Painless Potatoes

How to create your own 'painless potatoes':

The myth of potato cultivation is that it is back-breaking work best avoided. Some people won't even consider growing more than a few earlies for fear of doing themselves in. Potatoes can hurt. But in fact there are ways of getting around the cycle of planting, earthing up, weeding, earthing up again and then digging.

Potatoes can be very high yielding and well worth growing for yourself, and they can also be easy, good for the garden, and not all that time consuming. The principle of easy potato growing is that the potato plant produces its tubers at or above the level that the seed potato is planted at. This is why people have earthed potatoes up (i.e. formed ridges along their rows) for hundreds of years. But there is no real need to dig at all on a home garden scale. Just take advantage of the habit of the plant and grow it above ground level in the first place.

There is one particularly unusual way to do this and that is to grow your spuds in towers formed with old tires. Plant your seed potatoes two or three to a tire filled with compost, well rotted manure or top soil and wait for them to grow. The tire can be placed anywhere where it will drain freely, but preferably in the sun. The clever bit comes when the plants show above the level of the growing medium. Add another tire and another layer of compost or whatever. Keep well watered!

Each time through the Summer the plants show above the compost add another tire, up to about three tires. You have to leave the plants enough good weather to put some energy into the tubers, but doing it this way you can grow a great deal of potatoes very easily. The other way to grow no-dig potatoes is to mulch a piece of ground with cardboard, newspaper or even jute-backed carpet, soak the mulch, place the seed potatoes evenly spaced at about 8 inches to a foot across the mulch, and then cover the whole lot with about a foot deep of well rotted horse manure.

You can top this layer up if the plants get too leggy. Once you dig the spuds from August onwards you are left with a deep bed of lovely rich compost to use next year. I have had success with both of these methods, the one draw back can be getting enough material to grow the spuds in. The good news is that spuds will grow in some very coarse media. They will grow in well rotted straw, clumpy compost or manure, and even in the compost heap itself if it has cooled down sufficiently for them. Go on, grow your own spuds.



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