You don’t have to look much further if you’ve been looking for ways to plant some of the most productive crops in the world. Learning how to grow potatoes in straw is a lot more common than you may think. Not only is growing potatoes in straw easier than traditional gardening, but there are also different ways that you can do it as well.
There is a misconception that there are specific steps that you have to follow for every plant in the garden. This isn’t completely true, though. Even though plants have the same basic needs, how you go about meeting them varies.
How is it even possible to plant potatoes in straw? Are there enough nutrients to keep the potato growing until it reaches maturity? It might seem a little strange to care for our potatoes this way. It’s a little unorthodox, but it has tremendous success rates and doesn’t require a lot of space in your garden bed.
The Best Varieties for Growing Potatoes in Straw
You would think that learning how to grow potatoes in straw would require specific potato varieties, but this isn’t the case. All potato plants, from fingerling to new potatoes to sweet potatoes, are capable of growing in a thick layer of straw. However, this doesn’t mean you can choose any cultivar and hope for the best.
Consider using a potato cultivar depending on what you plan to cook with them. Potato plants have different starch levels, so the ones that are good for mashing won’t necessarily be the best for cutting into French fries.
There are dozens of potato varieties. Try to narrow your choices down to only a few, and then winnow them down even further after considering how early you plan to harvest during the growing season.
These root veggies have different days to maturity. Some are ready at the beginning of summer, and others won’t be ready until early fall. Overall, the best option is to choose heirloom varieties or cultivars that have resistance to certain pests and diseases.
Steps for How to Grow Potatoes in Straw
Growing potatoes in hay is different from traditional gardening in a potato bed. It is crucial to remember that you always have to use a hilling method even if you are growing potatoes in containers with straw. Instead of using bark mulch, use straw from hay bales instead.
Prepare for Planting Potatoes
Whether working in an outdoor garden bed, using grow bags, a raised bed, or a container, ensure that you only work with disease-free soil. Potting soil for potato vines is available at your local garden center.
Do not purchase and plant potatoes from the grocery store, as they are often sprayed with growth inhibitors. You may also pick up seed pieces or use spuds with tubers for planting. We recommend using seed potatoes when possible, although you can grow a potato from a potato just as easily. A seed potato is a potato used specifically for potato growing.
If using an outdoor potato bed, getting potatoes ready to plant includes making sure to practice crop rotation to keep diseases, like scab and mildew, from attacking your crops. You may also amend the top of the soil with lots of rich organic matter.
About two months before planting, lay some black plastic over the top of the earth to kill any weeds in the area. Rake up the debris and pull any that remain.
The Time to Plant Potatoes in Straw
What is the best time to plant seed potatoes? In general, try to have the area prepped about four to six weeks before the last frost of winter. However, some people plant them in the early, middle, and late months of the season to access fresh potatoes year-round.
Prepare the Holes
Once you find a site with full sun, head out to the beds and mark where you want to plant the potatoes. Dig several four-inch holes into the ground and keep two feet of spacing between each hole. Once you’ve dug all the holes, dump a small amount of compost into each one.
If you are short on garden space, plant potatoes in a bucket with straw. The principles are the same.
Plant the Sprouted Potatoes
Mix some of your soil and compost before putting your spud into the hole. When you work with smaller potatoes, you lessen the chance of them rotting if the weather is damper than usual.
Lay all of the potatoes out before you cover them up. This strategy allows you to see where they are and prevents you from stepping on and damaging them.
Cover up your potato tubers with a large amount of soil and create a slight hilled mound around each one. Don’t worry about using too much soil. This moment is where your straw bale comes into play.
Creating Hilled Straw Mounds
Once you’ve lightly mounded some dirt around each potato, take a large amount of hay or grass clippings and start mulching up and around them even further so there is a thick layer and hill around each hole.
It is best to use straw and not hay because hay tends to have more seeds and creates more weeds that could damage the potato root system.
Caring for the Potato Plants
As the spuds start sprouting and growing, continue to add additional straw to the mounds and keep the spuds completely shaded from the sun. Water the plants several times per week, adjusting the amount depending on rainfall. Stop watering as much once the flowers begin to fade. This is a sign that they’re almost ready for harvest.
Regularly watch out for potato pests and diseases, including pests like potato beetles and slugs. To combat them, create your own DIY Slug Killer that works on snails, ants, and flies as well.
In a spray bottle, stir one part vinegar with three parts water and a few drops of dish soap. Once mixed well, spray the base of your infested plants. Treat the leaves directly for heavier infestations.
How to Harvest Potatoes Grown in Straw
How fast do potatoes grow? The average potato takes about three months until harvest time. Potato plants are ready to harvest once the tops brown and wither. To harvest them, loosen the straw and soil from around each spud. Be careful not to damage, cut, or bruise them when working the soil and lifting them from the ground.
When you dig them up, the skins should be thick and firmly attached to the inner flesh. Allow the harvested crops to cure for about two weeks in a room between 45°F and 60°F.
The potatoes will turn green when they sit in the sun too long and are not edible when they’re that color. Allow plenty of air circulation – never store potatoes in a container without ventilation.
Gardening doesn’t have to be a challenging hobby with backbreaking work. Some of the most productive crops require minimal effort. That’s exactly what happens when you choose to plant potatoes in straw.
Straw is the perfect hilling material that gives the crops plenty of air circulation and minimizes the chance of diseases. On top of that, straw is incredibly cheap and lightweight. At the end of the growing season, you’ll have baskets full of fresh potatoes and feel proud that you grew such large vegetables with your own two hands.
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