The ground we were using for growing our potatoes under straw was really a weed suppression exercise, depriving the little nasties of light and also having the spuds fight them for space and nutrients. With that in mind, any harvest was going to be a bonus and we didn’t have big expectations. We decided to wait as long as possible to give the plants enough time to establish in the less than ideal conditions and that worked out pretty well.
We lifted the majority of the crop just before our allotment site’s annual show in September, which is was really well supported and quite competitive! There were inevitable losses to nature, from slugs mostly, also some hungry worms and a few green ones that had been exposed to light close to the surface of the straw. Overall though it was a really nice feeling to have so many edible potatoes emerging.
The biggest surprise for us was that our Picasso potatoes actually won first prize at the site show, which we really didn’t expect, having only entered that category to be part of the community spirit. We had some hopes for other things we’d grown in our first year and those did win some prizes, but it was our potatoes that did best of all.
So, overall the growing under straw experiment worked well and we’d recommend trying it if you have the space to do so. Of the varieties we grew it was the Picasso and Wilja that did best, being really tasty and also producing the most.
After adding all the plant leaves to the compost pile (none had suffered blight through the year luckily) it was my job to add the organic matter on top of the straw to finish off the ‘weed and feed job’ for that section. Our site has a constant supply of manure that can be used at very reasonable cost, but purchase price doesn’t include delivery, so I had plenty of exercise wheel-barrowing the loads up to our plot.