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Growing potatoes the easy way - under straw.

I have come home. I now live in a very rural town in the southern part of Tennessee. This is where I was born but not where I have spent my life. The memories of the times as a child have been very powerful. How we made molasses candy, baked sweet potatoes in the ashes in the fireplace and the gardens we raised, have all come flooding back. I wanted to raise all the things my grandmother raised. I have my own sage plants, which were a "must", and elephant garlic, but I wanted my own potato patch. Around here potato growing is a back-breaking job. First they plow deep furrows, then plant the potatoes, then hill everything up in big hills with deep valleys between. Since I still work, I just did not have the time or energy to do all that.

I had heard of raising potatoes under hay, so I decided to try it. The first hay I could get was a big round bale. The only way I could move it was to unroll it, so I unrolled it on the potato row. That summer I found the hay was mostly wild carrots and ragweed.

The next year I used new wheat straw; it looked like spun gold. The potatoes like to never have come up

The third year I had it all together. I got my wheat straw in the fall and stacked it in the turkey pen all winter. The next spring I tilled my spat in the garden so it would be smooth. I cut the eyes off the seed potatoes a few days before planting time. Here, planting time is the day in March that the sign is in the feet and it is the dark of the moon. After the potatoes have slightly dried and toughened, lay them about eight inches apart in rows about 12 inches apart. Not only does this save space but it is all the room you will need. I can put five rows in about six feet of my precious space. I can see if the row is straight because they are all in plain sight.

Then cover with the wheat straw that has begun to turn dark. Make the straw thick, about a foot thick, because it will pack down.

They will take about three weeks to come up, but frost or even a freeze will not hurt them. They will just come back out.

When they start to bloom, lift up the hay and pick a few new potatoes, then

replace the hay and they will keep growing.

I always plant Kennebecs, because I like white potatoes and they keep well. From 25 pounds I will harvest from 175 to 200 pounds.

One big advantage to this method is there is no cultivating; weeds don't come up through the hay and potato bugs don't come up from the soil. When the plants turn yellow, around the 4th of July in my climate, take a digging fork and turn the hay over. I use three buckets and sort the potatoes as, I go, small, medium and large. They are clean, not dirty as they would be in soil, and not small either. Some of them weigh over a pound. The straw stays and enriches the soil.

When I started my garden it was yellow clan, and rocks. I still have the rocks, although I have picked them up for five years now, but the soil is becoming the kind of top soil I can raise anything in. This is an excellent way for older people to raise potatoes without the back-breaking work usually needed. I hope this information helps someone as it has helped me.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ivey, Peggy C.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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