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No Dig Potatoes
The Deep Mulch Method

By Stacy Hall

Like to garden, but don't have much time? Love potatoes, but don't have a cellar? Try this soil-building method that let's you harvest them with your hands all winter long!

Select a spot in your garden that isn't too rich in nitrogen, as excess nitrogen makes potatoes scabby. After you've cleared the weeds and/or dead vegetation away, simply lay the seed potatoes on the soil surface placing them about 2 feet on center.

Old-timers say that whole potatoes produce fewer, larger potatoes than cut ones, which will yield more smaller potatoes. If you cut them, be sure to allow at least a few hours in a shady, airy place for the cut surfaces to skin over to resist invasion by soil-borne diseases.

After they are evenly placed on the bed, cover the potatoes with a thick layer of mulch. In this case, thick means at least knee-deep. If you cannot provide this much mulch, do not try this method, as weeds will overcome the plants.

Any bulky material will do, but one of the easiest and cheapest is big round bales of hay. Simply stand them on end and peel off the layers. If this doesn't fit your scheme, use leaves gathered on a tarp.

It will take the plants awhile to emerge, but they will be well-protected from hot, dry winds, and the soil will harbor increasing numbers of earthworms to feed the plants and aerate the soil. You will really appreciate this in the fall when it is time to begin harvesting.

After the vines die back, simply push the mulch away and scratch the surface of the soft soil with your fingers. You will harvest the spuds with no forks to damage them, and no digging to wear you out.

Just take what you need for a short time. In the late fall, pile more mulch on to protect the remaining potatoes from freezing. You will harvest live, crisp, delicious potatoes all winter and on into the spring. They will exceed the quality of the best stored potatoes, and few feelings can beat the satisfaction of garden fresh produce in the middle of winter.

If deer are a problem in your garden, protect them with electric fence crisscrossed over the bed. Mowing the grass short around it in the fall will remove cover that moles and voles depend on to sneak in and steal your spuds.