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Growing Potatoes the No-Dig Method

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Growing potatoes does not have to involve back-breaking work. If you want to add potatoes to your garden without all the digging, follow this no-dig growing method! It’s my favorite way to grow potatoes.

planting seed potatoes

Growing Potatoes the No-Dig Method

Potatoes are one of my very favorite crops to grow. Potatoes are found on the Dirty Dozen list which means conventionally grown potatoes contain a lot of pesticides. Since I keep my grocery costs down by buying from Environmental Working Group’s Dirty 12 / Clean 15 List, I try to grow as many of the “dirty” foods as possible. Organic potatoes are hard to find in my area, and when I do find them, they are really expensive. I can save a lot of money by growing my own potatoes.

But beyond that, potatoes are just awesome! I think they are a very pretty plant and digging them up in the fall is like going on a treasure hunt. It’s always fun to see what’s down there, buried in the dirt. {Yes, I know I am a little weird…} But really, I just love to eat potatoes!! So let’s get started growing potatoes. It’s really not hard.

flowering potato plant

How to Plant Seed Potatoes Using the No-Dig Method

Potatoes can be planted early in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Make sure the ground is not too wet and that the ground temperature is above 45 degrees. Potatoes will not sprout if the ground is too cold, and a really wet soil can cause the potatoes to rot before they grow.

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The ISU Extension Office advocates planting seed potatoes 3-4 inches under ground, and according to folklore, they should be planted on Good Friday in my zone, Zone 5. I don’t know about you, but digging a 3-4″ trench sounds like an awful lot of work I’d rather not do.

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Luckily, you don’t have to dig that much to plant potatoes! The Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening advocates a “no-dig” approach. I love the no-dig approach because it reduces time it takes to plant, makes back breaking digging unnecessary, reduces loss of moisture, and results in fewer weeds being brought to the surface. I’ve been planting potatoes using this method for about 8 years now and love how easy it is to grow potatoes.

cut potato seeds for planting

To plant using the no-dig method, all I do is hoe up a very shallow trench, put in the cut and cured seed potatoes, cover with dirt. Potatoes should be planted 12″ apart in rows that are 3 feet apart. Then, mulch heavily and keep the plants well mulched for their entire growing season. I normally use free wood chips as mulch, but straw works very nicely too.

Before you plant the seed potatoes, make sure to prepare them for planting. Letting the seed potatoes crust over for a couple of days helps prevent them from rotting in cold, wet ground. Read more about preparing seed potatoes for planting here.

mulched potato rows

What kind of seed potatoes to grow

It’s important to buy seed potatoes from a reputable store like Seed Savers Exchange. Conventionally grown potatoes that you buy to eat are dipped a solution to keep them from sprouting too quickly so planting them is generally not an option. You can save your own potatoes from year to year, but make sure to choose the biggest and best disease-free potatoes to use as seeds. I generally grow a mix of different types of potatoes – choosing varieties that store well. My favorite type of potatoes to grow are Yukon Gold, Kennebec, and then a colored potato like All Blue, Red Norland, or Purple Majesty.

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Once the potatoes start to grow, replenish the mulch as necessary to keep them covered. The Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening recommends covering the mulch with grass clippings once the plants are big enough to meet across the rows. This keeps the light out of the potatoes to keep the tubers from turning green and that it will also encourage birds to visit and help control pests!

potato patch in June

How Long does it take to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes take anywhere from 90-120 days to mature. Make sure to read the information included with your seed potatoes and note this information in your garden notebook. Since potatoes should be left in the field for 2-3 weeks after the plants die back, it’s pretty obvious when it’s time to harvest. Noting the time to harvest however, will give you an idea of when to expect potatoes to be finished growing.

how to grow potatoes

When to harvest potatoes

Potatoes can be harvested a couple different times. If you’d like to harvest baby potatoes, you can do so 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. Baby potatoes should be harvested very gently so as to disturb the plant. Take the larger potatoes only and leave the smaller ones behind so they can keep growing!

If you plan to store potatoes over winter, wait until after the plants die back before digging them. You should wait 2-3 weeks and dig them on a dry day during dry weather if possible. Let the potatoes cure in the field for 2-3 dry days. Curing matures the skins and helps them last longer in storage. If the weather is going to be wet, cure them in a covered area where they will stay dry.

If you liked this post on growing potatoes, make sure to read these posts too:

Preparing seed potatoes for planting

200 pounds of potatoes each year

How to kill the Colorado Potato Beetle Organically

How to store garden seeds 

Gardening tips everyone needs to know

And that’s it! How to Plant Potatoes, in a nutshell! How do you plant yours? I’d love to hear your favorite method! 

Linking up: TGP; Tuesday Greens; Homestead Barn Hop; Natural Living Monday;  Mostly Homemade Monday; Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways;

 

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About Michelle

Michelle Marine is green living enthusiast and rural Iowa mom of four. An avid traveler, Michelle has lived on three different continents and has driven all four kids across the entire USA (by herself!). She loves sharing farm-to-table recipes, their family travel adventures, and gardening and homesteading tips on her popular lifestyle blog, SimplifyLiveLove.com.

Comments

  1. Malia says

    You have some amazing tips and recipes, I wanted to share this one with you that my daughter brought home from school for "Energy Bars" 1 c. brown sugar (either light or dark, have even used 1/2 sugar and 1/2 molasses-love the flavor) 1 c. vegetable oil ( I used 1/2 c. olive oil and 1/2 cup all natural applesauce) 2 eggs 2 c. oats (I have used both old fashioned and steel cut) 1 1/2 c. flour (I use whatever flour I have on hand; white, wheat, oat, bran) 1 c. raisins (either yellow or purple raisins I dehydrate myself) 1 c. peanuts (I use shelled peanuts that my girls shuck from the shells of bulk peanuts-what a mess that can make!) 1 c. coconut (Can use the store bought stuff, but a home dried coconut tastes WAY better!) 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 1/2 tsp. groung cloves 1 tsp. baking soda 1/4 tsp. salt (You can leave this out of the nuts you choose to use are alreadly salted) Honey/Agave Glaze 1/4 c. honey or agave nectar 2 T. unsalted butter (don't need the extra salt, and don't use margarine - it has too much water in it, along with other icky stuff) Warm slowly in microwave over 1/4 power until butter melts into the honey/agave nectar and stir. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11"x 17" pan (or 2 smaller pans if that is what you have-to make them as thick or thin as you want-thin are crispier, thick are chewier) Mix brown sugar, oil (and applesauce) and eggs until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread mix into pan. (This is kind of like spreading out rice krispie treats.. very sticky and make sure you keep your hands damp with a little water so it doesn't stick) Bake until the center is set, but not firm (around 16-22 minutes-watch them close at the 15 minute mark depending on your oven). Remove from over and let cool for 15 minutes. Drizzle honey/agave mixture over bars, spreading around with a spatula. Let cool completely. Cut into bars and wrap individually in plastic wrap, storing in the refridgerator. Can be frozen for up to 6 months. The thing I like most about this recipe is the flexibility you have. You can change up the raisins, peanuts, coconut and seasonings and make any type of granola bar you want. I have used light and dark brown sugar, and even molasses to give a new flavor. And ground flax seed is my secret weapon for healthy fats and protein. I have added a splash (1/2 tsp) of vanilla or almond extract as well. I am experimenting now with rolling the mixture into balls (a bite or 2) and baking them for 1/2 the time, then drizzling melted chocolate and peanut butter chips over them. I dehydrate a lot of fruits, only because their flavor only intensifies during drying and they rehydrate quickly during the cooking/baking process. I hope you find this recipe helpful and fun, because me and my girls love planning our next recipe combination out. In the world of busy lives and busy kids, it love knowing that while they are munching down on what to them is a "treat", to me is a long-carb burning, low fat, heart healthy snack that is totally mobile. (And let me tell you just how yummy these are to warm up in the microwave and have with yogurt....Ahhhhh!)
  2. michelle says

    Wow that's a lot of potatoes. Mine have started to come up in my little patch. I am going to try to grow trash can potatoes again this year. Last year they didn't do to well.
  3. mjskit says

    Looks like family fun! I've always wanted to plant potatoes and this looks really easy. I don't need near the potatoes that you need, but I want some. I have a perfect little bed that I could plant them in and maybe have a few potatoes for the fall. Thanks for the tips!
    • Michelle says

      Hi Jill, Sorry for the delayed response. I focus more on how many eyes are in each piece. Some big potatoes are cut into 3rds or 4ths if they have a lot of good eyes. Some smaller ones are cut in 1/2. Some aren't cut at all. Pay attention to eyes, and you should be ok! :-)
  4. jessi says

    I'm a noob when it comes to growing potatoes. I have researched different techniques on how to do it, but have not tried yet since I always lived with roommates with little to no yard. I was just wondering for the future how did the potatoe plants turn out? Do you have other posts or pictures? Did you calculate your results? Thanks Jessi
    • Michelle Marine says

      Hi Jessi...I have not harvested all of them, but they are doing great! I've probably dug 15 pounds out so far and still have 85% left in the ground. I {think} it was a success, but time will still tell. You can see a picture of my most recent harvest on this post: https://simplifylivelove.com/2013/08/homestead-update-88-building-our-passive-house.html - scroll on down towards the bottom of the post for the picture. I also post a lot of garden pictures on Instagram, if you're on over there! http://instagram.com/simplifylivelove
  5. Gail Smith says

    Hi. Let me get this straight. You dug the row, placed the potatoes, did not cover them with dirt but did cover them with mulch. You also continued coveting them with mulch until they were ready to be harvested? Is this right? I shared a garden area with a few other people this year but I think growing my potatoes (dig, cover with dirt, water, harvest), next to someone else's hollyhocks really produced a small yield of potatoes. Please let me know if I described your planting method correctly. Anxious to try in next summer. Have a great week. I so love your site!! Gail
    • Michelle Marine says

      Hi Gail, so I just trench a very shallow hole with my hoe. Then I add the potatoes, cut side down, then I cover them with a little bit of dirt and then a bunch of straw. Keep adding straw as they grow so the potatoes don't become exposed to the sun as they grow. :-) Alternatively, you don't have to put them in any kind of hole at all. Just throw them right on top of the ground and cover with straw or mulch. :-) Good luck!
  6. Sayed Hasibullah SHAMS says

    Hello madam Marine, I am sayed Hasibullah SHAMS from Afghanistan, I am agriculture professional and earn my bachelor in Agronomy but I would like to add some points for your guide, do not slice potatoes when you are planting them hence if you slice potatoes they will be infecting by germ such as Bacteri, Virus and other daises factors. All the Best SHAMS Mob# 0093772324525 Skype:hasibshams
  7. Michele Mitchell says

    Namaste' Michelle ! The Simplify in the site name got picked up by the search engine, and no-dig potatoes ! The Simplify is something I look into, relating to vegan recipes, and the [Essene] Gospel of Peace [of Christ Jesus], Szekely, E.B. ed. [Book One], about some benefits of simple food, not all mixed up. Also, I did just get to plant some reds and some kind of Georgia white potatoes, no dig, It looks like it will grow nicely since I put in some aged wood chip and aged landscaping mulch and free friendly manures ! Also, it is a blessing to have homeschooling back ! Good for you all ! LOVE ALL
  8. Wynn Currie says

    I mulched with wood chips, straw bedding from stalls and old hay last year and had several nests of mice living in the potatoes and chewing on the the young growing potatoes under the soil, :( Good luck and I suggest keep cats, ;)

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