How to Plant Potatoes in Straw Bales
Few backyard vegetable crops yield as much of a harvest in as little space as the potato, according to Colorado State University. Some gardeners may balk at the idea of growing potatoes due to the traditionally hard labor involved with digging them out of the ground to harvest them. To overcome this, the university suggests planting potatoes in straw. The result is a dig-free harvest of clean, dirt-free potato tubers.
Dig a trench in the ground as soon as the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F or higher. Potatoes germinate best at this temperature, according to Cornell University. Dig the trench 4 inches deep and 12 inches across.
Fertilize the trench with all-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer. Cornell University recommends spreading the fertilizer at a rate of 1 lb. for every 25 feet of the trench. After spreading, mix the fertilizer into the top 2 inches of soil in the bottom of the trench.
Prepare the seed potatoes for planting. Potatoes should be approximately the size of golf balls. If they're larger, cut them into smaller pieces, with each piece having at least one eye (the dot on the potato where the new vine will sprout). If your potatoes need cutting, cut them the day before you need to plant them, according to Colorado State University.
Plant the potatoes. Push each seed potato 1/2 inch into the surface of the soil at the bottom of the trench. Orient the potato so its eye is facing the sky. Separate each potato by 12 inches.
Fill the trench with 6 inches of straw. To avoid problems, Colorado State University suggests always using weed-free, clean straw bales.
Water the straw once a day to keep it evenly moist. As the potatoes at the bottom of the trench grow, they'll grow upward through the straw. Once they break the surface of the straw, add 6 more inches of straw to create a mound.
Harvest the potatoes 14 days after the vine has died in the fall, according to Cornell University. No digging is necessary. Use your hands to pull back the straw to reveal the potatoes sitting in it.
The moist straw creates a dark growing environment and tricks the potato vine into thinking it's underground. The vine produces its tubers in the straw instead of in the soil.
- "How to Grow Potatoes: A Practical Gardening Guide for Great Results"; Richard Bird; 2009