Growing Potatoes the No-Dig Way

, written by gb flag

Potato harvest

Growing potatoes must qualify as one of the vegetable gardener’s favorite pursuits. I’d guess that it’s one of the first vegetables that new gardeners go for, even if only in a couple of buckets. Digging for potatoes, however, is less popular, especially among those of us with bad backs. In fact, I gave up growing them altogether at one point, purely because I wanted to stand upright for the rest of the year.

Advantages of No-Dig Potatoes

If you suffer the same problem, then no-dig potatoes are the answer, but the advantages aren’t all back-related.

  • It’s a great way to clear weedy ground as the mulch blocks out the light
  • You don’t have to keep earthing up as the potatoes grow - simply add more mulch
  • Fork damage, when you manage to spear the prize potato through the heart while digging it out, is a thing of the past
  • If you suffer with potato eelworm, no-dig will lessen its impact on the crop
  • The potatoes will probably be the best-looking ones you’ve ever grown: smooth, clean and less scabby (if that’s what yours are prone to)
  • Volunteer potatoes – those tiny (and not so tiny) ones that get left in the soil to sprout next year – virtually disappear
  • The mulch breaks down to add organic matter to the soil

It’s also easier to judge when the early varieties – those harvested while the plants are still in flower – are ready. Over-enthusiasm used to mean that I had at least one meal with potatoes barely larger than peas.

Planting no-dig potatoes
Planting no-dig potatoes

Possible Problems with No-Dig Potatoes

Disadvantages? Well, it’s not advisable to grow spuds this way too early in the season, as their light covering makes frost more of a threat. Some say that slugs are more of a problem, but it’s worth noting that the mulch encourages predators such as amphibians and beetles. It’s also possible that the potatoes might need a bit more watering, and yield will probably be slightly smaller than it would be from an underground crop. In my experience, though, the difference is small enough not to matter.

Charles Dowding, who’s been using the no-dig method to produce vegetables for market for nearly thirty years, is something of a no-dig guru here in the UK. Potatoes are, in his opinion, the only vegetable that like to grow in, as he says, "mechanically loosened soil" and consequently he tends to put them in after parsnips which need a bit of a hand to help them out of the ground.

No dig potato beds mulched with straw
No dig potato beds mulched with straw

Growing Potatoes Without Digging

  1. Hoe off the area where you want to grow your potatoes. Most weeds would die off anyway under the heavy mulch, but this is a good way to ensure that the surface of the soil is loose. You could also add a layer of compost on top.
  2. Water the area well.
  3. "Plant" your potatoes by placing them on the surface. Spacing is the same as normal planting, so early varieties in a bed system should lie 14-16 inches (35-40 cms) apart in every direction (in rows you should allow around 12 inches (30 cms) between plants and 18-20 inches (45-50 cms)). Maincrop varieties need around 18 inches (45 cms) in every direction in a bed, or 14 inches (35 cms) between plants in rows 30 inches (75 cms) apart.
  4. Now cover. You could cover with a couple of inches of compost, but I go straight to the straw. Some people like to top it up gradually as the shoots grow. Being a lazy gardener, I put on six-inches (15 cms) straight away. After all, they’d be six inches under the ground if you did bury them.
  5. Water the straw well. One thing about growing potatoes this way is that they tend to dry out more easily, so getting everything damp now is a good start.
  6. Of course, straw being straw, and the wind being a pain, you can’t just leave it. Either tether it down by covering with mesh or fleece, or cover with grass clippings. I tend to use the mesh to begin with. The plants make their way pretty easily through the straw and then I can see them pushing up against the material.
  7. No-dig potatoes
  8. Remove the mesh when the plants emerge and, if any plants are being held back by the mulch, help them through it. You could continue to add straw but grass clippings are better. They mat together in a way that solves the wind-blown straw problem and a thick layer excludes the light very effectively. If they’re fresh clippings don’t cosy them right up to the stems immediately, in case the heat of decomposition burns the stems.
  9. Now all you have to do is water when necessary and top up with grass clippings if the mulch looks a bit thin.
  10. Harvest when ready. Here’s where no-dig is really useful, as you can check the crop without wasting a plant. Just draw back the mulch. If the potatoes are too small, replace the covering carefully and let them grow on a bit longer. You can even harvest some potatoes from a plant and leave the others to grow on.

Happy harvest!

By Helen Gazeley

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments


"straw is expensive here does hay work as well ?"
ml johnstone on Saturday 14 April 2012
"Helen, Over the past four years I have grown different varieties of potatoes using different "no dig" methods: all with poor results. It was very disappointing. Some of the plants barely produced potatoes of any size at all...a few produced tiny HOLLOW potato skins with no flesh inside!!! Some were planted in grow bags, some in large trash containers (clean ones!) and some under mulch...none of which produced well. This season I have reverted to the tried-and-true old hard work method of digging them in and hilling...we'll see what happens. I enjoy reading the posts and seeing what other gardeners are trying. Good to know there are so many of us happy "dirt mavens" putting forth the effort to grow something delicious. Suburban Farm Woman in Virginia"
D. on Saturday 14 April 2012
"Could you use sugarcane mulch as this is abundant here?"
Mark on Saturday 14 April 2012
"Hi, Suburban Farm Woman - sorry to hear the trouble you've had with no-dig potatoes. I wonder if the common factor was water - bags and containers do need to be kept well watered. Yes, ML, hay is fine, but you might find a few more seeds in it that go on to produce weeds. As you can imagine, Mark, sugar cane mulch isn't something we get much of here in the UK. However, a scout around tells me that the coarser stuff tends to work best, as some people find that fine sugar cane mats down into a layer that doesn't let water through. Also, be careful of your source, as a lot of it has been treated with chemicals. For anyone who wants to see what sugar cane mulch is like, Rocky Point Mulching has a video of how to use their product:"
Helen Gazeley on Saturday 14 April 2012
"We've been growing our potatoes using this method for over 20 years with great results most of the time. We did have some problems with one location and discovered water had a tendency to not drain quickly. Potatoes do not like wet feet!!! D have you done a soil test on the areas you are trying to grow your potatoes? What you're describing is usually a result of inadequate nutritional elements and/or the ph is off. Potatoes prefer a pH of about 5 to 5.5 pH, which is slightly acidic. I suggest you test and then make adjustments accordingly. Because we garden using organic methods, we use both compost and worm castings as our fertilizer with excellent results. "
doccat5 on Saturday 14 April 2012
"We are using some dirt but mostly oak leaves since they are usually acidic. Hope it works!!!"
Belinda on Sunday 15 April 2012
"I'm so glad to run into this article on Facebook! (Thanks Humble Seed!) I've been getting more and more exasperated because for some inexplicable reason the stores in my area this year rarely have any potatoes. Why is that? Is there some sort of earthwide shortage of organic red potatoes? So, I'd decided I'll just grow my own this summer. Your timing was perfect. Thanks~"
Deb K on Sunday 15 April 2012
"Thanks for writing this article! It's timely for me too. I'm growing red potatoes in shallow soil with pine needle clippings nice to know that there are other options like Oak leaves and straw, thanks for the comments;) I tried to grow potatoes in a large planter last year but my yield was 5 small fingerling sized potatoes:( They were still yummy though :) "
Therese on Sunday 15 April 2012
"This is for Helen Gazeley. Read your article on potatoes, wanted to know if this will work for sweet potatoes? I have ten Sweet Potato plants coming in a couple of weeks. Thanks, enjoy your articles. "
Larry Rosselot on Sunday 15 April 2012
"Be sure to keep adding more of whatever mulch you're using as the season continues. As you're plants are growing higher keep bundling more up around them so they keep making more potatoes. if you're not doing so, then they will only grow a few potatoes and stop. We've used the straw method for a few summers now in a raised bed with success. this year we're trying in bags hopefully with the same success."
Natalie Farmerpone on Sunday 15 April 2012
"I tried growing potatoes in a large clean trash barrel using lots of straw mixed with soil. The end result was so disappointing. All the energy went into large green plants but I only harvested the same size and number of potatoes I planted. I am going to try this year growing them in a bale of straw and see what happens."
Dee on Tuesday 17 April 2012
"Can you do this with carrots? I know that you would have to make sure the compost is fine and deep enough to prevent forking or other odd shaping, but it would sure be great as far as ease of harvesting."
Kim Spangrude on Friday 20 April 2012
"Kim, this definitely isn't for carrots. Carrots will always grow down into the soil, so wouldn't lie around in an easily harvestable manner on top, and a tiny carrot seed in amongst straw would get washed away and buried. Larry, sorry for the delay in replying. Sweet potatoes are a different plant from the normal potato and are grown from slips, or unrooted cuttings, which have to be planted. If you have a sprouting sweet potato that's turned up at the greengrocer's, then by all means give it a go, but general opinion is that it won't produce well, if at all. "
Helen Gazeley on Thursday 26 April 2012
"Normally at lot of veggies you get from the store have been treated with chemicals to increase their shelf life. So they don't always do to well, but it's certainly worth a try. To get more slips, you can cut a sweet potato in half. Stick 3 toothpicks in it, set it in glass jar in a warm spot and let it go. Sweet potatoes actually make very attractive houseplants done this way. Hope that helps. "
doccat5 on Friday 27 April 2012
"This is my method. I grow my spuds on raised beds. This makes for free drainage and not being waterlogged. It does mean that you have to keep your eye on watering in dry periods. Firstly I put down 4" of well rotted manure/compost. The spuds go directly onto the manure. They are then covered with 4" more of manure/compost then 4" of straw. The bed is then well watered. As soon as shoots emerge, cover them with 4" of more straw to stop any frosts attacking them. At this stage I cover them with spent hops, that are usually given away by local breweries, if there is one in your local area. A further covering of straw or hops will be required depending on maturity. First's require one covering, Seconds and Main require at least two coverings and maybe three for very late spuds."
Chuffa Askew on Friday 8 March 2013
"We have successfully grown potatoes using this method for many years. One of the "tricks" to getting a bountiful harvest is to make sure the soil is rich in organic material. Potatoes are fairly heavy feeders and need those extra nutrients to produce bud. I wish we had access to those hops, Chuffa. However, we are vermicomposters, so we periodically spray down the plants poking thru the straw with worm casting tea and then cover with more straw. For heaven's sake, use builder's straw, not hay. Builder's straw has a lot less weed seed. "
doccat5 on Friday 8 March 2013
"Great article. I just planted red potatoes on he ground, covered them with about thee inches of compost, then added the straw. I hope it works in Oklahoma."
Darren on Saturday 16 March 2013
"I've grown no-dig potatoes for years by building a raised garden bed with walls of small hay bales on their edge, putting my seed potatoes in the centre, covering with compost and manures then more hay or straw.I then keep adding to the pile till its as high as the hay bales or till the plants flower and die down.Then I pull the lot apart to get at the spuds, and dig over the resultant organic soil mix for another crop of root veg like carrots or beets. A good way to prepare virgin ground for future veg gardens "
Paul on Tuesday 19 March 2013
"Hi, could you use a weed membrane in the ground to stop eelworm from attacking potatoes and would jeyes fluid help in eliminating the little blighters?"
Darren on Tuesday 16 April 2013
"I'm growing several different varieties of potatoes using the straw method as an experiment. I keep adding straw as the green stems and leaves pop through. Five weeks into this, the straw is now better than 2 feet thick and reasonably well packed and the green growth continues like gang-busters. When do I quit adding straw and just let nature take its course?"
Mason Lilly on Saturday 15 June 2013
"I will second Mason's questions. I have very tall plants and I am wondering when I should stop piling straw or grass. "
Darren Purcell on Saturday 15 June 2013
"as long as the plants are happy and healthy, they will continue growing roots and potatoes. they will only get maybe 3 or 4 feet high at the most and they will also start to flower, and then finally they will start looking limp. you can at any point peel back some straw and harvest the smaller New Potatoes, replace the straw and allow other potatoes to get bigger. if you have extra compost around I'd add that in your next layer of straw. just to update my post last spring, the bags didn't work (too much light came in through them) so I'm back to raised beds."
Natalie Farmerpone on Saturday 15 June 2013
"Darren and Mason, you can stop piling the straw now. You only really needed to cover the potatoes and ensure that the light doesn't penetrate. Two feet is deep, and research has shown that it's highly unlikely that you'll have potatoes anywhere but in the layer where you originally planted them. Natalie, good to have the update, thank you. "
Helen on Saturday 15 June 2013
"Thank you Helen and Natalie. I grew up hilling potatoes so this method really appealed to me, especially since I too use raised beds. "
Darren Purcell on Saturday 15 June 2013
"Thank you for this wonderful article , I shall be trying this method out for my next batch of potatoes , the early ones are at the moment in the hall awaiting sprouts , I will let you know how I get on , living in the west of Ireland here can you suggest a time to put in the no dig potatoes , when can I be sure there is no danger of frost ."
kathy burke on Thursday 12 March 2015
"We are trying really hard to sort out our site here , there is a lot of tough grass in gigantic tufts , we have been making no dig beds with cardboard , compost , straw and more compost but some of the grass clumps are so high I wonder will they ever break down, I was wondering should we grow green manure seed on some of the beds if you have time could you let me know the best way to break down this scutch grass my mom used to call it , if you tug at some of it there is a lovely dark moist soil underneath, my husband was wondering if large rolls of cardboard are available anywhere if only to give us somewhere to walk and wheel the barrow on, I spend a lot of time looking for the correct recipe maybe you have one. The article here on the spuds is great and really gives a wonderful step by step by guide thank you for sharing this. Kind regards Kathy."
kathy burke on Thursday 12 March 2015
"Hi Kathy. Not sure when your last frost date would be, but I would suggest you are probably okay to plant from early to mid April in the west of Ireland - so long as you are on hand to cover up the shoots with fleece or similar if a frost is forecast. With regards clearing the grass, one way is as you are doing - to cover with layers of cardboard, topping up as they rot down (about every two months). You can find cardboard in recycling centres/dumps. Alternatively - and this may be easier with really tufty grass - cover the area over with black polythene or any other light-excluding sheet. This will deprive the grass of light and moisture, which will ultimately kill it off or weaken it to the point that digging it out is easier. If you are able, add some compost or manure beneath the mulch so the worms can work on it while the grass is being choked off. Good luck!"
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 12 March 2015
"Ben and Kathy, I have some reservations about your suggestion here: "cover the area over with black polythene or any other light-excluding sheet. This will deprive the grass of light and moisture," and "cover the area over with black polythene or any other light-excluding sheet. This will deprive the grass of light and moisture," Black plastic will kill off the toughest of grasses and/or weeds. However, for it to be effective this needs to be done in the hottest part of the summer. This method literally acts as a "sterilizer" for the covered area. You do NOT want to add compost to that area first, the worms are not going to hang around in that heated area. Once you have the area cleared, then add compost etc to the area. I also suggest you look up some sources for Probiotics, I'm in the States so doubt my sources would be of any help to you. However, I sure somebody makes probiotics or compost starter type products in your area. Adding this type of microbial life to your gardening area will greatly increase your production and enrich your soil. We vermicompost and use a probiotic in the food we feed our worms as well as add it to our compost bins. We've been gardening this area for over 30 years using only organic methods,and adding the microbes have given the soil and additional boost. Makes sense, you need the microbes to unlock the nutrients in the soil, since they are living creatures, they will die off, so adding more makes a big difference. "
Catherine Smith on Thursday 12 March 2015
"Thanks for all the replies, I have some black plastic maybe I should make some paths through this jungle with it and put some straw on top at least that way there may be some sort of definition added the really bad heavy clods or large tufts of grass with some soil attached I am heaping together in a sort of wall , I will cover this also during the hot weather and maybe it will act as a sort of wind break with some trees planted about 12 inches away from it this is evening up the hollow there nicely what do you all think, I have a word press journal entitled my garden challenge if anyone would like to see photos it would be great to get your advise"
kathy burke on Thursday 12 March 2015
" the photos can be seen here if you copy and paste the link into your browser I think must try and learn how to make my links workable, all a work in progress like my garden challenge . Thanks for the previous replies really helpful."
kathy burke on Thursday 12 March 2015
"Ruth Stout published a book in 1971 titled No-Work Garden Book. She was a regular contributor back then to Organic Gardening magazine. She grew everything under mulch. Vegetables and flowers. I have her book and she grew potatoes using her system. I mulch everything in my garden with shredded leaves, mostly maple. It works great but I have trouble with Voles as they eat at anything growing under ground - carrots and potatoes are the biggest victims. I am thinking of growing the potatoes this year on the soil and keeping plenty of leaf mulch on them. Does anyone know if this is helpful in thwarting the voles?"
Madeline Bost on Thursday 2 April 2015
"Hi Madeline. I have no experience of voles and how to deter them, so I'd be interested to hear others' experiences too. Good luck growing your potatoes. I hope they come through unscathed and you enjoy a bumper crop."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 5 April 2015
"I don't see any mention of what kind of potato s to plant. I have thought that you get cut up potatoes front the hardware store, called seed potatoes. Please clarify! Thanks!"
steve on Monday 11 May 2015
"Steve," seed potatoes " are what you're looking for. There are many varieties available, just depends on what you prefer. In this area, most of the hardware stores and nurseries sell Kennebecs. A nice all purpose white meat spud that can be used in many different dishes. You can cut those apart leaving "eyes" in each piece. We roll ours in sulphur to avoid potato scab. That's a serious problem around here. Allow them to dry for a couple of days and plant. We plant ion the ground n a area we to which we have already added amendments etc. Cover with a layer of oak leaves and straw and water lightly. As the potatoes throw shoots we keep adding more leaves and straw, until the "shoots" stop growing. We top the bed with some old storm door screens we've rescued to help keep the leaves and straw from flying. "
doccat5 on Monday 11 May 2015
"I bought a 4 x 2 foot galvanized cattle stock tank, filled it with soil. It was on sale so I used dirt in a bag set my spuds with eyes on top of the soil and covered that with 6 inches of straw. We had the best potatoes with no digging. I drilled many holes in the tank to allow water to drain and I built a little clear fiberglass lid so I could start the potatoes early. So far this year I have plants 24 inches tall and blossoming. I'm ready for some parsley butter potatoes."
DanO on Tuesday 12 May 2015
"We're growing potatoes carrots onions garlic kale cauliflowers straws lettuce and others. We have an old paddock with overgrown grass. We put everything straight on the grass and spoiled hay over the top. We can plant earlier because a thick wedge of hay over some things keeps them protected. Potatoes can be given a covering of horse manure which reduces the alkalinity. Brassica get some pure matured wood ash for increasing alkalinity. We only dig when putting in trees and shrubs. All is working well considering that it's windy here! Hay doesn't blow around as easily as straw either. The hay seeds are kept under control easily by more hay on top. Underneath, the old hay is like soil and full of worms. We still get potato blight though! Soil/hay base is only exposed for seed sowing and gradually covered again. Feeds 3 adults with left overs to sell ! Ruth Stout method for truly lazy gardeners!n"
Sarah on Sunday 12 February 2017
"Wow, that sounds like an awesome setup Sarah, thanks for sharing. It's great if you can product an abundance of crops with minimal digging - saves the back and the soil!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 13 February 2017
"Castor Beans (I grow them each year for the seeds), are a deterent for Moles and Voles. They are poison to eat and keep the population down. This year I plan to put them out for mice which try to come in and over winter indoors and see if that works too."
Bren Ward on Tuesday 21 February 2017
"I hadn't realised that. That's a great tip - thanks for sharing."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 21 February 2017
"I have moles that tunnel direct to my garden; I stop them by planting my garlic and onions on the perimeter. They don't like the smell and stay out of the garden. This also stops the rabbits. I start with a thick planting of garlic/onion for spring and then thin the plants out for summer. Also, a garlic spray on your lettuce will stop the rabbits and deer from eating it. In our community garden we were the only plot that the deer didn't eat the lettuce and beans etc.. There were deer tracks through our space but no garlic sprayed plants were eaten. (Hi Madeline. I have no experience of voles and how to deter them, so I'd be interested to hear others' experiences too.) "
Dianne on Tuesday 5 September 2017
"Hi Dianne. Interested indeed to learn of your methods for keeping unwonted visitors out. So much for Sarah, this is a really useful tip."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 5 September 2017
"Hiya Helen, I had an Irish friend (He was the Earl of Mayo and unfortunately has passed away, bless him) who explained to me that in Ireland they had a method using plastic sheeting in a trench under the potatoes. When the potatoes were ready for harvest they would just lift something off and the potatoes were there without having to dig.. We'd obviously had to many whiskys together and I can't fully remember what he had explained.. Does this sound like anything that you have heard of? Thank you, Simon"
Simon Webb on Tuesday 15 May 2018
"Someone said that she planted onions and garlic around the perimeter of her garden and that kept everything safe from the Voles. My response is that the Voles ate the onions, and garlic, and the carrots, beets, and potatoes and that I had to pull/harvest all the root crops early in order to have any at all for myself. I had what is called an irruption, an unusual population explosion of Voles in 2017. I tried pepper flakes, woodstove ash, ammonia, commercial repellent, all to no avail. The Voles basically ruined my 2017 growing season, and they are still there. Just yesterday I discovered that the Hostas have been attacked. Most of their roots are chewed off. My 3,000 square foot garden is fenced to keep deer and woodchucks out, but I am defenseless against the Voles. I am in northwest New Jersey, USA."
Madeline on Wednesday 16 May 2018
"Hi Simon. I've not heard of that method before - it does sound like it saves digging though. I guess if you did line the planting trench, so you could pull the whole growing matter that the potatoes are growing in out when they're ready, you'd need to make sure that there was adequate drainage. The plastic could collect water and cause the tubers to rot."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 17 May 2018
"Hi Madeline. It does sound like a total nightmare, what a shame. Short of covering every plant with chicken wire I'm not sure what else you can do to defend yourself against the voles - it seems like you've tried everything else. Bonnie Plants has written a useful article about keeping voles out of the garden. I can't give web links in the comments section, but if you search online you should come across it. Good luck - I hope you win the war eventually! "
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 17 May 2018
"I grow both sweet potato's and red potato's here in Louisiana using this method. Generally purchase 1 bale of hay to get started then afterwards grass clippings which have laid out in the sun on concrete for a week or longer. Pecan tree leaves are perfect mulch and I use wood ash also. Haven't bought a potato in 2 decades."
Jay French on Thursday 7 February 2019
"That's fantastic Jay - how satisfying to be completely self-reliant on potatoes!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 11 February 2019
"Hi, just tried no dig as an experiment, but not greatly successful. We didn't water, and we live in a Australia so it can get pretty hot. Some places say to water no dig potatoes, some say don't. Maybe it depends when you plant them. Any ideas? Thanks :)"
Bernie on Sunday 14 April 2019
"Yes, I would say in any hot, dry climate you would definitely need to water your potatoes as they are thirsty plants."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 17 April 2019
"Just re-read all the comments in this section and would like to add a comment or 3. I continue to pile straw and mulch until it reaches 4 feet high. Have harvested potato's at the 2 foot level. As the plant pokes thru, add a few inches more. Never let the plant exceed 6 inches above the straw. Perfect use is old grass clippings and chopped tree leaves. I have been known to mow a neighbors yard in the fall just to harvest accumulated tree leaves. Time to harvest ? After the flowers die and the plants wither, continue to water well and wait 2 weeks. This is the time the main crop spuds are growing larger. After this 2 week period post plant wither, make your harvest laying out all the new very thin skin potato's. Do Not Wash them instead lay out in a secure open area to allow the skins to thicken. After this they should be good for up to 3 to 4 months stored properly. Immediately begin treating your base soil, combination of 50 50 compost and manure. Re Use the old straw and old compost tilling back into the soil of the other planter boxes. I am a believer of tilling soil and do so at a depth of 9 inches. After a few years, my soil is a black loam, very loose which allow oxygenation and almost weed free. I am over 3 decades using raised planter boxes and supply not only myself but friends and neighbors every year. This makes me a popular neighbor. "
Jay French on Wednesday 17 April 2019
"Hi Jay. Thank you so much for sharing your very comprehensive tips on potato growing. It's really interesting to hear how you do it. Your soil must be in first-rate condition!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 22 April 2019
"Great concise information. We've found adding oak leaves to the straw and grass clippings helps to repel potato beetles, which are a nuisance pest in this area. "
Catherine A Smith on Tuesday 23 April 2019
"That's a really interesting observation Catherine, thanks for sharing that. A very handy tip where potato beetles are a problem."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 23 April 2019
"I really enjoy the comments and suggestions. I am starting an above ground no dig potato plot in a large black pipe. It is a good 5 ft. across and 4 ft. high. Wish me luck. I have straw and grass mulch. It's going to be a learning experience for me."
Tina-Christine E. Davis on Sunday 2 June 2019
"Good luck with it - sounds like an exciting project!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 3 June 2019
"Hi, I have another question. Everyone talks about adding grass clippings, but we have tough couch/buffalo grass in our area, and our australian winters are not so cold so the grass just keeps growing during the winter season. If we were to put grass clippings in with the potatoes, we would end up with a grass patch, and not a potato patch. This makes it really expensive since we have to buy organic sugar cane mulch, which for 4 packs ends up around $60. Is there a cheaper better alternative? The mulch is not very heavy, even when wet, and we lose a fair bit in the wind. We have next to no trees on our property, although we are working to remedy that, so tree leaves are not plentiful. Anyone able to advise? Thanks :)"
Bernie on Tuesday 4 June 2019
"Not sure Bernie. Ideally you just want to use whatever organic material is available locally, so you're not paying too much. $60 does seem like a lot to be spending on this. Tree leaf litter is a great resource if you can find it."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 5 June 2019
"Bernie, I would not use the buffalo grass as a mulch. Do you live in a residential area or close to 1 where homeowners rake tree leaves ? Reason I ask is I turn tree leaves into mulch and till into the ground in all my large planter boxes 8'x4' to 25'x4'. The homeowners bag these leaves and leave them out for trash collection, I ask and have never been refused. It takes a pickup truck full each year for me. That said, the leaves must be chopped up, I use a lawnmower with a bagger, then set out in the sun to totally dry out. 1 year I had a low spot, made a new planter box and completely used tree leaves. Made a mistake and totally over done it with likely 75percent tree leaves to soil. Planted Japanese cucumber thinking they would be a poor harvest, shocked when the production was enormous."
Jay French on Wednesday 5 June 2019
"I'm in a semi rural area, but we have normal size residences too. Mum's got an oak tree, so she's offered me her leaves. I don't know people in the area well, but I suppose I could ask a few... I guess a mix of leaves is better than just oak? not sure how I'd get them dry as we are ontop of a hill with lots of wind that blow away the leaves from the trees we have planted from every direction. (They're only small, and are struggling). Thanks for taking the time to advise me :)"
Bernie on Thursday 6 June 2019
"Bernie, I built a 3 sided mulch container open side facing the sun from old 4x4's and used fencing boards. It is 42" square 4 foot high and holds a truckload. Something like that may work for you ? Do a little research, you can use buffalo grass as mulch if you mix it with leaves and a little manure then allow it to dry out for 6 months until it turns flakey."
Jay French on Thursday 6 June 2019
"This method will never grow large potatoes, The only way is to plant in rich soil after putting good seed potatoes in a bucket put a handful of sulfur in the bucket and shake around till all the potatoes are covered in the yellow dust. Then plant, sprikle about 1 teaspoon of Aluminum Sulfate around each hill close to potato also sprinkle good fertilizer around each hill. They will not produce large potatoes unless you hill them up after the plants start growing good. This method takes alot of work, but it's the only way to grow good potatoes. Mine are almost completely bug free by using this method."
Don West on Saturday 21 March 2020
"Thanks for sharing that Don. The no-dig way is a useful method if you are keen on not digging however, and it does yield a useful crop. "
Ben Vanheems on Monday 23 March 2020
"I guess I like to Garden with as little effort as possible, since we homeschool and have a large family and elderly parents. I've seen big yields from no dig potato patches, so I'm giving it a go again. I think it's gone a little better this time, but I did in desperation use some couch grass clippings to cover :). So far no grass growing in it. I'll post how I go. Thanks for all the advice - it is a comfort and a help. Keep it coming."
Bernie on Monday 23 March 2020
"Thanks for letting us know Bernie. Please do post an update in due course. Happy growing season!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 23 March 2020
"In 2015 I asked if growing in straw would deter Voles. In May of 2018 I responded to a suggestion to use Garlic and Onions to deter Volves and that the critters loved them too. I am not certain that the animals are actually Voles, or rats, or chipmunks but they wiped out all root crops in 2018. In 2019, I bought a Solar Powered Sonic Spike sold to deter Moles and Gophers. It costs about $20.00 US [I'm in New Jersey USA] Believe me I was very skeptical. I'm a believer now. My carrots and beets and yes, my potatoes were unharmed. The spikes are sold by Sweeney's and Victor. All of my garden is mulched with shredded leaves and grow beautifully without chemicals, or any fertilizer at all. "
Madeline on Monday 23 March 2020
"That's brilliant Madeline - a really useful tip there - and a very affordable solution. Thanks for sharing that."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 23 March 2020
"I’ve missed the boat on buying seed potatoes but I do have a couple of dozen tiny potatoes left over from last year’s crop that are sprouting. They are walnut to hazelnut size but have two strong shoots each. Will these give a good crop or does size effect performance (apologies for that). I’m using a no dig method with leaf mould and bonemeal in each hole, then later covering with hay and grass cuttings. The base is worked clay (parsnips finished) with a spread of composted kitchen waste, shredded oak leaves, grass cuttings, granulated growmore then hay. I hope everyone here is keeping safe and not suffering too much hardship in these troubled times. "
Helen on Friday 3 April 2020
"Hi Helen. If they are producing strong shoots then you should be absolutely fine with the sprouted potatoes you have. The size of tuber just gives the potato the energy store it needs to get going. But if they appear to be going strong then they should grow successfully into full-sized plants. Keep safe too. Concentrate on growing good, wholesome food - that'll keep you healthy and happy."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 6 April 2020
"Thank you Ben, I feel quite childishly thrilled that you replied to ME!! Excellent answer, just what I was hoping for. I’m heading outside right now to pop them in. "
Helen on Monday 6 April 2020
"Not at all Helen - it's great to be able to help. Good luck with the crop - hopefully you'll be enjoying hot, steaming, home-grown spuds very soon!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 6 April 2020
"It's so easy to use this method that I did it by accident once. I'd cut some long grass that had turned into hay, which was piled up in a corner of the garden, on top of the concrete path. Somehow a couple of potato trimmings with eyes must have fallen in there, because two potato plants sprouted and gave me several pounds. All I did was harvest them by picking them out of the hay."
Ruth on Sunday 26 July 2020
"What a fantastically fortuitous turn of events!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 27 July 2020
"This is the second year I will be planting in cardboard boxes. I stake the outsides of the boxes with wood stakes every hand width. Then I layer a few inches of compost put in the potato’s and cover with straw a few inches and soak well then I just add more hay and grass clippings as the season goes. I get beautiful clean potatoes. Then I compost the box and every thing. "
Leslie on Tuesday 12 April 2022
"Although it is very difficult to find out which are which, there are determinate and indeterminate potato varieties, just like tomato varieties. I was talking with a UK container gardener about which potatoes would produce tubers all the way up the height of the deep container. He suggested that the longer season, - main potato varieties probably were the indeterminate ones. Layering all that extra straw or mulch does not guarantee success, you must have a potato which will repeatedly sprout more along it's length. Others will simply grow green branches taller and taller but no extra potatoes no matter that they are covered with mulch/ straw/ compost. Anybody have specific experience with a variety of potato which was successful at throwing more than only at the bottom where seed was planted? (Jay French?)."
Suzanne on Tuesday 19 April 2022
"Hi Leslie - I love your method of growing potatoes - so resourceful and nothing wasted. Brilliant! Suzanne - yes, I didn't realise that potatoes were determinate or indeterminate like tomatoes until a few years ago. It is indeed the case that the main crop varieties tend to be indeterminate, making them the best type for growing in containers. A quick search online does throw up a few websites listing which potato varieties are indeterminate/determinate."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 20 April 2022

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)

By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions