How to Plant Potatoes in Straw.
Container Planting.

The fella sometimes travels for work.

On his last walkabout a few years ago the fella headed to Saskatchewan where he lived for 6 months, flying home every 16 days.  He lived in a typical, small Prairie town.  How small?  I went to visit him once and he wouldn’t let me carry my purse to the town restaurant/bar/variety store/video rental place.  Apparently carrying a purse, or anything other than a hoof pick, would have immediately pegged me as an outsider.  It would have been “embarrassing”.   To carry a purse.  Into a restaurant/bar/variety store/video rental place.

So I didn’t.  Because I’m nothing if not accommodating.  Plus, you’ve never seen anyone pitch a fit like the fella when he gets worked up.

On this same trip, in this same town, the fella went into the grocery store/garden centre/travel agency to pick up a few things for dinner.  He was making meatloaf and he wanted mashed potatoes with it.  So he grabbed a few potatoes and took them up to the cash.  Thelba, or whatever her name was, started to ring him up and asked him how long he was planning on staying in town.   He said he wasn’t sure, but he wanted to get home to make dinner.  Thelba said “You aren’t plannin’ on eatin’ them potatoes are ya?  Them there are seed potatoes fella.”  To which the fella replied, Yeah, yeah.  Seed potatoes.  Whatever.  Ring ’em up.    Thelba then explained to the fella They’re for crops.  For planting.   She was very nice about it apparently, but I’m sure all the while Thelba was thinking, “Holy shit Mr. City, all you’re missing is the purse”.

And that is my seed potato story.

SO!  You wanna plant potatoes but you don’t have any room?  You only have a balcony?  Most of your yard real estate is taken up  by decorative Gnomes and a shuffleboard court?  No problem.

You can plant potatoes in half bushel baskets, with 6″ of dirt and a bunch of straw.

And here’s how …

The first thing you have to do is get yourself seed potatoes.  You can get them this time of year at garden centres, seed stores and sometimes even hardware stores carry them.  Seed potatoes have been guaranteed to be disease free.  If you buy potatoes from the grocery store that happen to grow eyes, you aren’t guaranteed they’ll be disease free and grow into nice healthy potatoes.  But … chances are they will.

How To Plant

 

Howevever, I want to know EXACTLY what kind of potato I’m growing so I bought a variety of interesting certified seed potatoes.

One of the varieties I’m growing are French Fingerlings.  They’re long, small fingerling potatoes with a pink swirl inside.

French Fingerling

 

Just for fun, I’m also growing a batch of Russian Blue potatoes.  They’re one of the varieties with the blue, almost black skin.

Russian Blue

 

Most exciting, is the fact that the inside is the same colour!  I’m so excited about growing these I could cry.  I’m potato geeking out over these.

Russian Blue 2

 

I’m also growing Yukon Golds and the most perfect potato ever made, The Kennebec.

Once you get your seed potatoes, you need to cut them.  Depending on the size of the potato, you’ll cut them into half or even 3 or 4 times.  You want to make sure each chunk of potato has at least 2 eyes.  If the potato is small, just leave it without cutting it.

 

Platter Of Potatoes

 

Then let your potatoes heal for a few days.  Some people say 2 days others say a week.  I’ll leave it up to you.  The cuts need to scab over so they don’t rot or get bacteria/disease in them when you plant them.  So make sure you cut them several days before you plan to plant them.  After a week … they’ll look all grody.  Like this.

Potato Platter Old

 

Now’s the fun part.  Planting.  Fill your half bushel basket (ask at your grocery store or farmer’s market for them) with 6 inches of soil.  I used half compost and half CONTAINER SOIL.  Not, garden soil!  Whenever you’re planting in a container … you should use container soil.

Basket 1

 

Push your seed potatoes (I’m going with 3 of them in the basket) half way into the soil.

 

Then push the soil back over them, so they’re halfways down in the dirt.  Give them a good water and leave them.  Like most vegetables, they need 6-8 hours of sun a day.

Basket 3

 

Stick them anywhere you have space and sunlight.  If you just have a balcony stick them out there.  If you have a yard that only gets sun on one side in the morning and sun on the other side in the afternoon, these containers are light enough you can just move them throughout the day.

Final

 

After a week or two, you’ll see the potato plants starting to grow out, above the soil.  Let them grow until there’s about 6″ – 8″  of growth sticking up.  Then it’s time to “hill” them.  You can either do this with more container soil and compost OR you can use partially decomposed straw.  The reason it’s better to use partially decomposed straw is because you’ll be able to smash it down tighter than fresh straw.  You don’t want a lot of air pockets, you want to use a LOT of straw and smash it down.

To hill potatoes just fill in around all the stems and lower leaves of the potatoes with your soil or straw.  Only the top set of leaves should be showing when you’re done.

When the potatoes have grown another 6″ – 8″, hill them again.

Basket 2

 

I plan to test all the potato planting methods this year.  I’m doing them in half bushel baskets with straw, like you see here, I’m doing them in half bushels with all soil, and the traditional potato planting method of trenches and then hilling them in a regular garden bed.

 

Potatoes are fine to plant in cool weather so if you’re in Southern Ontario or a similar Zone 5/6 climate … now’s the time to plant potatoes!  I have a LOT of potato planting ahead of me.    But for now, I’m getting kindda hungry.  I’m thinking of making meatloaf for dinner tonight.  With some nice mashed potatoes.  As luck would have it, I happen to be out of potatoes, so I’ll have to run to the store to get some.  And yes.  I am going to carry my purse.

 

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78 Comments

  1. What is it about Kennebecs that make them your favourite? How far in advance can you buy seed potatoes? My husband’s birthday is in March, and I’m considering buying him potatoes (they were his favourite thing to grow in our first-time vegetable garden last year). We’re in the same zone as you, so we’d be planting at the beginning of May.

  2. gloria says:

    I’ve searched but can’t find the follow up to this post. About harvesting and how these potatoes turned out. I’m pretty sure you wrote one, but I can’t seem to locate it.

    • Karen says:

      OH! Well I can tell you it didn’t work great but I think it was my fault. I think I packed the straw down too tight. It got so wet the plants just rotted from too much moisture. I’m doing another experiment with straw this year. Both in plastic planters (from Lee Valley) and in regular raised beds. I’ll let you know how it goes! ~ karen

      • gloria says:

        Uh-oh, that’s not good news. And now I’m sorry I lauded the idea of straw-hilling to so many people (based on your blog as well as many other sources) before seeing if it actually works. Well at least it may have gotten you some new readers, albeit possible disgruntled readers. But hey, they’re are no guarantees in gardening and you I don’t see that you offered any, so caveat emptor, I say. I have 5 containers of spuds and have started the first hilling up in 4 of them with straw. Luckily, I didn’t add the straw until after we had a week-long deluge. And I’m finding it difficult to even pack the straw down at all. Though the bales I got from an amused farmer are a year old, they’re still pretty perky and not wet or rotty at all. So…we’ll see. I’m hopeful. And I’m going to use soil only in the 5th container, which I planted later than the others. Guess it’s another experimental season. I seem to have a lot of those. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the update.

  3. Trudi says:

    I found this Site amusing and useful. ..well done. I am using pallet box method for planting my potatoes this year. Hoping this works well. Have u ever tried the laundry basket planting potatoes? ??

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Trudi! I haven’t tried planting in laundry baskets. My vegetable garden is on my front lawn so I avoid planting in things like laundry baskets and old tires for the sake of my neighbours, lol. I’ve found the best way to plant the potatoes is really to just plant them in the ground, but the container planting is 10X more convenient when it comes time to harvest them. ~ karen!

  4. Jody says:

    I’m sure I have asked this before but I cannot find the answer (but it has been fun scrolling through your old posts). Where do you get your straw?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jody – I get it at Quick Feed (The Copetown Feed store). Around $4 a bale. ~ karen!

      • Ming says:

        The straw you are putting on your organic garden is full of weed killer. No one will tell you that, unless you push them to tell the truth. Even the straw sold at Tractor Supply, in big bags, has weed killer in it. The only place that sells ORGANIC Straw, chopped small is Greenhouse Mega Store.

  5. ~gloria says:

    Oops, I kind of let things slip this past week and now my potato cuts are moldy as all get out. You said grody, you mentioned nothing about moldy. I’m talking furry mold. Should I be concerned? Should I wipe this off, or give them a hair cut or what? Just please don’t tell me I have to start over, I’m already way behind.

  6. Deb says:

    Hi there….

    Looking into growing potato’s this year and wondering which method you would recommend?

    was wondering if you did the basket / straw method last year?

    You are giving me inspiration to grow more of our own food!!!

    THanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Deb – I’ve tried a few methods for potato growing. In baskets with straw and straight in the soil/trenches. I found benefits to both. Straw was cleaner and produced potatoes with less scarring and blemishes while the potatoes planted in an earth trench seemed to grow bigger and there were more of them. I’m so glad you’re growing your own food. Other than having far more nutrients because you’re eating it the moment you pick it, it’s just plain fun to be able to go outside to your produce section and decide what to have for dinner. ~ karen!

  7. Donealia says:

    Hi new to this idea and was wondering would it be possible to grow these inside. I live in an apartment and dont even have a balcony. I would love to try this for my daughter and me. Would take very few potatoe seeds to make enough for us.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Donealla! I’m afraid you wouldn’t have very much luck growing potatoes indoors unless you also installed a HUGE amount of grow lights. And even then I don’t think it would work. Most vegetables need an immense amount of natural sunlight to gather the energy they need to produce fruit (vegetables). I do have an idea for you though. Many, many towns and cities have community gardens that you can rent a plot at. Some are even free. Most plots are priced VERY reasonably. In addition to my front yard vegetable garden I also have a 20 x 40 foot community garden plot and it only costs $50 to rent for the entire year. Smaller plots are even less expensive. If you’re curious about growing fun things like potatoes, it’s something I think might be worth your while to look into. ~ karen!

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