Potato harvest from bales is easy, with no fork or shovel, simply cut the strings and kick over the bales, and pick up the potatoes. No marks on the potatoes from the forks or shovels, so they will store well, unblemished. Wrap them in brown paper, this helps them store longer. Keep them in a dry cool place, and check your stock often, tossing out any that have gotten soft or begun to rot. You’ll have delicious potatoes until the following summer when new stock will be ready again.

In normal soil gardens it is important to hill up the soil around the stem as the potato emerges. This is important because potatoes form on on the stem not on the roots. If planted too deep in the soil, the stem has a hard time emerging, because it cannot push up more than a few inches of soil. In a straw bale, we simply plant the potato cutting deep into the bale. While a bale may be 20″ high, we will plant 16-18″ deep in a “crack” in the bale. The looseness of the bale will allow the stem to easily reach the surface, and the potatoes will form along this stretch of stem, filling the bale with potatoes. I suggest two or three potatoes in a bale, even while planting other crops on the surface of the bale. These “surface” plantings will be harvested early before the potato vine has stretched its way above and around the bale. Wait for the vine to flower and this is the earliest the potatoes will be ready, however waiting for the vine to wither later in the fall will allow the potatoes inside to mature a bit longer.

Try Straw Bale Gardening, especially if you like potatoes, you’ll never go back to growing potatoes in the soil. Growing potatoes any other way will seem silly once you’ve done it this way.

41 comments

  1. I’ve really been researching this method of gardening and find myself very attracted to the idea. One friend of mine says the heat of the bale will kill off thriving plants later in the season. I’m wondering how to keep the bale cooler in the hottest part of the season.

    Also, I see that soaker/drip hose is used. How moist should the bale be kept?

    Thank you for your help!

    1. This is not the case at all, the bales cool off as the season progresses and by the beginning of July they are temp neutral. Water once a day during the hottest part of the season, but the bales do hold a large amount of moisture. Straw has a natural ability to do so, which is why it has always been used as animal bedding.

      1. Potatoes in the desert

        We live in the California Mojave Desert, 145 miles west of Vegas. We just put in our Straw Bale Garden, and are in process of adding nutrients. We would like to plant red potatoes and russets, but are concerned about the desert heat. We have a shade canopy we will be adding to filter the direct sun to not allow it to bake our garden. When can we plant potatoes? March thru late May temperatures range from 70 – 98 degrees. June through August range 98-117. September is 98, October mid 80’s, November mid 70, December 55-70. January and February is when we have frost.

  2. Deanna Frost

    I encountered an apologetic youtube on bale-grown potatoes that said some potatoes are less suited than others (due to the fact that they don’t spud off the stem). Would you be so kind as to research potential problem for us?

  3. Barbara Drexler

    I straw bale gardened last year using your method. Added a few raised beds and I will me ever go back.to traditional gardening. Love showing it off. How can I utilize last years straw and growing potatoes. Any suggestions.

    1. I use end-of-season straw as mulch in other parts of my yard/gardens and it works great. The only potatoes I have grown have been sweet potatoes, but this year, I will grow small red and irish. Can’t wait to get started!

  4. In urban areas, what are ways of dealing with the straw after the harvest. HOA doesn’t allow for compost bin. Thanks.

  5. I can’t wait to try this. How would I go about getting a continuous harvest of baby potatoes? How deep should I plant and how would I know when to harvest them? I have never grown potatoes before.

  6. I am so excited to use this method of gardening, I will let you know how well it turns out.

  7. I would like to know what you use to condition your strawbales.
    I have read urea. Would Fresh horse manure tea and worm compost tea work
    How hot do the strawbales have to be before planting.
    I live in Colorado SPrings, and this is my first try with 35 bales of straw.
    Thanks,
    Sue

  8. Since most clean straw has been sprayed to control weeds and there’s a good chance that some of the seed is GMO, do you think the
    potatoes may absorb some of the bad stuff?
    Thanks

    1. When you prep (fertilize) your bales the temp should reach an approximated 135°….which wil distroy any weed seeds, ect.from your straw OR hay bale….then proceed with planting…..

  9. i am new to the techneak i recieved some starter potatoes from a friend they rode in the back of my husbands truck growing we put a staw bale down and seperated it chopping each potatoe in half i was cuerious today if anything was happening when i parted a spot where i thought a potatoe would be a tone of little black fruit fly sized bugs came out what are they how do i get rid of them? Thank you

  10. I planted potatoes in three bales this spring and they are growing beautifully! I am curious: Do I have to hill soil on top of the bales as the plants grow, as I did when growing them in a traditional garden setting? And, it seems that growing potatoes in straw bales eliminates the need to rotate the potatoes to a different spot in the garden. Would this be true?

  11. Garry Espinosa

    Is there a posibility of composting while growing potatoes in straw? I had that problem when I tried growing in grass clippings and leaves.

    Thank you.

  12. Do you have any problems with mice getting into the bale and munching on the potatoes. I had that problem with my hilled potatoes this year. Don’t know if it was mice or moles. My trusty border collie knew something was down there cause he dug up half my crop:( which put many claw marks in the potatoes and found quite a few with holes in were something was eating them.

  13. About 20 Years Ago I Grew Some Potatoes In Straw On My Back Porch. it would have been the victory garden where I learned to use the straw. I totally ignored that pile straw and the potatoes all winter long. By early summer I had some great potatoes. couple of weeks ago I bought a tomato cage. I lined with landscaping fabric. placed a little of that Scott’s moisture-resistant soil and planted my potatoes. when I see the green or emerge I’ll begin to add my straw like compost. for those of you with an HOA, just do it in half of whiskey barrel make it look good.

  14. Janette Shultz

    Where can one purchase potatoes this time year, rather than waiting until spring? This sort of defeats the purpose if straw bale potatoes here in the southern states, when we can cover with straw using straw that’s been composted. I’d like to try this method.

    Regards, Janette Shultz

  15. Sonya Silvers

    Do you add soil to the bale also? Or just stick the potatoes inside and let it go?

  16. Exciting! What would you suggest for surface plantings? Do you mix any soil into the straw bale or are you simply putting the seed potato directly into the bale? And, one more question! What would you say the yield is for this method as opposed to hilling?

  17. Mr. Karsten,

    I have just purchased your book from Barnes and Noble, last copy in the store! Your book is easy to understand, and the tips are great. Your Grandmother sounds a lot like mine, I laughed so hard with the manure and then the cost saving tip on checking moisture was of course, invaluable. Both worth the price of the book!

    I do have a question. On the potatoes, do I drop a handful of soil in first, then drop in the seed potato? Do I cover it back up with straw or allow the bale to close in on itself?

    Regards
    Elaine

  18. I am really excited to try this kind of gardening. Can you please tell me do I make a hole in the bale and put the potato in the bottom and then fill in the rest of the hole with compost/soil? Then I can plant other veggies/ flowers on top of the soil covering the potatoes? Thank you

  19. Hi Joel!
    Do you push the seed potatoes down in to the bale?? My bales seem a bit tight…..should I consider cutting the twine and lengthening it a bit then retying?? Let me know~
    Thanks!
    Leisa Bauer
    Bauer*Wood Farm

    1. Did you think to just push them in a little ways and then just flip the bale over?

  20. Carol Morrell

    I have been growing in straw since I got your book last year. I absolutely love it! I plant flowers and strawberries on the sides and lots of vegetables on top. I have about 24 bales and I think this is the best thing I’ve ever done. Thank you so much for sharing what you know with us.

  21. I am having difficulty getting any deeper in the bale than the top of my wrist. The bales seem to be pretty tight, and there are no cracks I can utilize. Any suggestions?

  22. Friends of ours grow tomatoes in hay bales also. Have covered regular garden beds with straw, but never planted in the bale itself. Looking forward to trying this ASAP this spring. Thanks for the tip, Sandi.

  23. Do you think the heat given off from the decomposing straw would be enough to grow sweet potatoes in the Northeast?

  24. I am wondering…… do you condition the bale the same when you are planting potatoes. Some potatoes do not do well with high nitrogen levels .

  25. We live in Tucson…. 115 degree summers. do you think this type of gardening would still work for us during these hot summer months from May through September?

  26. I am very intrigued by this, however, I have Celiac disease which means I can’t consume wheat. Is there any chance that the potatoes grown this way could become cross-contaminated with gluten from the use of wheat straw? I realize it sounds silly, but I have to be so careful!

  27. I have bales from last year that I was going to try to plant potatoes in do you retreat the bales or are they good to go?

  28. I have really enjoyed reading this. I love planting and have planted potatoes for years but I have never come across this method. I want to try it this year. Got to start searching for straw first. Any ideas? I live in a suburban community in the UK.

  29. Susan Urban

    We’ve been growing tomatoes & peppers in straw bales for a few years in Illinois. The `1st year, we had incredible plants, huge tomatoes & the healthiest looking plants….looked like a commercial for a fertilizer. We treated the the bales w/a special fertilizer & watered them for about a week & checked the temperature. Then we reused them the following year & the results were OK but so far, we haven’t repeated our beginner’s luck. We replaced the original bales & they sat out from when we got them from a pumpkin display in October….when we planted them the following spring, we were told it wouldn’t be necessary to treat them. that they’d be ‘seasoned’ enough over time. Again, did not get our great early results. This year the tomatoes are pretty small & the ones in our garden are much better. We have put potatoes in 1 of the bales & the greenery are top looks good. So, we’ll see what kind of crop we harvest this season. This must be our 4th year. 1st year was great, 2 time w/the same bales was OK. This is the 2nd season for the 2nd set of bales.

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