Planting Experimental Potatoes6
Since it didn’t snow yesterday (yes!) I spent some time planting potatoes and lettuce in the main garden. Lettuce will go in under plastic row covers in some of our narrow beds (2′ x 12′), along with spinach which overwintered and is already growing. I’m scheduled to plant lettuce in two additional narrow beds on the hugelkultur side of the garden… the problem is, they’ve not yet been built. (This past December we put in 4′ x 12′ hugelkultur beds but skipped the 2′ x 12’s since they were too narrow to dig with the bobcat.) I guess I better grab my shovel and get on that…
Meanwhile, I cleared a blanket of leaves that have been keeping fall-planted onions sung over the winter.
I was also able to plant some taters. These are ‘experimental’ potatoes in that:
- I’m planting eyes from spuds we purchased at the grocery store.
- I’m planting them in hay.
- I’m planting them outside the fence, intermingled with garlic in hopes that the deer will be deterred by the garlicky smell.
Planting from Potatoes that Sprout in the Cupboard
From everything I’ve read, the most reliable way to get great potatoes is by buying seed potatoes. That’s because some potatoes you buy at the grocery store have been sprayed with a chemical sprout inhibitor to keep them looking tip-top on the grocery shelf. Despite all of this sound advice, the potatoes we grew in our very first garden came from store-bought potatoes… and they were delicious! We typically buy organic potatoes so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Fortunately twice now I’ve discovered forgotten potatoes in the pantry with some hefty eyes on them. In one case I was able to simply cut the eyes out, store them in a brown paper bag, and use the potatoes for dinner. The other time they were way too far gone to be eaten. This afternoon I planted those whole. No waste here!
Planting Potatoes in Hay
Ever heard of planting potatoes in hay? The benefit is that its easy to “mound” the potatoes with more soil (ok, hay really) and its super easy to dig the potatoes up when they are ready to harvest. The danger in planting with hay (or straw) is that you have to make sure the potatoes stay covered so that no light gets to them. Potatoes exposed to too much sun will go green and become toxic. (Don’t eat green potatoes!) I planted our “experimental” potatoes in 1 foot deep holes outside the Main Garden fence and piled on about 8-10″ of composted waste hay from Nacho’s (the bunny) cage. Nacho’s hay (and poo) has been composting all winter in a special bin. I think the recent sunshine has kicked the process into overtime because a good deal of it has already turned into soil.
At any rate, here’s a video about how and why to plant potatoes in hay.
Keeping Taters Safe from Critters
I’ve done some research about what deer will and won’t eat. Turns out – during cold weather when plants are scarce – they’ll eat anything green they can get to. During more abundant seasons, there are some things they’ll avoid, including onions and garlic. I’m interested in growing lots of storage potatoes this year but just don’t have the kind of room I need in our raised beds. So I decided to do a little experiment and place a few potato plants between sections of garlic. So now on the west side of the Main Garden I have alternating plantings along the fence – about four feet of garlic (which is coming up beautifully already!) and about four feet of potato plants (1 per square foot). I plan to direct seed a few scallions in with the potatoes for extra insurance. Here’s hoping these city deer won’t get too curious!
Anyone out there have advice on how to best grow potatoes? Have you tried planting in hay or straw? I’d love to hear your thoughts!