My potato growing experiment in a garden bed with hay or straw.

Growing Potatoes In A Garden Bed Of Hay

Growing potatoes again. What I should say is, I’m doing another potato growing experiment. This time, basically, in a garden bed with hay (or straw). Let me explain why I’m trying to grow potatoes this way, how I’m doing it, and what I hope to accomplish.

Well, the ‘why’ and what I hope to accomplish are part of the same motivation. That is, the continuing search to find a way to grow potatoes the most efficient way possible (and, hopefully, easier).

I hope to accomplish more potato pounds per square foot (harvest) than other traditional methods. For example, if I end up with 5 pounds harvest per plant (maybe overly wishful thinking), I might harvest ~ 100 pounds in a 4×8 (18″ tall) garden bed! (Details below about how many I planted in each bed).

(I will update this post throughout the growing season.)

From a prepping and preparedness point of view, potatoes are one of the vegetables with the most calories. This makes them ideal for part of one’s ‘Survival Garden’..

I chose Kennebec potatoes as the preferred variety. I’ve grown them before. They store very well, and longer than other varieties (stored in a ‘cool’ ‘dark’ place). I’ve stored them over from October until the following April. Plus, like any other, you could choose to ‘can’ some of them too (which I intend to do with part of this years harvest).

How to Grow Potatoes in a Garden Bed with Hay

Like I said, this is an experiment. I’ll update as I go along this season. And if it fails, I’ll let you know that too..

Tall Garden Bed For The Hay

I built two 4’x8’x18″ garden beds using 2×10 PT lumber. I want them tall because we’re going to layer it with hay as the potatoes grow. The idea being that the tubers will expand and grow into the bed of hay – so we need the garden bed to be tall enough to hold a good depth of it.

Base Layer of Soil

I used the rototiller to turn over the sod where the garden beds would be placed. Pulled out the sod chunks (and rocks) and rototilled again.

After placing the garden beds (and leveling them – because otherwise it would drive me nuts), I used my handy dandy tractor to add and dump in more soil over the rototilled dirt. The objective is to get a good 4 – 6 inches of loose soil for the seed potatoes to root well.

Prepare The Seed Potatoes

About 8 weeks ago, I bought a bunch of Kennebec seed potatoes. A week ago (when I was ready to move forward with this project since the threat of frost is now behind us), I removed the seed potatoes from the bag. Those which had several good eyes with growth, I was able to slice them for additional cuts for the garden.

I waited ~ 5 days for the cut skin to scab / harden before planting. This helps protect the seed potato from disease and/or potentially rotting in the ground. With whole potatoes, just plant the entire thing. Ideally with growth pointing up.

sliced seed potatoes dried out for 5 days before planting
My Kennebec seed potatoes

How Many Potatoes in 4′ x 8′ Garden Bed

Are you ready for this? I planted 24 potatoes in each 4’x8′ garden bed. Three rows of 8. Yes, that’s a lot. But I believe it may be okay. We’ll see..

How I Planted The Potato Garden Bed

I scooped out each hole and dumped a bit of composted cow manure in the bottom of each hole. I’ve seen experiments on u-tube and this has apparently made a pretty noticeable difference for the rooting potatoes and resulting plant growth.

Add Cow Manure

I used a mixture of ‘Black Kow’ and some other brand of composted cow manure (from Home Depot). Although my neighbor is now raising cows so maybe next time I’ll just go over there with a shovel and my Gorilla Cart..

Cover The Potatoes

Next, simply cover the potatoes with soil. After that, I hosed it with some water.

Then, cover with a first layer of hay. My first hay layer was about 3 – 4 inches. I sprayed water on the hay too.

Add More Hay As Potato Shoots Grow Through

Growing potato plants in a garden bed of hay..

Here’s my plan.. When I see the new potato shoots growing through the hay, I’ll wait until they’re 3 – 6 inches above it and then cover it all over again.

The idea is that new shoots / tubers will grow out in that hay.

Important to keep the hay moist, but not soaked. I have a feeling that when the hay is fairly deep that the moisture will be more easily contained. Though glaring sun day after day may affect this. I’ll just keep an eye on it, and hope we get an average amount of rainfall.

I will update later when more progress has been made..

UPDATE: The potatoes grew through the first layer of hay and they look great so far. Looks like they’re 6 to 8 inches above the hay. I would have covered them sooner (maybe at about 4 inches), but we were away for a week.. Anyway, we added the 2nd layer of hay to cover them up. When they poke through again, yet another layer of hay will be added.



  1. I planted potatoes this week as well. Those planted last fall are up and happy. They’ll stay in the ground and hopefully spread in coming years.

    I planted the new potatoes (grocery store potatoes that sprouted) under about a foot of woodchips. 6 inches? Whatever.

    I don’t plan to mound them or even water, and we’ll see what happens. If I get one potato from each it will be more than I started with, but I suspect it will be considerably more.

    A few years ago I got an interesting harvest. All the potatoes were in a clump directly under the stem. Which makes perfect sense for a variety bred for commercial planting. Clump root potatoes in the home garden would be amazing!

  2. Last year I did some extreme hilling on our potatoes. I mounded them up knee high. There was no noticeable difference from precious years. I am interested to see if the hay works. I may try that on them this year.

  3. Apparently, potatoes have a mind of their own. At our place they’ve decided to grow in areas that used to be our old garden, and even though the grass has returned and been mowed, little potato plants are peeking through. They’ve apparently volunteered to be part of my hidden garden. We had also dumped old pine shavings in a pile on top of another old garden area. While I was fretting about where to plant potatoes this year, they’d made their own decision and are already 4-6 inches tall in that pile. Crazy. Looks like we’ll be potato rich if they get enough TLC.

  4. Ken:
    I’m interested in this new project. A couple of questions if you don’t mind?
    1. You used PT wood for the beds, are you concerned about the Pressure Treatment, basically a vegetation killer infiltrating the soil? I have always avoided PT for this reason.
    2. You used Hay, Are you concerned about the Hay seeds sprouting? Or did you use “old” Composted hay that the seeds are now done?
    3. You’re expecting the pots to “grow” in the hay, are thinking of using some kind of additional fertilizer for the Hay layer? Unless the Hay is Composted I’m wondering about the nutritional value of the Hay for the Potato growth.
    Thanks for the article on 🥔 🥔🥔
    Will be interesting to see the progress.
    PS: I do grow Taters a Yukon Gold look-a-like that’s more virus resistant, have had God result by j7st planting them in raised beds without “hilling” them through the season. Got 78 pounds in ~40 sqft. Was reather happy with that. AND OMG talk about good Taters, not a single one was wasted.

    1. PS: my Yukon Gold substitute is Inca Gold, I found these in a local nursery/farm.
      They plant approximately 10 acres of these and sell out every year at the local Farmers Market.

    2. 1. No.

      2. Sort of. Though the hay should (mostly?)block light from reaching the soil surface, which should (hopefully) prevent growth of those seeds that may land there. If some seeds germinate in the hay, I’ll turn it over on itself. Straw would be ideal rather than hay, but, my neighbor sells the big round bails of hay so that’s what I used. If I have problems with this aspect, I’ll include this info in future updates..

      3. The soil itself (where the potatoes will root) is in good shape. However I have seen u-tube videos where additional fertilizer is sprinkled into the hay and watered in.. I may do that after they’re into more serious growth.

      78 pounds in 40 square feet is great. I have no idea how well (or not) this method will be.

      I also planted two additional garden beds with 24 each, using a method I’ve done in the big garden rows in the past… simply burying about 6 inches deep and calling it good.. no hilling afterwards. Produced okay..

      If all goes according to plan (it never does), I may end up with a buttload of potatoes (there’s just two of us – but how many potatoes are enough?)

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