When I started the garden three years ago, I planted what I knew and loved, which was the foods my Dad grew on his allotment at the back of our house in England. As well as having his experience at hand for those particular foods, they took me back to my childhood. The June strawberries which we would long for every other month off the year, and stuff ourselves silly when the time came around. The daily bowl of raspberries I’d collect from late summer through the fall. The leeks, peas and carrots, that were the brightest orange you could imagine. I remember gnawing around the middle core, saving that most juiciest part until the end. I still do that sometimes.
Another staple were his potatoes. When there weren’t any left in the garden once the cold set in, they would be in a huge paper bag in our garage ready for winter feasting. So, from the first year I began planting, the potatoes were in.
They’ve always done well both directly in the ground before I started mulching, and after. This year, though, I read about a no dig growing method when using mulch so am giving it a go.
Traditionally, potatoes are planted about 4″ deep in the ground and as the plants grow, the surrounding earth is mounded up around it, a little more earth being added as the plant continues to grow. The potatoes can be dug up earlier for new potatoes or left a little longer for larger ones.
This year, instead of planting in the ground I placed my potatoes on top of the soil.
Then, rather than the usual 4″ wood chip cover that’s on the rest the garden, the potatoes will sit under about 8″. Instead of just mounding the extra 4″, I built a border from cedar fence posts (using the same technique I used to build all my borders). That way, the mulch stays in place and I can plant other crops very close to it. Once the potatoes are ready, there is no need to dig (which usually results in a few potatoes being stabbed), just a bit of ferreting around in the chips is all that’s needed. And you shouldn’t need to weed or water either. Now to just sit and wait to see it they grow.
Just a note about planting: Don’t plant store bought potatoes, you’ll need seed potatoes to begin with. I order mine though Grow Organic.com. This year I bought Burbank Russett, Viking Purple, and Desiree Red. All these varieties are good for both the spring and fall which will hopefully make the replanting easier, and it’s not to late to get an order shipped for this year.
My other hope for this method is that harvesting and planting happens at the same time, which means even less work. When one plant and all it’s potatoes are dug up, the best potato is replanted in the same space, on top of the soil and covered again, ready to grow when the seasons allow. That means, if this works, once the ground work is done, that’s it. A potential lifetimes worth of potatoes.