Planting & growing potatoes in the home garden can be very easy if you use the right method. The lazy bed method is so easy because it pretty much eliminates the digging, mounding, and weeding associated with the traditional method of planting and growing potatoes.
Homegrown potatoes taste so awesome compared to store-bought and are such an easy and rewarding crop to grow, I hope everyone gives the lazy bed method of planting & growing potatoes a try.
Growing your own potatoes also makes it possible to try varieties that aren’t available in stores. There are many varieties of potatoes available that have so much more flavor than the standard russet potato from a grocery store.
Traditional Method for Planting & Growing Potatoes
The traditional method of planting potatoes involves digging a trench, placing seed potatoes in the trench, mounding soil around the potatoes as they grow, weeding, and finally digging the potatoes at harvest time.
Lazy Bed Method for Planting & Growing Potatoes
In the “lazy bed method”, the seed potatoes are planted a couple of inches in the soil and are then covered with a thick layer of straw, hay, or leaves.
The potato plants grow up through the mulch while the tubers form within the mulch or soil. This eliminates both mounding and weeding after sowing, allows for closer spacing, reduces the chance of scab, and allows harvesting at any time. In short, it’s a lot easier for the home gardener; hence the “lazy bed method”.
Preparing the Potato Garden Bed
To use the lazy bed method, prepare a rectangular garden bed that’s a convenient width to reach across (mine are four feet wide) and as long an area as you wish to plant. It should be a convenient width to reach across so you can easily harvest early potatoes by reaching into the mulch or soil. If heavy rains are a problem in your area, raise the prepared bed slightly to permit drainage.
Planting the Potatoes
Place your prepared seed potatoes (see Potato Planting Preparations) cut side down, twelve inches from the sides/ends and each other in the bed. So, for example, in a 4 x 10-foot bed you could place three seed potatoes across and nine down the bed for a total of twenty-seven plants. After the seed potatoes are in place, bury them a couple of inches into the soil. The potatoes should then immediately be covered with a thick layer of straw, hay, or leaves. The mulch covering should be loosely spread but should be twelve to eighteen inches deep. The loose mulch will pack down gradually, and you want to make sure it’s thick enough that the potatoes never show through. If they do come in contact with sunlight, they may green and become inedible. It’s also difficult to add mulch once the plants have come up through the mulch, so make sure it’s thick enough from the start.
That’s All There Is!
After planting, and as the tubers mature, you can reach in and sneak new potatoes any time, but there’s really no other work needed until harvest time (other than being on the lookout for garden pests, see 5 Steps for Controlling Potato Beetles). Notice in this method, weeding is not mentioned. The mulch is so thick it smothers weeds and makes growing potatoes nearly effortless.
Harvesting “Lazy Bed Method” Potatoes
When it’s time to harvest potatoes grown using the Lazy Bed method, it couldn’t be easier. Wait until the potato vines are completely dead (that means the potatoes aren’t getting any bigger); then, just pull the mulch off the potatoes and pick up the harvest (see photo below). The potatoes should really be harvested as soon as the vines are dead to minimize the chance that bugs or rot will damage them. It’s important to dig down into the soil a bit to make sure you’ve gotten all of them, and if using straw as the mulch, check the straw for any hiding there. We never quite get them all though; there are always a few volunteers next year. After harvesting, let the potatoes dry for a few days (in the dark) – this allows the skin to toughen, and then move them into storage. Potatoes that will be used within a month can be stored at room temperature; but for long-term storage, the temperature should be approximately 40°F, relative humidity should be between 85-90%, they should be kept in total darkness, and there needs to be good ventilation. If potatoes are kept in these conditions, they can last up to 6 months. However, light exposure will make them green and inedible, higher temperatures will cause them to sprout, and inadequate humidity will cause them to shrivel.