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The traditional way is to dig trenches to plant the seed potatoes and, as the potatoes grow, to 'hill' soil up around the stems throughout the season. 'Hilling' the soil means to rake it, dig it, or find it somewhere and bring it over to cover the stems with it. So, hilling = a lot of work in my book, unless you have a mechanical contraption that will do it for you ... then it's probably a breeze!
For non commercial potato growers or home gardeners who are a bit lazy (like me!), there is a much easier method that someone (who must certainly be a genius!) came up with of laying the potatoes on top of the soil and covering them with straw, continuing to add more straw throughout the season as the potatoes grow. This probably works great if you have a lot of straw (which I currently do not), but, I've also read that this method is very good if you have serious problems with Colorado Potato Beetles (which I do), so I've always been intrigued by this method.
Although I've never tried, you can also apparently grow them in bags, garbage cans, tower cages, raised beds and square wood forms, and other containers. Look around online and you'll find tons of ways people grow them!
When we first starting growing potatoes, we went the traditional route of digging a trench about 6 inches deep, laying the seed potatoes in the trench and then slowly filling the trench with soil as the potatoes grow (with lots of weeding along the way). It was A LOT of work. Way too much work ... definitely more work than we wanted to do & our potatoes suffered for our laziness.
So, we decided we needed a much easier way to grow our potatoes. In addition to being a bit lazy, we also tend to have a lot of Colorado Potato Beetles, so we thought something like the straw method would be good (except, remember we don't have tons of straw around) so we modified the straw method a bit and this is the lazy way we've been growing our potatoes....
But, before getting into how we plant them, you need to know a little bit about seed potatoes. My friend Myrtle made me laugh the other day when she wanted to know what seed potatoes look like. Being the science fiction nut that she is, she asked just how 'sci-fi' they looked. Silly Myrtle, I wonder what you were imagining? :-)
Well anyway, seed potatoes are just little potatoes. Nothing alien or sci-fi about them really (although the potato my BFF and I had 'growing' on the window sill of our college dorm room our sophomore year looked pretty sci-fi after awhile!). Seed potatoes have "eyes" on them (or they should) where the stems will eventually grow from. Here's an example of a seed potato eye...
Some seed potatoes have more than just "eyes" and already have stems growing on them (and admittedly, these do start to look a bit alien ... I take it back Myrtle, you aren't silly!).
You can plant seed potatoes whole, or you can cut them into smaller pieces. Each seed potato that you plant will become a potato plant, so,if you cut them into pieces, you'll end up with more potato plants. But otherwise, generally speaking, the smaller the seed potato is that you plant, the more potatoes you'll likely harvest from the plant (although the potatoes will probably be on the small size); if the seed potato is larger, you'll probably end up with fewer potatoes, but those potatoes will be larger. Sort of a "six of one, half dozen of the other" kind of thing.
Unless the seed potato is smaller than a golf ball, I pretty much always cut them into pieces. And when I cut seed potatoes, I always try to make sure each piece ends up with at least 2 eyes on it. If you are going to cut your seed potatoes, you need to do it about 24 hours before you plan to plant them. After cutting, the seed potatoes need some time to "scab" over the cut (sounds lovely, doesn't it?) so that they will be less likely to rot when you plant them.
So, grab a cutting board and knife and get cutting! Or, don't ... totally up to you!
After cutting, I spread my seed potato pieces out on newspaper in the kitchen and let them heal for about 24 hours.
I till the weeds under and then just lay the seed potatoes (cut side down) in a row. I place them about 10 - 12 inches apart and, believe it or not, I use a string to create a nice straight row (straight in theory anyway -- look at my row below, I couldn't have made it more crooked if I tried!).
Then I cover the potatoes with about 3 inches of mulch.
Finally, because we've had horrible problems with crows digging up our seed potatoes in the past, I cover them with netting. And that's it!
We only keep the netting on until the potatoes are about 3 or 4 inches tall-- just long enough so that the crows can't easily dig them up and peck them to death. As the potatoes grow, we'll keep adding mulch to them to keep as much of the stems under ground as possible, but that really is it!
And this year I've made the whole process even "lazier" by planting them right next to a mulch pile too ... less walking when it's time to add mulch!!
Yea! for lazy gardening methods!