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Potato Growing Methods

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Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/10/2012, 1:53 am

Potato Growing Methods

Here are 8 methods of growing potatoes all in one handy guide.

AND - If you would like to participate in a project, I’d love your help!
Pick one of the methods and tell me what your yield was. Tell me by counting your potatoes and/or weighing them. Then we can compare and make some generalizations how successful each method is. Please include if you used Mel’s Mix or not. For example, I want to allow for the fact that some folks grow large amounts of taters and/or prefer to put them in the ground, in regular soil. That’s fine also. It will be interesting and fun to see a fair comparison, yet be mindful of the many variables affecting outcome, like weather, pests, watering, differences in compost, etc. Personal note, I grew my first potatoes in 2011, they were beautiful and I was extremely pleased. Yes, they were delicious.
At the end of the 8 methods you will see some potato varieties along with fun facts and thoughts.

OK Here We Go!
A - Of course the Square Foot Gardening Method is the first one to discuss. To get started please refer to pages 221-222 in the All New Square Foot Gardening book. This is the method I used. Mel explains it very well. Let’s pretend you are planting one square of potatoes. The only thing I can add to Mel’s thoughts is to have a pail ready. You see, if all the other squares are planted, you will be scooping out nearly all of the mix in one square foot or more, and temporarily need to put it someplace. That’s done, now leave about one inch of Mel’s Mix in the bottom of the box. Then place the potato seed pieces on top of Mel’s Mix. Space the seed pieces apart as Mel describes and barely cover them. Keep that pail of mix handy and cover the sprouts as they grow. If your sf box height is six inches you can still grow your potato stems taller and get more taters. Refer to page 61 to add a high rise box, then keep adding mix. Mel covers harvesting tips too.

The 7 Other Ways to Plant Potatoes
The following methods are descriptions from Organic Gardening Test Plots in Pennsylvania using German Butterball seed potatoes. Please note these plots DID NOT use Mel’s Mix. In 5 of the techniques, a mix of 2 parts topsoil to 1 part compost was used. Benefits and drawbacks are included.

1. Hilled Rows
Dig straight, shallow trenches, 2 to 3 feet apart, in prepared soil. Plant seed potatoes 12 inches apart and cover with about 3 inches of soil. When the shoots reach 10 to 12 inches tall, use a hoe or shovel to scoop soil from between rows and mound it against the plants, burying the stems halfway. Repeat as needed through the growing season to keep the tubers covered.
Pros: No containers to buy or build; no soil to transport. This is a simple, inexpensive, and proven method that farmers have used for millennia. Practical for large-scale plantings.
Cons: Yield may be limited by the quality of the soil. In places where the soil is badly compacted or low in organic matter, one of the aboveground techniques might work better.

2. Straw Mulch
Place seed potatoes on the surface of prepared soil, following the spacing specified for hilled rows, and cover them with 3 to 4 inches of loose, seed-free straw. Mound more straw around the stems as they grow, eventually creating a layer a foot or more in depth.
Pros: The thick mulch conserves soil moisture and smothers weeds. Harvest is effortless with no digging. This method is suggested as a way to thwart Colorado potato beetle.
Cons: Yield in the test plot was slightly less than in the hilled row. Field mice have been known to use the cover of straw to consume the crop.

3. Raised Bed
Loosen the soil in the bottom of a half-filled raised bed. Space seed potatoes about 12 inches apart in all directions and bury them 3 inches deep. As the potatoes grow, add more soil until the bed is filled. If possible, simplify harvest by removing the sides.
Pros: This method yielded the largest harvest in the trials, and the potatoes were uniformly large. Raised beds are a good choice where the garden soil is heavy and poorly drained.
Cons: The soil to fill the bed has to come from somewhere—and it takes a lot.

4. Grow Bag
Commercial growing bags are constructed of heavy, dense polypropylene. Put a few inches of a soil-compost mixture in the bottom of a bag, then plant 3 or 4 seed potato pieces and cover with 3 inches of soil. Continue adding soil as the plants grow until the bag is filled. To harvest, turn the bag on its side and dump out the contents.
Pros: Grow Bags can be placed on patios or driveways or used where garden soil is of inferior quality. The bags should last for several growing seasons. Their dark color captured solar heat to speed early growth. Harvest was simple, and the yield was impressive, considering the small space each bag occupies.
Cons: This is a pricy technique. The brand of bag costs $12.95.

5. Garbage Bag
Plant a large plastic garbage bag following the instruction for a Grow Bag, punching a few holes through the plastic for drainage. Roll the top edge of the bag to help it stay upright; otherwise the bag is prone to sag and spill soil. To harvest, rip the bag and dump out the contents.
Pros: Like the Grow Bags, a garbage bag can be employed where in-ground growing is not an option. Black bags capture solar heat to speed early growth.
Cons: Aesthetically, this is the least appealing choice. Yield was meager, perhaps because the thin plastic allowed the soil to heat up too much, limiting tuber formation.

6. Wood Box
Following instructions found online at irisheyesgardenseeds.com/growers1, build a bottomless square box (I used lumber from discarded pallets). Plant the same as for a raised bed. The box is designed so additional slats can be screwed to the sides as the plants grow and soil is added. In theory, a bottom slat can be temporarily removed to facilitate the harvest of new potatoes. For the final harvest, tip the box and dump out its contents.
Pros: This is another raised strategy for growing potatoes where the garden soil is of poor quality. Yield was similar in quantity to that of a raised bed.
Cons: A lot of time and effort went into the construction of the box. I felt the results did not justify the effort.

7. Wire Cylinder
Using hardware cloth with ¼-inch mesh, fashion a cylinder about 18 inches in diameter and 24 inches tall. Put several inches of soil in the bottom, then plant 3 or 4 seed potatoes and cover them with 3 inches of soil. Continue to add soil as the potatoes grow. To harvest, lift the cylinder and pull the soil back to expose the tubers.
Pros: In a climate with incessant spring rains, the wire mesh would provide excellent drainage and prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged. This is another raised technique to consider where garden soil is poor.
Cons: Harvested a limited number of undersized tubers from the cylinders—a dismal showing, probably because the soil-compost mixture used dried out so quickly that the plants lacked adequate moisture.

Some potato varieties:

Yukon Gold Early to Mid season Large, yellow-fleshed variety. They are excellent baked, boiled, or mashed. These potatos store well.
Superior Mid season Good baked, boiled, or mashed. Resistant to potato scab.
Red Pontiac Late maturing High yields, large round potatoes, easy to grow, stores well.
Kennebec Late maturing Excellent producer, large potatoes, great for baking or frying, stores well.
Russet Norkotah Late maturing Excellent baking potato, excellent producer, large potatoes.
White Rose Early to Mid season Good producer, good for cooking, doesn't store well.
Russet Mid season Excellent producer, excellent baking potato, large potatoes, excellent for storage.
Norland Early maturing Red skin, white flesh, excellent when boiled, fried, or mashed, stores well.

Early Maturing in days = about 65-95 days
Mid Season = about 95 – 115 days
Late Maturing = about 115 -135 days

--What is a good yield? For one pound of seed potatoes I am finding estimates anywhere from 5 to 8 to 10 times as much as you planted.

--What’s the deal with green potatoes? Green taters are fine for planting. The green tissue contains solanine, it is a toxic glycoalkaloid. This is similar to nicotine produced by tobacco, the potato’s cousin crop. (who knew this?) You would have to eat 2 pounds or more of very green potato tubers to get seriously sick. These green taters are bitter so this would be difficult to do. If a tuber has just a small, shallow green area, it’s fine to cut it away and eat the rest.

--What about growing taters in tires?
There is concern over rubber tires having other things in it that can leach into your food, so I did not include this method.

--Potato leaves and potato eyes are poisonous


--Colorado Potato Beetles and straw: these beetles travel by walking. The straw acts as an obstacle course.

--There are over 1000 varieties of potatoes classified by shape and skin color.

--Don’t forget your state agricultural extension service for local advice when choosing a variety best suited for your area.

--That’s it for now, hope enjoyed and learned something, I learned a lot. If you find mistakes or something I whole heartedly welcome your comments.

Llama Momma


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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/10/2012, 6:12 am

Here is method number 8 using a 30 gallon garbage can.

Now for the final count. We have Mel's Method and 8 others!

http://www.ehow.com/how_2222722_grow-potatoes-garbage-can.html

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  RoOsTeR on 1/10/2012, 7:54 am

Lot's of great information here llama! Thanks for taking the time to write it up...again!
I've usually done the hill method and variations of it. My results have usually been very good, and I honestly doubt it's cause I know what I'm doing Razz
Ha-v-v sent me a seed potato link to some nice seed taters. This place turned out to be in Colorado! I never knew it existed.
I then started wondering if some of my tater luck could possibly have something to do with possibly obtaining seed taters that are close to the source. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the potatoes I buy at my local nursery come from that farm They sell some of the very potatoes I buy.


http://www.potatogarden.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=PG&Product_Code=77MAJ&Category_Code=NSPEarly


You can count me in for the hill/row method. I will probably put some in the ground with heavily composted steer and horse manure as I have tons of it. Then, I will most likely be doing barrels with Mel's Mix.

Thanks for all the great information llama!


Last edited by nKedrOoStEr on 1/10/2012, 9:08 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  walshevak on 1/10/2012, 9:02 am

snip "What about growing taters in tires?
There is concern over rubber tires having other things in it that can leach into your food, so I did not include this method"

Can the tires be used to support the thin garbage bags and offer extra insulation? Also, I understand the tires can be painted to make them more pleasing. I've used them for flowers but not for veggies.

Kay

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/10/2012, 9:09 am

I think we all know to measure yield, we need to keep the variety of the potato the same, right? And, it's growing conditions need to be kept as close as possible. Trying to keep everything the same except what you do to the soil. That would be a fun experiment.

I like the write-up. Packed with stuff. Great job, mamma!

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/10/2012, 10:19 am

walshevak -

I don't claim to be Potato Queen! Ha! But re: tires - I read the old tires had all rubber in them, the new tires have other components that could leach out and be absorbed by your plants and/or soil. You would need to look up what those components are. I can't find it quick right now. Please share that info if you find it ok? But from my recent little study I went all over the net, and it left me uncomfortable to promote the tire method. In the end, it is your decision. Smile

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  staf74 on 1/10/2012, 10:40 am

Great spud post by the way Llamma

Re: Tires. I've read both sides of the argument and decided to go with them in addition to my SFG and row hilling. So I'm going for 3 ways I guess.

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/sanders98.html

Apparently the rubber is so tightly bonded that chemicals don't leach out but depends on your source of info I guess. They are made to be waterproof and need to be intact with no steel showing if you do choose this method. However, I totally understand and respect the caution others might have. Anyhow, don't want to de-rail a perfectly great tater thread as we have had some older threads on tires already but here is a nice balanced article here that looks at BOTH sides.

http://www.thegreenestdollar.com/2009/03/how-to-recycle-tires-in-your-garden/

Happy Spudding

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  littlesapphire on 1/10/2012, 10:54 am

I'll help out! I'm going to try six squares of Mel's method (in 6 inches of MM). I'm also going to try planting some tators in some tall buckets (they're the shape of 5 gallon buckets, only maybe 50% taller. So 7.5 gallon buckets? lol).

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/10/2012, 11:37 am

Fantastic input from everyone so far!
Thanks for all the nice comments. Welcome littlesaphire!

BBG
If you want your own thread that contains just a specific variety of potato being used in a particular growing method, then by all means Please give your thread a name and run with it! We can always get the results compiled later for our tentatively named, "SFG: Potato Go To Guide"
I simply have a problem with restricting everyone to a specific variety because I'd like as many people as possible to get involved. Hope this makes sense!


Last edited by llama momma on 1/10/2012, 11:38 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : the usual, spelling, trying to make sense, etc)

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  HillbillyBob on 1/10/2012, 11:39 am

Hummmmmm nice job this thread should become a sticky,

I tried the box last year,with Yukon Gold seed potatoes we got lots of plants but only a couple really small potatoes so I'm planning to plant as #1 in drit this year Embarassed

with Yukon Gold again But I'm going to plant earlier than normal and try to protect the plants from frost,with row covers. affraid this could be another ideal that doesn't work to good.

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/10/2012, 12:57 pm

Thanks Staff and HillyBob

Please note that Boffer and I talked and he is taking over the garbage can method of our potato study. He started already and is calling it Garbage Can Potatoes Take a look if this method is interesting to you! Go Boffer!

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  Glendale-gardener on 1/10/2012, 3:09 pm

I did the bag method last year with limited success. I was a little overwhelmed in my first SFG season and the potatoes did not get the watering attention that they required. Being in the bags, they dried out a lot faster than my SFG's did.

So this year, I'm trying the bag method again only #1, I'm going to make sure all the bags are butted up against each other in a row and locate them by my SFG so they won't get as much air circulation drying them out and they'll get more attention from me and my watering can. #2 I'm making new bags that are stronger and double seamed so I won't have the problems of them splitting. (made them out of fabric-style weed cloth) But they should be fine because they won't get moved around this year.

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  NorthWoodsFever on 1/10/2012, 7:29 pm

LOVE this thread! Count me in for the hill/row method as well. Very Happy

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/11/2012, 11:58 am

NorthWoodsFever
Glad you are enjoying this thread!
I will be dedicating several squares in my boxes, this time paying attention to not only the number of taters but also the weight at harvest. Can use everyone's input, glad to have you onboard.

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  FamilyGardening on 1/11/2012, 1:44 pm

this year we are going to plant taters:

1. in our SFG

2. in our raised beds- 2nd garden

3. straight into the ground

last year we planted:

in two garbage cans

in two wine barrels

hugs

rose who loves her taters!!

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Re: Potato Growing Methods

Post  llama momma on 1/11/2012, 3:54 pm

Glendale-Gardener and FamilyGardening Great! The more people the merrier and everyone's results will be tallied, this is wonderful!

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