The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Mulching potatoes the Ruth Stout way

Potatoes mulched with spoiled grass clippings.Mom picked up another half dozen bags of yard waste along her city curb and brought it out to me last weekend.  "It smells foul," she warned me.  "I think there might be dog poop in it, or something awful."

She was right that the grass clippings and autumn leaves stunk to high heaven, but when I opened the bags and sent my gloved hands feeling around, all I came across were some sodden bits.  My best guess is that a gardener bagged up his refuse last summer, then tossed the bags into the garage and forgot about them.  The moisture in the leaves started some anaerobic decomposition and resulted in a stink, but no real harm was done.

I'd been meaning to hill my potatoes --- you're supposed to hill them at four inches, and they somehow leapt from three inches to a foot this week --- but decided to use Ruth Stout's method instead and just put my spoiled grass clippings and leaves on top of the raised beds.  Technically, I'm not really following her lead since I planted the potatoes in normal soil, but I've read that planting potatoes straight into spoiled hay really only works when you've built up wonderful garden soil, and I was planting in new beds.  Take a look at the embedded video to see a 90 year old Ruth Stout in her garden, or skip ahead to 7 minutes into the video to see her planting potatoes.

In other potato news, I should mention that the potato plants I covered with buckets during the last frost are three times bigger than the ones I let the frost nip.  On the other hand, the beds that I let the chickens work on for five days instead of three days have potato plants twice as big as the other beds, even though the fomer were uncovered during the frost.  I'm guessing the boost of nitrogen let them grow large enough not to mind the cold weather.

Thanks, Mom, for the time-saving mulches!

Check out our homemade chicken waterer, a time-saver in the coop.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I followed the link to the Ruth Stout story and followed many more links off of that, and found a wealth if information and to me entertainment. The stories one can find from many people is more than you would be able to do in your lifetime, but is an inspiration to better in your life now. I hope you continue and succeed in all you do.
Comment by vester Sat May 8 08:28:22 2010
I'm constantly amazed by how much great information is out there, both on the web and in books. Hopefully we can read about the past and then build something for future people to learn from!
Comment by anna Sat May 8 13:56:26 2010

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