September 15, 2008

Growing potatoes in straw

Have you heard of growing potatoes in straw?

Supposedly, it's a method used in Northern Europe -- you grow potatoes above ground in straw or other mulching material mixed with a bit of rich soil or manure.

This what I've been told:
Place the seed potatoes—always make sure that you use certified seed potatoes—directly on the ground and cover them with a 50/50 blend of straw with old manure 12'' deep, then soak with water. The tubers will form in this mixture and flourish. As the potatoes grow, keep adding, a little at a time, the straw with old manure mix mounded up around the base of the plants. Keep the mix watered regularly. Mounding up is important, since if the tubers are exposed to sunlight, they will turn green, making them toxic.

When potatoes are planted in straw, there are very few weeds. The few that appear are easily removable. The straw holds the moisture, so less water is needed. The beauty of growing potatoes under a straw mat is that the guesswork is taken out of the growing, and harvesting becomes considerably easier.

The corner of the straw can be lifted carefully and one can see how the potatoes are developing. New potatoes can be harvested easily even before the potato vines mature completely. When the potatoes are ready to harvest, one can simply pull back the straw and remove by hand as many potatoes as needed, then replace the straw properly in order to keep the light off any remaining potatoes. You may harvest this way a number of times. The plant will produce more and more potatoes until the vine dies.

I haven't grown potatoes yet but hope to next season. This method sounds easier and cleaner than traditional growing methods (planting them in the ground and digging them out). And while I've got a bit of land here in Maryland (just a quarter-acre), it also sounds like a good way for folks who lack space (like people who live in cities) to grow potatoes.


  1. Usually I do not post on blogs, but I have to mention that this post really forced me to do so. Really nice post!

  2. I live in MD too, and would love to know how the potato patch worked out.