Growing Potatoes: The Straw Mulch Method
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“Now seeds, start growing.” So says Toad, moments after Frog has helped him plant his first garden. Well, after an unusually cold, rainy June, I’m finally seeing some vigorous growth out there, particularly the lettuces and potatoes. Our dinner salads have been spectacular, thanks to five varieties of butterhead, romaine and leaf lettuces, spinach, and watercress. Growing potatoes requires more patience, of course, and the plants themselves aren’t edible, but they’re growing tall and thriving.
There are two basic methods of cultivating potatoes. The idea is, the more of the stem that’s buried, the more potential there is for tuber development. Gardeners can take advantage of this by gradually covering the lower part of the stems as the plants grow. One way to do this is by planting the potatoes in a trench, then gradually filling in the trench with soil. The other method is planting shallowly, then mulching with layers of straw.
I’ve tried both. If you have access to straw, I highly recommend the mulch method.
The reason is one of practicality: straw is lighter than soil, and easier to move. To “dig” your potatoes in the fall, simply lift the layers of straw away and find the tubers. Most of them will be lying right on top of the soil, with little real digging required.
My potato plants are now almost two feet tall, and I’ve mulched them three times so far. I’ll keep adding new layers as the old ones become saturated and settle. I’ve planted three varieties, and one is blossoming already with pretty lilac flowers. Now, my job for the next few weeks is to keep the ground moist and the potato beetles away.