Tag Archives: Project grow potato challenge

Potato Gardening: Horizontal Growing Method

I have been thinking about a possibly new (new to me) potato growing method I call horizontal potato growing.
I noticed that my Potato plants are growing very tall, which is good, but I ran out of straw to mound them up. My eleven bails did not come close to providing the mound height I wanted for my 25 x 25 feet of potato plants in my community garden plot.
I could not help but feel that all of that extra exposed potato plant height could have been mounded up to promote more off shoots and thus a larger potato harvest per plant.
Then I noticed that my tall plants much like non-staked/caged tomato plants flopped over and vined out on the ground.

Flatten vine potato plant

Looking at this, I got the idea of Horizontal Potatoes.
The idea is to train a potato plant (see above picture) which naturally vines out to grow on the ground flat.
With my Horizontal Potato Method, the vines are trained so that as the plant grows outward a ring stake holds the vine flat on the ground in place (see graphic on top). The exposed vines are then mounded up with 6-12 inches of straw/compost.
The process is continued as the vines grow outward.
With Horizontal growing, instead of having to mound up several feet of straw/soil per plant, all you would need is a few inches of straw to cover the flat plant vine that is lying on the ground.
These vines can be snaked along plant bed in thin straight rows to allow for maximum intensive gardening.
While the tall mounded potato plant has the advantage of small space for high yield, the disadvantage is the cost of straw/compost per plant and a container if using.
The containers below, although nice and easy to use, cost $10 bag, plus a compost, straw and seed potatoes. I plan to reuse them of course including the soil. The issue is the up front cost, which should pay for itself in a second season. (Keep posted for yield results…this is my first year trying them).
I figure that I would need to use about 3/4-1 bale of straw per plant to mound them up to achieve maximum mound height and yield per plant in my current garden.
Then there is all of that time spent mounding some odd 50-100 bails of straw. Of course I can mound the plants up with soil, but we are talking about heavy/hard work shoveling a heck of a lot of soil.
In theory the flat ground potato plant will continue to throw off underground/covered shoots. Potatoes are basically an upside down tomato plant with the fruit growing undergroud/cover.
My 2-3 feet tall vertical plants could have been spread out on the ground and be covered with a minimum of straw.
One plant may grow 3-6 vines that will each growing 2-5 feet horizontally (or more) which would be fully covered to provide a maximum yield potatoes. (In Theory)
Less plants, less seed potatoes, less straw/mound cover, less work mounding potatoes, easier harvest and more potatoes…that is the idea.
All of this is a theory. I will try it out next year.

Potato Gardening: Ann Arbor Project Grow Potato Challenge

Growing Potatoes

The traditional method is to dig a trench and place the seed potato inside and cover it. Then as the potatoes grow, soil is mounded over them.

I have used this method with good results, but the problem is that it is very labor intense (all that digging) and harvesting is a pain because I end up spearing many potatoes with my garden fork and end up not finding them all.

So this year I am trying something new.

The first was the Straw Method:

1) Take your loose soil bed (Top with some compost)
2) Place (or throw) a potato on top of the soil about a foot apart for each other(no digging..yah!!)
3) Cover with soil
4) Cover with a little straw
5) When they grow to about 6-8inch, mound up with more straw
6) Repeat step five until you have a large mold of straw around your potato plant
7) Stopped mounding when the plant flowers

The idea with this method is that the potatoes will grow outward in the loose straw providing a huge crop with ease of harvest (just uncover the straw)

Potato Bag Method

1) Put some compost about 4-6 inch at the bottom of a potato bag. I bought special potato bags, but I think one of those nylon grocery bags would do fine with a few holes cut for drainage in the bottom.
2) Place 3 small seed potatoes in the bag away from each other.
3) Cover with straw once they get 4-6 inches
4) Cover with potting soil when the grow another 4-6 inches for the second mounding
5) Cover with straw then soil until the grow over the top of the bag

Note: You can use other containers like plastic storage tubs, large pots, or wooden crates. Some people use car tires and stack them, but I do not recommend this because I feel tires can be toxic.

With both methods, harvest once the plant dies back.