Most potatoes aren't too picky. They'll just as happily grow in some well-prepared straw as they will in the ground. In fact, growing tubers in straw can result in a better crop because the straw retains moisture and keeps potatoes cooler, according to the University of Illinois. The technique works for most potato types, but Master Gardener Steve Healy at Colorado State University recommends early varieties such as Superior or Norgold Russet. Plant your potatoes at least four weeks before the last frost of the season, usually around April for most U.S. regions.
Buy seed potatoes from your garden specialists. Make sure you buy seed potatoes and don't just use ones from the grocer as these can spread disease or grow less vigorously.
Cut seed potatoes into egg-sized pieces, each with a little bud eyelet. Leave on a countertop at room temperature so the cut side seals and hardens.
Till a section of ground big enough to hold your potato plants to a couple of inches deep. Expect around 15 potatoes per plant. Add compost to the soil and turn into the earth. Place one of the seed potato pieces on the ground with the eye bud facing up. Add more potato pieces, spaced about a foot apart.
Pull apart a straw bale and place a 6-inch straw layer loosely on top of the seed potatoes. Water the straw until thoroughly moist. Continue to water whenever the straw looks dry. Alternatively, place a small bale on top of the soil and cover in a layer of compost. Cut into the bale to loosen the tightly bound straw and insert seed potatoes.
Add more straw to the stack as the material rots and the potato plants push through the surface. Harvest according to your potato seed pack instructions, but look for withered, brown potato leaves and stalks as a sign that potatoes are ready to pick. Pluck the potatoes from the straw pile or the interior of the bale.
Things You Will Need
- Rectangular straw bale
- Discard any green potatoes as these have been exposed to sunlight and contain high levels of toxic solanine.