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Permie potato beds  RSS feed

 
Scott Foster
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Location: 6a
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I have never planted potatoes but I'd like to prep for next year.   Any suggestions and/or ideas on how to prep for a big potato patch.  There is an area I'm thinking of using that is already mounded but it's infested with volunteers.

Also, what would you companion plant?

 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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I grew potatoes for the first time this year and had pretty good success. I planted them half in the earth and then covered them with duck bedding, then grass clippings, then tree trimmings. I put a fence around the bed so I could keep heaping up the mulch, and got it about 2 feet tall...I don't think I needed nearly that much, though, as the potatoes were all in the 4-5 inches above the soil. I planted Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty, and some Red potato variety that I didn't write down the name of.

I plan to, Back to Eden style, plant the biggest potatoes of my harvest back into the bed, under all the mulch. Supposedly, the Back to Eden guy has done this for like 20 years without any problems/diseases, and still gets lots of healthy potatoes. It's worth a shot. He supposedly replants the biggest potatoes in the fall after harvesting the rest, and they grow up trhough the 8 inches of mulch in the spring. We'll see!

I grew green onions in with the potatoes, and they seemed to survive, but I don't think they liked the heavy mulch...or my soil. I think I'll try elephant garlic next, as they are a type of leek and might not mind the hilling up as much.

The only real problem I had with my potatoes was mice/shrews decided the mulch was a wondrous place to burrow and eat potatoes. So, I lost some of my plants to them until I set up a bucket trap.

I'm also going to set up a three-bed system to rotate potatoes, squash and a third crop (probably peas with beets and carrots). Doing the deep mulch with potatoes seems to be a pretty easy way to build soil in an area, while still getting food while building the bed. This year, I planted Trader Joes organic Yukon Gold potatoes that had sprouted in a 10x3 bed. I covered them with tree trimmings, bedding and grass clippings. I haven't dug them up yet, but the plants look really healthy. Next year, I'll plant squash in that bed, and start a bed next to it of potatoes. The following year, I'll add one more bed to be the new potato bed.

I have not tried incorporating potatoes into a typical food forest, but so far I'm pretty happy with how my deep mulch potato beds have turned out. I'm all about trying different things and seeing what works best for my particular piece of God's green earth :)

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When I planted the potatoes
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Harvest from 2 plants
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Oh, potatoes!

I love using potatoes to start hugelkultur-style beds, either raised or buried, depending on drainage/seasonal dry spells. My best year ever was when I started my raised hugelbeet. I had dropped a Manitoba Maple, which is an invasive in my parents' Toronto backyard, into a 3 foot deep trench I had dug out of one newly created garden bed, then layered it with 3 years of accumulated compost and leaf litter, with generous helpings of cow and horse manure, and composted seaweed and crustacean shells. Into this I planted 3 different types of potato, a red, yellow, and a purple russian variety. To this I added horseradish, which I have heard smells like sadness and death to potato predators, and garlic, because, well, garlic, as well as some French marigolds.

This was along a fence, so I planted the edge nearest the fence in a purple pole bean and cucumbers. In the early summer, I discovered several healthy volunteer butternut squash plants, that eventually produced squash longer than my forearm and overall well outperformed the cukes.

I had no predation issues whatsoever, which to me was astonishing, as I had just put a garden bed on top of a pile of wood, which to me sounded like the perfect place for critters of all kinds.

Sorry for the tangent, but there was a lot going on there that I felt I had to qualify before going into my suggestions.

I have read that horseradish is the best pest-deterrent for potato pests of all sizes, and that yields of each crop increase if they are companion planted. Also, I love garlic, but I honestly think that if you need pest deterrence, find the smelliest allium variety you can use. And I use French marigolds everywhere because of their strong insecticidal properties, but I tend to keep them to the perimeters and switch to weaker varieties if I notice a drop in the worm population (French and African(I think) marigolds are so toxic to some soil biota that you can overdo it, so be aware).

Also, I planted a variety of potatoes, and I planted them together, so that no two of any one variety were beside eachother. I figure the more genetic diversity between neighbours of the same type of plant means less chances of disease spreading between them.

Finally, I love rabbit bedding and waste as mulch. We had a rabbit at the time, and his poo did amazing things for my potatoes.

Please keep us posted!

-CK
 
Jarret Hynd
Posts: 52
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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I experimented with straw hilling this year and had a very similar experience to Nicole. I planted close to 1/8 acre and this was my first year using specific potatoes I saved for their traits. I was very diligent in what potatoes got planted though, cutting them in half and any with signs of blight got composted - leaving me with 30 pounds of potatoes out of 80 to plant with. 

- 3 inch holes + 4-12 inches of straw mulch for hilling this year. Some areas seem to be too mulched which reduced airflow = disease, so I think 6 inches maximum for next year. Though I don't mind some disease when doing preliminary trials.

- Lots of mycellium growth on the bottom pile of the straw was "connected" to some of the potato roots. I don't have any observations on the effects of this, but from what I've read I assume it'd be positive.

- About 20 potatoes got munched on by "critters" and I found a litter of mice while harvesting. Pretty negligible overall though.

- Harvesting was a breeze. Use a rake, pull back the straw+dead plant. Flip the rake and move the soil around a bit to find the potatoes. I didn't damage any potatoes this way and harvested them all in less than 2 hours with minimal effort.

- The soil in that area is very under-developed heavy clay and doing a side by side comparison vs in-ground potatoes, the ones with the straw mulch produced more despite going into the ground 2 weeks later. My guess is that the straw doesn't provide any resistance like the clay would so growing is easier. Some straw potatoes were a foot away from the mother plant on the surface, so I'll have to account for that next year and mulch a little further out.

For me, the amount of time saved in harvest, hilling, less soil disruption and less cleaning required is well worth spending an extra hour during planting to transport straw to the garden, which I probably won't have to import much of next year.

Scott Fisher wrote:Also, what would you companion plant?


From what I've researched, it's much like Chris says and companion planting something with potatoes is mostly for pest prevention. I've read about beans and potatoes, but never tried them myself.

John Polk wrote:Potatoes help repel Mexican Bean Beetles.
And beans help repel Colorado potato beetles.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Nicole,

my experience with both in wood chips is that potatoes do fine but onions/garlic don't like it. I think they need more nitrogen or sulfur or something. Horseradish does well in wood chips in my experience.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I sheet mulched over a flat area of feral meadow.  I mowed the area real low, watered it extensively, and then covered it with cardboard.  I delineated rows with paths of bark mulch, and broke holes in the cardboard to put potatoes in the sod.  I mounded these potatoes first with a 1/3 each mixture of peat moss, soil, and compost.  The second mounding was the diggings from my neighbors well, which is silt and organics, well broken down into a black loamy beaut.  My dad dug up some, I think that they are the older peruvian pinks... and they were delicious tonight.  Things got scrambled up on the map and I don't know the varieties, but I have a bunch of heritage stuff from a local seed saver family. 

I did not do any companion planting on this crop, but did radishes around the potatoes on a more established bed.  By the time the radishes are ready, the first hilling is needed.  Same could be done with lettuce or other quick greens, like spinach or cut and come again kales or tatsoi.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I have found the best companion for potatoes, are snakes and deer. I plant potatoes in a bed that gets plenty of Southern Sun, and is therefore a favorite spot of snakes and lizards. They eat every creepy crawly. There can be problems with wire worms and other crawly creatures damaging potatoes here. I have harvested the whole patch without one bit of bug damage.

Deer were allowed to roam through the bed. They eat many things, but they don't like potatoes. They did a pretty good job of weeding.

When set up properly, potatoes thrive on neglect. It's best to pair them with other plants that don't need watering or other care.
 
Scott Foster
Posts: 57
Location: 6a
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Thanks to everyone for all of this great information!  I like the idea of using straw as it sounds super simple. 

The first year will definitely be experimental as I have no idea what potatoes do well here.  Thanks again.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
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I have no idea what potatoes do well here.
  Where is 'here', Scott? 
I like the idea of using straw as it sounds super simple.  
  It is.  The main problem I have with it at my place is the voles, which love the straw... and also like potatoes.
 
Scott Foster
Posts: 57
Location: 6a
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forest garden hugelkultur woodworking
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   Where is 'here', Scott?

I'm in Northwest New Jersey (Zone 6A)
 
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