Can you use grass to mound potato plants?

gardener_dhJuly 17, 2009

Can you use just grass clippings mulched up from a lawn mower to mound up your potato plants? I heard you can use straw, so I figured grass was pretty close. But my potato plants that were growing well are starting to die. So, maybe it's not the same.

Underneath the dry grass on top, the grass is moist and moldy as its decomposing. Is OK or is this the cause of their dwindling? Any thoughts out there? Thanks.

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joe-il(5)

mine are completely under grass clippings, I set the seed potato on top of the ground and added thatch from my lawn after I dethatched it. I prefer to let the clippings dry so they are like hay, sometimes ,due to time I just throw them on the pile. It looks a little moldy and decomposing too, put have been pulling out nice/pristine spuds for a couple weeks now.

How long have your spuds been in the ground? Is it near harvest time?

heres a pic of mine , planted april 10th

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 7:57AM
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gardener_dh

Thanks for the info and the photo. What state are you in? I wonder if that makes a difference.

I have been letting the grass dry first too, but I read that if it's fresh, it gives them a good boost of Nitrogen. So, I'm not sure what's best.

I planted them in May but I haven't seen any signs of spuds yet. Maybe they're not getting enough water but the grass feels moist underneath. This is my first year planing potatoes, so I just don't know what else it would be. ??? Thanks, again.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 8:17AM
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lisazone6_ma(z6 MA)

Wouldn't the heat created as the grass breaks down hurt the plants? I've never grown potatoes, but am planning to next year and am in the process of learning about them, the different types, culture, etc. I was just wondering about the heat issue.

Lisa

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 9:41AM
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joe-il(5)

Gardener dh- I am in Illinois -near wisconsin border. Could be dry, seems to take a lot of water to get through all the mulch. You dont live on the east coast do you? With all that late blight going around it would effect potatoes also. Can you post a pic? Would help.

I have heard of potatoes being grown in straight clippings and were fine if not better than hay/straw. If you start them in the cooler months this would be a benefit. I mulch everything with green clippings and everything grows so much better it seems, heat never seemed to be a problem even when I had a lot of N on my yard and the clippings would get instantly hot. This is my first year growing spuds this way so I was being cautious. Next year I dont think I will bother but will need more clippings than I can get so it will be a mix of straw and clippings. The one thing you have to watch for when growing using the straw/hay method is rodents.

joe

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 11:14AM
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scully931(6)

For whatever it's worth (probably not much :-) I had never grown potatoes before this year. I bought a couple starters at a local garden center, stuck them in the ground and, one time after reading about it online, pulled some dirt and mulch up around them.

I really did VERY little. Just checked them yesterday expecting to find tiny little wormy things. They're GORGEOUS and HUGE! :-)

Meanwhile, the rest of the garden was hit by blight. But, at least I'll have potatoes!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 1:56PM
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gardener_dh

Thanks for the all the replies. I'm all ears. I'm in SW Missouri - haven't heard any talk about blight but not sure what it would look like.

My camera is broken right now - so I can't take a picture. They just kind of keel over and become limp - a couple have leaves that are browning at the edges.

I had wondered about heat, as I am still applying the grass clippings in mid July. Or it could be the water's not getting through the mulch. My kids have been watering, so I need to check into that.

My potato plants have yet to flower. Is that a necessary stage to signify potato growth? I dug up one of the plants that died and found no signs of spuds. Very disappointing when it appeared they were growing so well.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 10:10PM
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christie_sw_mo(Z6)

I was going to suggest digging one up then read you already had. Maybe the others will have some small potatoes at least.
I'm in southwest Missouri too. This was my first year to grow potatoes so I'm not quite an expert yet. I don't know about the grass but I think you planted them late for our area. They need cool weather. The heat wave we had around late June(?) was hard on them this year. Mine died back and I have already dug them. They mostly ranged in size from golf balls to tennis balls. I need to plant mine earlier next year too.
Gardenweb has a forum for gardening in the Ozarks that might be helpful to you. You can look up info on planting dates there and ask questions of course. Here's a link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Ozarks Region Gardening

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 10:02AM
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gardener_dh

Thank you, Christie. It's nice to hear from another Ozarkian. I will use the website in the future.

I did get one lead that I think is of value to all potential or practicing potato gardeners. I spoke to a fried of mine, a gentleman in his 60s, who is an experienced gardener. He told me that if you plant more than one type of potato in the same area, they often cross pollinate and you get great plants that never blossom or produce much in the way of spuds. He did that one year, and that's what happened to him.

Guess what I did? Plant both red and a type of white potato near each other in a small 6x4 plot. My symptoms exactly match what he described. So, that may be the problem. Wish I would have known before planting - but let others beware now. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 12:09AM
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richard30(6 Eastern MA.)

Well dh, thats just great news. This is my first time trying to grow potatoes. I purchased seed potato at the last minute and had to take what was left. I have 4 short rows of two different types (I believe Kennebec and Russert, not sure though). Lots of green leaves and some flowers are now setting. Now wondering if there will be anything underneath.

I started using fresh grass clippings after the potatoes were in the ground for a month and a half or so. There just wasn't enough loose dirt around to use for hills so I dumped the clippings on top. If I have disasterous results I will repost in a few months.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 10:32AM
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sfallen2002(z5 IA)

Planting diff types is not the problem. I do that every year, 3-4 plants, switch types, etc. Just now pulled a small handful - there _are_ spuds under there. My hills are pathetic - 4-6 inches tops, must add more. Soil, straw mostly.

If your plants aren't flowering then that's a problem since potatoes usually do.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 1:07PM
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joe-il(5)

When it got hot here they started to wilt some. So maybe heat is a factor. You can plant 4-6 weeks before the last frost date (here its may 15 and I planted april 10th) so for you it would probably be early march ? Mine got hit by frost on may 15 and some/most turned black and gooey. They really came back

You might want to try a fall crop which you could probably plant real soon. The straw or hay will keep them cool untill the weather cools down.

In that pic there are 2 types , red pontiac and youkon gold. I have been getting potatoes out of both. More so from the golds as they mature faster. The golds did not flower the pontiacs did. I dont think flowers mean much but when you do see them you know rosemary baby potatoes and bacon are around the corner. yum.

Joe

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 3:17PM
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eworrell606_comcast_net

I've planted red and purple together for 3 years and have not had a problem but now that I've seen it in print....the problem will happen this year!! I've been alternating peat and grass and they seem to be doing okay but it was a slow start this spring.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 2:12PM
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