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potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Posted by dowbright z6 in Missouri (My Page) on
Fri, May 2, 14 at 19:01

I have some straw, but a lot of wood chips. They've overwintered, but are by no means yet "aged." I'm wondering what you think if I try my first ever potatoes with some chips in the mix.

I've prepared the space by spreading a good mix of aged organic compost on the ground, then some potting mix I make, and that's all watered in. I've cut the seed potatoes and, good grief! They started sprouting overnight, as I was letting them get a callous! I have them now under lights to green up a little, as I read that helps. I've also read the opposite, but isn't that always how reading about gardening goes? :D

So. I'll lay them on the soil, and mound over with straw. The question is, will eventually including the wood chips (along with more straw) ruin my potatoes?

Any thoughts or advice welcome, as I only know from reading about it...I have no true feel for what will work! I love experiments, though, so this is great fun for me! Thanks. :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Why not plant the potatoes in the ground, then hill them with soil as they grow, then put straw on the hills to hold in moisture, protect the hills from erosion, and further protect the spuds from greening. That would be the fairly conventional way to do it.

I would highly recommend against putting any wood chips into your potato beds. When you dig the potatoes, the chips will get mixed into the soil, and that's what you don't want to do with wood chips. It depends upon your location, but laying chips on top of the soil works in many places, while mixing them in can rob nutrients and make the soil much less productive until they thoroughly break down, which can be years.

I've grown potatoes all three ways -- in the ground as I described earlier, just under hay (which sounds like you're planning) and in a bed that was mulched with wood chips (as an experiment :) ). The first option -- in ground with soil mounding and then hay mulch -- by FAR works the best. The hay-only method results in more green potatoes, and the wood chip bed worked for one year (fairly well) and then wouldn't grow anything after that. (because the chips were all mixed in after the digging)

Good luck and happy potato growing!


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

I agree with Elisa entirely. I would add that in preparing the beds this spring I dug up a few missed potatoes as one always does. They were sound, despite our unusually cold winter. This reminded me that where-they-grew is the best place to store potatoes; it's better than indoors, because in early spring indoor potatoes all start to sprout. Now they do need some protection (I'm actually getting to the point here) and the straw you use for mulching (better than chopped leaves because it stays in place) can be added to, once the leaves and stems die off, to provide about 18 inches of cover. But you do have to mark the bed, because when you go out to dig up a few potatoes for dinner in January, the snowscape will look totally unfamiliar. Regards, Peter.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

There are two main reasons to mulch potatoes. One is the nearly universal one of protecting/insulating the soil and roots, the other is to shield the poisonous little buggers (that are heaving themselves up from the surface) from sunlight.

Use whatever does that. Anything and everything. You can hill them with dirt; some people do that and it usually works just fine and others would only use mulch, which usually works just fine too. I think mulch works better. If it's wood chips, you can (if you want to) just scrape them away before yanking the plants out.

Unless you have a very well established mulch system going (like the Ruth Stout fans), it might be better to dig the seed in to the dirt rather than resting it on top, but if you've got the room, do both and see what works the best. I'm betting it's the dig-in, but who knows?


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Fri, May 2, 14 at 22:47

wood chips and potatoes works just fine. Maybe a little more nitrogen when you fertilize, that's it.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

@glib, what do you suggest for additional nitrogen?


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

elisa_Z5, I plan to use only straw for quite a while. Then I thought maybe I could mix straw with ¼ chips, just to expand its coverage. I don't think they'd be anywhere near the dirt, and I'm sure at the end of the season I would relocate the mix.

Do you think that would still be a big problem?


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Peter, your info about missed potatoes is exciting. But I'm such a noobie! I don't quite understand the explanation you gave.

You wrote:

This reminded me that where-they-grew is the best place to store potatoes; it's better than indoors, because in early spring indoor potatoes all start to sprout. Now they do need some protection (I'm actually getting to the point here) and the straw you use for mulching (better than chopped leaves because it stays in place) can be added to, once the leaves and stems die off, to provide about 18 inches of cover. But you do have to mark the bed, because when you go out to dig up a few potatoes for dinner in January, the snowscape will look totally unfamiliar. Regards, Peter.
---
I have nowhere good to store them, so this sounds terrific. But I don't quite understand what you mean. We're old, and neither of us will be venturing out to dig potatoes in January! So how can I use this info to start a good crop for the coming year?

Thanks to all! I'm so excited!


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Dear cold_weather_is_evil,

I am a massive Ruth Stout fan! In St. Louis, where I lived for 30 years, and had an abundance of fantastic soil due to years of heavy mulching, I probably wouldn't have these questions! I read her books over and over, just like old friends, not because I need new info from them. She just warms my heart.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Dear cold_weather_is_evil,

I am a massive Ruth Stout fan! In St. Louis, where I lived for 30 years, and had an abundance of fantastic soil due to years of heavy mulching, I probably wouldn't have these questions if I were still there.

! I read her books over and over, just like old friends, not because I need new info from them. She just warms my heart.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Here is a picture of my tiny potato bed, if I can figure out how to do it.

The inside is potting soil (organic), nutrients, compost, and dirt, mixed up. The outside is wood chips, just as mulch, not as anything to do with the potatoes. Although I added a high nitrogen fertilizer to the sides where the mulch is, to avoid issues. I figure I'll have to increase the walking around area, and possibly the potato area. I'm prepared to do anything needed.

So I will do as you say and plant them below the soil line, but keep in mind, I have arthritis, back surgery on the near horizon, partial blindness, and yadda yadda yadda!

This is why the straw method so appealed to me. It sounded like it wouldn't take much heavy labor. That's my issue.

I could not possibly dig for potatoes as I won't be able to see them. That's why I loved the idea of reaching into the straw for baby potatoes.

That's why I'll put them a bit in the ground as you guys think is necessary, but then I'm going to have to rely on the mulch mounding concept.

I'll let you know how it goes, if you want. I can't thank you enough for your help on this.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sat, May 3, 14 at 18:44

Urea.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Yes, as cold mentioned (actually, I think maybe his nick name is evil, but I'm not positive :) ) you could scrape away the straw/chips mix and then you won't run into the chips mixing into the soil issue that I had. Since you're dealing with a small area this should work fine (I was picturing a much bigger area).

I, too, love Ruth Stout! And I watched a video where she is about 85 and she plants her potatoes by tossing them on the ground and tossing a bunch of hay over them. If you end up with green parts of your potatoes, just cut the green off and the rest of the potato should be fine.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Nickname is Lazy.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Ha! Okay, but when I call you lazy on another thread, no one will know who I'm talking about.

dowbright -- I don't think you have to put them under the soil. We were saying that before we knew your circumstances. Laying them on top, so you can see them well, and just covering with your mulch, since that is so easy, will definitely give you potatoes! You could even put a thin layer of straw down first, and lay the spuds on top of that -- they'll be very easy to see that way (I've done that too, and it works.)

And as glib says, just pee on them before you mulch. (Okay, that's not what he said, but that is one way of adding urea.)


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

You guys are hilarious! I will think of Evil as Lazy, Glib as the PeeMon (or Ma'am), and you, Elisa, as the first to grasp my limitations!!!! I hate explaining them, because I am still 28 in my head! :D And in my heart, and in my soul. I never dreamed I'd be in this situation! But who ever does, I guess, when young and healthy?

Isn't Ruth amazing? I don't know what it is about her books ( and some basically just repeat the others!) that calm me so. Her lifestyle, her approach to being old but continuing to garden...her care for her mother. And her mother's love of gardening!

I never had enough space to do what she did, nor access to the salt hay she so loved!!!! But I did what I could with what I could get, and I have to say that in my gardens, my first, and then the one I had for most of my adult life, everything she stood for worked, and far exceeded anything anybody else was able to do around me. They'd have blights of this or that. My stuff just kept growing.

They spent lots on herbicides and pesticides, and fertilizers...and mine just kept on growing. There's a lot to be said for mulch!

And more than that to be said about what she passed on to me, which was a love of the natural processes of things, and how they're usually better than all the technology combined. And a hell of a lot more fun. ;)


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

dowbright, then you'll be Ms. 28 :)
I love how gardening keeps you young.

Fun to hear how you used Ruth Stout's methods for all those years. I just tried to find that wonderful video of her so I could link it for you, but unfortunately I can't find it. She was one strong old lady!


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

I would encourage anyone to read her stuff, because it's just so essentially the low end of the gardening in great dirt story!

I too am searching for that video. All I've ever done is read her books. And like I said...they calm me. They help me understand nature. They open my mind to new and different ways to try mulch with other plants. She's been a joy to me since 1973!


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

@elisa_Z5

Ms. 28!!!!

I love my new name! I had tons of Organic Gardening magazines from back in the 70s, and so many were filled with really cool ideas! They were just newspaper inside, and every aritcle, no matter how bizarre, was fascinating to think about!

I still have them, but need to wait until the movers empty my attic at the old place and bring them here to me now, IF the mice haven't destroyed them. Ruth was filtered all through them!

I'm really, truly hoping they survived the decades in my hot, hot attic. My hopes aren't high! But----maybe? Maybe? I canceled the subscription when it became commercial and shiny. It was a whole different animal. Dang, I'd love to read those again!

This post was edited by dowbright on Mon, May 5, 14 at 3:07


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Is this the one? She looks just exactly like Margaret Hamilton without the green makeup.

Here is a link that might be useful: yew-tube

This post was edited by cold_weather_is_evil on Mon, May 5, 14 at 2:35


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

EVIL: what a gift. What a joy. What a pleasure! WHAT a keepsake for the rest of my life!!!!

Thank you times 1000. She is just as i pcitured her to be. And what she had to say after being left alone--"that her garden gave her a reason to live?

Exactly what I needed to hear, given my pseudo-husband has cancer. I still think he will live longer than I do, but God Forbid!

I'm I'm somehow left....I can't imageine wanting to go on. but this gives me some thinking to do.

Ruth Stout was a wise, wise, wise woman. On gardening, and on life. I'm so glad I found her when I was 21!


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

THANK YOU so much, Lazy!!! That's the one.
I just watched it again. Love it.
So glad you could find it for Ms. 28 :)


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Never seen video of R.Stout. That was neat.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

You will have a nice crop of potatoes. Now that i see a picture. Your hay may be a bit airy/light so once you have some top leaf growth, i would pull up some of your mulch to form a higher bed surrounding. Then as they grow, some hay, then a heap secondary bag of light soil. Just for darkness security. I have used a similar method with success.
I have a short season but get a decent crop with about a 20 inch cover.

Great video. Nice to see it again.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Here's another one of Ruth Stout found by ernie85017:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR-svvINy9M


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Dear Dowbright: my alternative to storing potatoes where-they-grew is to store them in the garage, which is cold -- a necessity -- but seldom falls below 32 degrees. The ideal container is an old tea chest full of dry straw. Tea chests are rare nowadays; any similarly large box will do. I doubt you're older than I (I started growing potatoes at school in 1942) and I can manage digging enough potatoes for dinner before I freeze. Please be aware that the soil around the potatoes will be friable and moist in the coldest weather. Regards, Peter.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Hi tater people,

I've decided to jump in your thread Dowbright, hoping you don't mind since we both have potato questions.

I gave up on growing potatoes back in the seventies sometime, since I ended up with small, not worth the effort and space, potatoes. Not as much sun as you Dowbright, so that is likely a big difference.

This year I discovered an accidental potato planting way in the back, and they look so happy there, I've decided to let them continue on. Since this is the composted potatoes ( end of winter, shriveled, sprouting potatoes) I threw out, they're not special potato types I would have picked, but that's how it goes.

They are all in one spot growing straight up, so yesterday I added straw and compost here and there attempting to get them to go out in all directions from the center. The potatoes grow on the stems the length right ?

They certainly took the addition well, and none wilted or acted up from such rough treatment. Can I avoid going up and just keep going out, with less elevation being added ( which is what I routinely see being done) ? Where these are, they are about three feet above the soil...that's a compost pile of sorts. Well, actually that's the stuff that never fits in the compost piles as the weather cools off and I'm getting tired of the whole deal but the leaves keep coming down. I remember the tree stump as being cut just above my waist level. Left it there becasue it looked useful to set things on. :)

They are in and on last falls leaves,unfinished compost that was there before the fall dump of leaves. I suppose I could throw some dirt at them for the mineral content, but I'd really rather not. I have enough of a pile there to deal with as it is.

Advise as to what they need to actually produce, as opposed to lot of pretty leaves ? Or is is better to just yank all that out and put a tomato there which was the original plan ? I'm kind of thinking a tomato can't go there now because that potato clump is so current.

The good news is the raspberries you see there behind are mostly headed south. LOL


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Peter_6, I am looking for info on tea chests, to see what they look like, and will try to duplicate that. I'm not sure if our garage stays above 32, but Bob always tells me he's shocked at how insulated it seems to be, despite little insulation. It's worth a shot!

What zone are you in?


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

plaidbird, with my inexperience, obviously I can't give you learned advice! But I do know that a pepper came up near a compost pile, in mostly shade, and I just let it be, for fun. It yielded almost as many peppers, with thick flesh and excellent taste, as the ones I grew in "just right" places. Enjoy your orphaned potato experiment! Report back when you see the results. :D


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

dowbright: zone 6 - amazing for Michigan, there's a warm spot near Detroit. Regards, Peter.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Fun to hear about your pepper plant DowBright. Yes, that part of me keeps thinking, since the potatoes wanted to be there and do so well, who am I to argue. That back corner has long been a sanctuary for lost and "discarded by others" things. Ms. Potato fits right in that description, though tossed by me.

I'm still undecided. That spot was built specifically to have a place a tomato might do well. I've built about half of a raised bed there, using broken concrete chunks from when I had to replace my front sidewalk. Gradually building up the compost of all the extra leaves, eventually the raised bed should be filled. Hopefully I'll get the other half of the walls done over the next couple years. It's hard work and I'm older, so it doesn't go up in a weekend.

But it's sure a prefect use for the materials and the plan is to keep things trimmed nearby , after a major cut back, so the sun can come over the fence and have one spot in my garden with at least the most sunlight. Not that it's the recommended amount of sun, but the best that's going to happen here in the PNW ( average 68 days per year of less than 30% cloud cover and at a bit of an angle). Add to that I'm in the city, close neighbors and fences. ... plus mostly all tall old growth type trees. Yeah, I'm growing in the dark here. Thus my lack of growing food type things. Ask me about woodland plants, I've got the answers if I've not forgotten. But food plants I'm really lacking in experience.

So today as I kept trying to decide, I went back to check and see what the temperature of the soil in the raised by concrete bed on a rare warm day. Turns out we now know why this is doing so well. It's at 76 degrees, with 78 being the top recommended. If left to grow, I may have pre-baked potatoes real soon. Opps. But great for a tomato plant here where it's generally cool compared to so much of the country.

To my surprise I discovered the compost I swept up and dumped on top of the potato planting last night has magically, in the first 12 hours spawned a beautiful clump of dog vomit slime mold ! Most people discovering such a thing the first time are grossed out. It's an acquired taste. LOL

It only happens at this time of year here and is rare enough most have not seen it. It will grow and change daily for a few weeks then be gone till next year. Causes no harm and the cool thing is it has the ability to remove heavy metals. Very cool for such a thing in my mind.

That's the news from this potato patch for today !

Here is a link that might be useful: dog vomit slime mold


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

and a closer look.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Yummy!


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outcome! re: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

@plaidbird, I had some slime dog vomit mold in one of my beds just yesterday! No clue why, and gone today.

My potatoes: A couple weeks in, I reached under the straw, and felt for the seed potatoes. I found a couple and they were rooted, so I didn't disturb further.

I added some loose dirt as someone suggested to filter thru the straw.

After a few weeks of waiting, nothing was showing up. I felt again for the same rooted seed potatoes: MUSH. They had rotted!

So it was a great experiment, I learned a lot, it was fun, and gave me a lot to think about. Next year I'll start them in the dirt, but still try the adding straw thing so that I can pick some of the potatoes by feeling around for them in the straw. OR, maybe I'll have to have someone help me dig. OR, maybe my soil will be so mellow that I can do it with my hands! Who knows?

My thanks to all who participated in my adventure. I'm growing pole beans there now, and things seem fine. You guys are the best!


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Aw, sorry it didn't work for you! But your method is a good one -- you don't necessarily need to switch to planting in the dirt. Why not stick a couple potatoes under the mulch again, near the beans, and see if anything happens this time?

I do normally throw a few potatoes down and just cover with mulch every year, in honor of Ruth. The yields are definitely smaller than my in-ground potatoes, but they do work.

And I have planted as late as early-mid June, and still gotten *something.* So, I'd say worth a try, just for fun. And they shouldn't bother your beans at all, since the beans have a head start. I now have volunteer potatoes growing in my lettuce bed, helping to shade the lettuce :)

Good luck with all your experimenting! And thanks for a very fun discussion :)


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

elisa, thanks for the idea. I will do that right away! IF I can find some seed potato. And thanks to all for the advice and encouragement.


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RE: potatoes mulched with straw and wood chips?

Seed potato: grocery store.
If you can find some organic potatoes, I think they'll be less likely to be treated with something to stop sprouting. But most any potato will do! (though mature potatoes, with the thicker skin, would be better than "new" potatoes--the little ones with the very thin skins)


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