Posted on May 13, 2013 @ 09:34:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I planted my first batch of potatoes in the hay windrows this weekend. I planted 150 lbs of Norland early red potatoes.
Equipment for Planting Potatoes
I purchased a hand rake before I drove down to the farm because I thought it might make planting into the hay easier. It certainly did. I developed a fairly efficient planting motion that consisted of striking the corner of the rake into the hay windrow, pulling back some matted hay, sticking the potato under the back of the lifted hay mat, then putting the hay mat back into place on top of the potatoe.
Rotted-Hay Growing Medium
I didn't cut up the potatoes as they were fairly small tubers and were a good size for planting as they were. I wore work gloves while planting and could have used a pair of knee pads but didn't bother to get them. Feeling some tenderness in my knees today.
I have 650 lbs more potatoes to plant. I'll be trying to take another dent out of that next weekend.
One question you might have about growing in hay is where the fertility comes from to grow the potatoe plant. The rotted hay is one source of fertility. The fields are also abundant with worms so there is likely to be alot of vermicomposting going on as well in the hay windrows. I also plan to add more hay to the windrow in about a month to give the plant more area to grow into.
Worm Basking on Top of Windrow
This is my first foray into growing vegetables at a scale where I might try to derive some income from a farm product (planting fruit trees and grape vines as well but they take longer to be productive). There was some urgency to plant my early season Norlands as I want to have some of the earliest local potatoes and use these to get into the door with local restaurants or markets and possibly create customers for my other potatoes all season long. If they grow well they could be considered a premium organic potato (small red potatoe, white flesh, few blemishes, clean, unique, sustainable, eco-friendly).
Haven't spent much time figuring out possible yields and pricing. More focused on removing uncertainty about scaling up my hay-based growing efforts by getting seed into the hay and seeing what issues I might run into through the season. I've decided, however, to go big and assume it will work rather than conduct a smaller scale experiment on this approach. I had some success last year growing potatoes in hay but was using bales instead of loose hay gathered into windrows (which is a simpler longer term approach). I have also planted about 300-400 vegetable/spaghetti squash seeds into the hay so far and that could be another major crop this year. I have about a 5 acre field that I set up for hay-based planting this spring.