearance when eaten as new potato's, lol. But they obviously thrive here!
 
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Faye Streiff wrote:You can put down Perma-Til for your vole problem.  I think it is expanded volcanic rock and has sharp particles.  They cut themselves and living in the soil like they do, this can be fatal for them.  If they hit sharp particles they leave that area and don’t come back.  

We have a trace mineral mix we always use also, to build the soil, it has the major stuff plus all 80 or so trace...Maury’s Mineral.  All natural and organic sources, my husband makes it.  It also has active microbes to break down minerals.   I hope we get caught up with some of our big farm projects so he has time to write on Permies, as we have a lot to share.  
 



Faye, thanks for all the info you shared.  I'm saving your post into a file.  I don't usually do that, but this is great info I want to keep.  Do you have any more info on the Maury's Mineral supplement?  Is it available?  

Also, can you explain how you apply the Perma-Til/volcanic rock?

Bonnie
 
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