Tuesday Garden Party- Updated Potato Planting

I’m a little late planting the potatoes this year, but potatoes are a bit forgiving that way- I’ll just harvest a bit later is the only difference. Thank goodness.

I am making a change to the way I plant potatoes, though, and since I waxed poetic about my straw-planting method, I thought I’d share with you why and what I’m trying this year.

First of all I should mention that we, as gardeners, should be open to change. It’s OK to have a method that you love, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the bugs attack, or the harvest just isn’t what it should be, a little tweaking is in order.

And what precipitated the “tweaking?” In a word: slugs.

Which are the bane of our gardening experiences here in the Pacific NW. If you don’t have them- count yourselves lucky. And while the benefits of mulching are numerous (suppresses weeds, holds in moisture, keeps soil from eroding…), the one drawback here is that it provides a nice place for slugs to hang out.

By the hundreds. Or millions. Or whatever.

And then eat all the tender little shoots emerging from the soil. The same tender little shoots we slave over trying to grow.

Why they don’t eat all the tender little weed shoots, I’ll never know.

They really decimated my harvest last year and made the plants so weak they couldn’t stand up to the inevitable flea beetles that visited the few leaves that emerged. All-in-all, 2010 was not a good potato year.

So, I’m still using my favorite straw “hilling-up” method, but I’m starting the potatoes growing like this:

Buried about 3-4″ under mounds of dirt, encircled by slug bait (there are lots of organic kinds, plus diotomaceous earth…though sometimes I confess to going the non-organic route because the slugs can get so outta control- eek!).

I’m going to let the tender little shoots emerge without a covering of straw that can harbor slugs. I’ll let them grow about 6-8″ and then start hilling with the straw, just like I’ve always done, to keep weeds at bay, hold in moisture, and keep the sun from the spuds.

I’m sure come harvest time I’ll have dirtier potatoes, as some will be growing more in the soil, but harvest will still be a lot easier that digging through loads of dirt and if I get a good harvest by thwarting the slugs, certainly worth it.

Are you doing anything different in your gardens this year?





  1. says

    I tried planting purple potatoes last year and we got about a handful at the end of the season. Only the problem I have now? They are growing “wild” in my bed so I guess I didn’t get them all! :)

  2. Anonymous says

    I read where you can buy some sand paper (the black kind) cut them into 1 inch strips and staple them all around the top of your raised bed and the slugs cannot slime their way over it and into your raised bed gardens. Just thought I would pass this on.


  3. says

    We fortunately don’t have an issue with slugs, unless we have a lot of wet weather. This year, I’m growing potatoes in blue totes that I found at Home Depot to see if I can increase the yield, and use the space in the vegetable garden for something else. I did grow corn with the potatoes which worked well last year, but then the pumpkins started growing underneath, and it became a jungle. Ugh!

  4. says

    I really, really want to grow potatoes but it has never worked out for us. I decided it is something I get to shop for at the Farmer’s Market. :)

    Thanks for hosting this event. It gives me a chance to share our garden…that makes me happy.

  5. says

    I’m giving potatoes a shot this year in a 30 gallon black plastic trashcan.. will it work? I have no idea, but I don’t have room for them otherwise ( although I like the idea of trying a tote.. I have a leftover big blue ikea tote that I think I may try to plant a few potatoes in.)

  6. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Sharon- What a great idea! I’ve heard of a copper strip, but not sandpaper…
    However, first I have to get rid of all the slugs and eggs already hiding in the beds. 😉

    I hope those of you planting in containers this year keep us updated on the TGP- I’d love to see your harvests! I’ve been wanting to try growing in a garbage can, but I didn’t want a can sitting in my veggie garden. :-) But if the harvest is great, I’ll have to relax my ways a bit…

  7. says

    Have you read Steve Solomon’s book? He recommends planting late may. He says that this is because the soil is still relatively cold right now, and won’t really start growing until it gets quite a bit warmer.

    In fact, last year I planted out a few plants around St. Patty’s day, but waiting for planting the rest of my crop. The earlier crop yielded far less than the latter.

    I moved 1.5 years ago to a heavily forested property, and have more slugs than I’ve ever had in any of my other gardens in Oregon. But the slugs here leave my potatoes alone. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed slugs eating my potatoes. I wonder what the difference is? Maybe I just have so many greens like broccoli or lettuce that they are more interested in? Don’t know.

    Have you actually gone out at night to witness the slugs eating your plants? You probably have, but I thought I would let you know that a couple of years ago I had this horrible infestation of these climbing cutworms. Cutworms normally cut off the tips, but these things climbed up as far as two or three feet high and ate away. They ate all the things that slugs normally eat, and then some. They even ate my nearly mature garlic foliage. They were awful. I spent a lot of time outside with scissors, and then finally figured out how to use Bt correctly (you have to use a water softener or it will just bead up rather than sticking to the leaves).

    Also, I’ve done slug experiments, and witnessed that diatomaceous earth does nothing to deter slugs. This was also confirmed at my last Oregon State Master Gardener meeting, in which the speaker read through research that debunked the DE theory.

    You may be interested in reading all of my slug experiments here: http://www.mysuburbanhomestead.com/about/pests-and-disease/

  8. See Jamie blog says

    My flower garden is looking pretty good but I don’t have a single veggie in the ground. Must remedy that ASAP!

  9. says

    Hi Happy to have found you again! I use crushed egg shells to lay down a border around anything I want free of slugs. It works and then they compost into the soil after a while.

  10. The Schneiders says

    This is our first year to grow potatoes, we didn’t plan on growing them so we’ll see about the yeild. Ours are flowering, but it is also already 90 degrees during the day here!

    Thanks for hosting this round up it is great to see what everyone is growing!

  11. Becca's Dirt says

    Hi there I just found your blog. I may join your party next week. I’m fixing to cruise around. Yea another fun garden party.

  12. Beth says

    I planted potatoes just once – all that diggin about killed me off – your bed looks great and I confess to loving new potatoes!

  13. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Ah, Beth- that’s why I like hilling up with straw- very little digging (and cut potatoes!) involved! Maybe you’d like to try again? :-)

    Becca- I hope you do- we’d love to see what you’re up to!

    Melynda- I’m glad too! Crushed egg shells- I’ve heard of it, but haven’t tried it. It sounds good…

    Vegetable Garden Cook- Thanks for all your input! Yes, I’ve read Solomon’s book, and I know that it’s fine to plant now, but I do like to get them in early for some new potatoes in the summer. With your test, though, maybe I should just plant a few for earlier harvest and save the main crop for later, if the yield is larger like you found? Interesting…

    Oh that cutworm sounds horrid! I did see the slugs- many, many – and since they had the nice straw cover, I didn’t have to go out at night to discover them- just pull up the mulch. 😉

    Well, I believe it about DE – it’s never worked well for me either…

  14. Rebecca says

    I get rid of slugs naturally by filling an old pie tin with a can of beer. I set it out overnight on the ground by my flower beds and in the morning I’ve had up to 30 drowned in the beer. Kinda gross, but it works!

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