The Double Dug W Potato Bed

While I have played around with growing Potato’s in towers, in strawbales and even in last years “sacrifice outside winter feeding area” the way we grow most of our potato’s is in our double dug 3 foot wide W planted beds.

With alot more work, you can start this with raw land or you can do the same process much faster with already worked garden soil.. now the downside of this is that its a tilled method,so for those that want a no-till garden only this is not going to work for you..

We follow the old (honestly I don’t know how old this method is but I have found it recommended for potato’s as far back as the 1800′s in books), lay down a sheet or tarp and dig out your first row of dirt, placing it on the tarp, have a a good amount of well rotted compost, sprinckle an inch or two of your compost on the trench line, then cut and flip the second row top side down into the line, repeat till the bed is done or until multiple beds are done. I don’t have a picture of this part so I snagged a drawing on it from a UK garden Site.

Personally we almost always double dig all our beds for the any kind of root veggies, I do it very different for above ground plants. It works in a number of way, by flipping the top to the bottom that has been lined with active well rotten compost, the top green dies to help feed the soil itself, and the roots are on the top and you can pull them out and gives you a helping hand on keeping on top of them.

Now is where we leave this method and move to another one, once I get my soil ready, I don’t want to ever! step on that bed and compact that soil down, and I consider walkways that are all done into garden soil that is used as a walk way to be a total waste of my hard work!

So its at this point that we grab our big long handled rakes and make free form 3 foot wide raised beds in the garden. So you start at the top of a bed and you use your rake to pull the walkway dirt up onto your raised bed area, only once that is done, do you step onto the pathway and then pull from the other side. Three feet is ideal as you can stand on your paths and reach the middle from both sides, it also means that you can then choose a number of different seed/planting styles depending on what you are growing.

We did get in a very early row of seed potato’s in one bed done for a total of 28 plants, We filled in the walkways with straw to help keep weeds down, and over the next two or three weeks, we will pull all the starting weeds and once the potato’s pop up, then we will do our first cover on the top of the bed and will build the hills as they grow from there.  I will add in a one more extra to the bed just before I do my first strawbedding hilling, which is to cut down fresh stinging nettles, and lay them on the soil before I cover it, I am not 100% certain why this makes such a difference but let me tell you, if you grow nettles, give this one a try and see if it makes as big of a difference in your garden as it does mine!

So, tell me what is your favorite way to grow your spuds?!

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9 Responses to The Double Dug W Potato Bed

  1. Ed says:

    I growing spuds for the first time this year. At least its the first time since I was in preschool. We are using a tower and they seem to be growing very well. How was your tower experiment?

    • I liked the tower growing, it worked well for me, its just that given the amount of potato’s we plant, the cost to build them vs planting in the ground is to high.. I think you will be pleased with the results, but do watch the towers for drying out, if you don’t give enough water, you won’t get as good as growth, if you water to much at the wrong time, you can get those lovely brown holes in the middle.

      • Ed says:

        With the amount of rain we’ve been getting of late the water is not too much of a problem but thanks for the heads up.

  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    You mentioned a difference after using nettles as green manure? From what I’ve read, Stinging Nettle has the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals of any plant you can eat and it’s been used to feed both man and beast for centuries. Here’s a great article from one of my favourite databases.. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Urtica+dioica
    We used to have a wonderful patch right across the street, until an overachieving neighbour destroyed it ) : Too bad people don’t try to learn how to work with Nature instead of fighting her so much… Have you ever noticed when something grows wild in abundance that it’s usually a useful plant?

    • I have that lovely little english book on 101 uses for Nettles, and it does talk about using it in the composting process and as a garden tea but no where does it talk about cutting them fresh, laying them down and covering them with straw in a potato patch but it sure does seem to give a boost to the plants. I know that folks are always a little huh at the amount of nettles allowed to grow in my garden, but I often will allow them to grow at the start of the season and then cut and use them as a green crop in May.

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        According to the nutritional info in this link from PFAF, nettles are particularly high in iron (when I added chelated iron to my watering schedule last year it made a HUGE difference; the potted plants absolutely thrived on it: good, strong growth, great flowering and wonderful fruiting too; ) so I can just imagine what mulching them in would do for your garden.
        You have the most beautiful looking garden beds and all of the hard work you’ve both done is SO obvious…
        My hat’s off to the two of you for being such good stewards of the Earth and I know your farmland loves you for it too!

  3. The Slow Foods Mama says:

    You are so ambitious! I am way too lazy for double digging. We do a combo of lasagna gardening and green manure for our tatters and pretty much everything else.

  4. oceannah says:

    I’ve grown ‘taters in rows, barrels and double dug beds. I always end up with a crop, just varying degrees of work involved in each method. Barrels are easy. When the mulch is not full of seed rows/hills are ok too. Any way we grow ‘em the best part is eating :) I love the way the soil looks in spring with all that lovely mulch so clean an purdy.
    *anna

  5. Very interesting! I do mine a bit different. I dig a trench the length needed about 8 inches deep or more (laying the dirt to the side of the trench in a mound. I lay the potatoes in and cover with about 2 inches of dirt and then add straw on top (to retain the moisture – it’s dry in these here hills!). As the potatoes grow, I fill in the trench with soil I set aside, eventually, hilling as I use up the remainder of the dirt and the potatoes grow above the trench line.

    I have a ton of stinging nettle just outside the garden. I may need to go get some and use it!! I think I’ll try it on one of the trenches as an experiment just so I can compare. Thanks for sharing a great tip!

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