Planting Potatoes using the Ruth Stout Method – No Till Potatoes!

So, Ruth Stout. Admittedly, after years of gardening, it wasn’t until recently that I learned who she actually was/more about her. Ruth Stout was a lady-gardener/author who became quite well known for her “no work” method of gardening. No work!? That’s all I need to hear! While there’s a lot more to the whole mulching process and its application in the garden, today we’ll be focusing on one thing – planting potatoes.


Before we begin planting, we’ll obviously need potatoes. In order to avoid introducing disease into the garden, it’s best to buy and use only certified “seed” potatoes. Seed potatoes aren’t actually seeds, rather smaller tubers that will produce growth. While I’m not exactly certain, I seem to recall reading that potato plants are “loaded” (get it, it’s a potato joke) when it comes to genetic material. This means, if you plan on growing from “true potato seed”, a lot of genetic diversity will occur among the plants. There would be no way of knowing what to expect. Hence, we grow from seed potatoes, which will produce a plant identical to the original parent plant. Science is seriously so fun.

IMG_7242This is what my garden bed looks like before the whole process starts. I’ve removed the black plastic mulch that I use throughout the season to reveal a blank, yet muddy, garden canvas. From the photo, you may be able to notice that my soil looks relatively heavy. This is a low spot in the yard that consists mostly of heavy clay. It’s certainly not ideal for growing any kind of plant, let alone, something that needs to grow underground.

IMG_7247Since the ground here doesn’t drain well, the first thing I’m going to do is add a thin layer of straw to the ground.  I’m not exactly sure of the specific “Ruth Stout” instructions, but this is the way I’ve always planted potatoes – and I’ve always been really happy with the results. Have you ever tried the Ruth Stout method? Let me know down in the comments! I’d love to hear what you think!IMG_7248These seed potatoes are ready to plant. You can see that they’ve been “chitted” and growth has started. To chit potatoes, I simply place my seed potatoes in a cool, dry place. I place my potatoes in the kitchen window to get them started.  These growing eyes of the potatoes look so cool. I can’t wait to see their green foliage pushing up through the straw later in the spring! IMG_7252After I’ve placed the potatoes onto the bed of straw, it’s time to add a thin layer of compost to the potatoes. This step can definitely be omitted if you’re working in a well-amended and healthy garden bed. Since my garden needs all the help I can get, I’m adding some really rich compost. Remember to make sure that anything you add to the garden is suitable for vegetables and SAFE to use. If you’re uncertain whether or not to use something on your garden – don’t use it! IMG_7253Once I’ve added my compost, I simply add another layer of straw on top about two inches thick. IMG_7258As the weather warms, I’ll begin to see green sprouts push up through the straw. As the plants grow, I’ll likely add one more layer of straw to the potato patch when the plants reach about 2 ft tall. This will ensure that all of the developing potatoes will have plenty of space to grow and that exposure to sunlight won’t be a problem. Potatoes exposed to sunlight will go green. Yuck! Not only will they look ugly, but they also won’t be safe to eat. Never eat the green potatoes!

That’s it! I can’t wait to see how these potatoes grow! I hope that this post was helpful! Be sure to tell me all about your potato experiences down in the comments below!

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