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How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:09 am
by bonniethomas06
Has anyone here grown potatoes through weed proof membrane?

I am trying to keep the garden as low maintenance as possible as we have just found out we are having a baby in August! And unfortunately pelvic girdle pain has already started. We are happy, but dang and blast, it couldn't happen at a worse time for the garden!

So, I would rather have as little bed to weed as possible. Also, as we have been turning over sods to make the edged beds, there are a few sods which still have grass hanging on, so I am hoping that being smothered by potato plants, manure and weed membrane (the decent, thick stuff) for a couple of seasons will kill the remains of the grass off.

However, I am not sure about watering. I know weed membrane lets it through, but is this going to be enough if we have a dry summer - is it easy enough to stick a hose down the grow hole to water them?

Am in two minds as I appreciate that potato plants cover a lot of ground anyway once they get going, but until then I think the weeding might be too much. Would love to hear from anyone that grows this way.

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:51 pm
by Odsox
First off, congratulations to you both :cheers:

I've never used weed proof membrane in any other way than my original polytunnel paths, but I would have thought that it would be ideal for what you're planning.
It certainly does allow water through it, and once it's through I would say that it prevents it from evaporating. So it would work well as a mulch, and when the potato haulm starts to spread and shade it, it would work doubly so (at a time in high summer when hopefully it would be needed most).

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 8:02 am
by Green Aura
That's a sly way of slipping it into the conversation, Bonnie. :lol: :grouphug: (Group hug because I'm hugging two of you now). Congratulations to you and your OH.

One thought on the spuds - have you already planted them? I was just thinking that newspaper and mulch might be better than membrane, covered with lots of mulch. It will give similar protection but will hold moisture, you won't mind ripping it to pieces when harvesting time comes and it will rot down in situ. Membrane is so expensive - you'd want more than one season out of it - especially now you've got an extra mouth to feed. :wink:

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:51 am
by bonniethomas06
Thanks both

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:56 am
by bonniethomas06
Thanks both :icon_smile: What could possibly go wrong eh? Its amazing the lengths you go to for a year off work!

Maggie we already have the membrane (bought way too much for the greenhouse) and a distinct lack of mulch - have already emptied the contents of our only compost bin on to these new patches which haven't seen organic matter for decades - and I am really struggling to get muck delivered.

I do like the idea of newspaper though - when we have grass cuttings in the early summer I suppose I could use newspaper and mulch to do the same thing for my squashes and courgette bed?

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:37 pm
by Green Aura
I was thinking more about how you get the spuds from underneath the membrane without wrecking it. Anything you harvest from above ground will be fine.
Probably just me. I'm guessing lots of folk use this method.

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:21 pm
by Odsox
Green Aura wrote:I was thinking more about how you get the spuds from underneath the membrane without wrecking it

I don't see a problem unless I'm totally misunderstanding what's proposed.
I was thinking, draw out the rows, plant the spuds, cover with soil and earth up a bit and then lay weed membrane between the rows so that the edges are somewhere along the centre of the row. Then the plants grow up in the gap.
Harvesting would then just be a case of rolling the fabric up before digging.

If the potatoes are first earlies and are dug one root at a time for a meal, then the fabric can be flopped back after digging to keep it in place for the rest of the row.

But then note the disclaimer below :iconbiggrin:

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:50 pm
by Green Aura
Ingenious. I would have cut a cross and stuffed the spuds through. :lol:

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:50 am
by bonniethomas06
Yes, thanks Tony, good point - must remember to plant in order of harvest so I don't end up with first earlies bang smack in the middle!

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 7:13 pm
by diggernotdreamer
I grow no dig potatoes in a 4 foot wide bed, I have used a fabric in the past and I would recommend using the black fabric type rather than the woven stuff which if you cut frays like made and gets all over the place. I don't grow potatoes in rows, or use ridges, I put the potatoes approx 12" apart using equidistant spacing, make a hole shove the spuds in and then cover over with damp newspaper and straw or hay, if it is a bit windy, damp it all down, you can break it up and chuck it into a water butt and then spread over the paper, as the spuds come up, you mulch up with whatever you have, usually grass mowings as the season progresses or more hay and straw. When growing early potatoes, I don't dig up whole plants, I just furtle under the mulches and find edible sized tubers which I detach and move to the next plant, leaving the tiddlers to keep growing on. If you are growing under fabric, you don't need to make ridges particularly, just put your spuds in the ground, cover over with compost or straw and cover over, keep an eye open for the foliage trying to pop through and then make a cut when they are coming up, you can cover the top of the fabric with straw just to keep light to a minimum and as you have not go a slope for water to fall off, it will go through and down to the roots.

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2017 8:28 am
by Flo
Congratulations on the event bonnie. It's when the bairn arrives that you will find things chaotic and you just may not have the energy outdoors for a few months. You might need to be training a helper.

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:35 pm
by fruitfly
Is it possible to grow potatoes by planting them however deep, leaving the soil level, then covering with newspaper and allowing the greenery to grow through a cut in the newspaper and leaving it at that until the spuds are ready to harvest?

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:44 pm
by Weedo
Fruitfly

Your proposal is certainly possible; the reason for hilling is to increase yield by stimulating root and tuber growth higher up the stem. Leaving them just growing flat will mean fewer spuds per plant. Alternatives could be to grow in large tubs and progressively fill with soil etc. (a friend in the southern climes here uses old 1 tonne wooden apple bins) or use something with open bottom and top that can be put around the plant and then stacked to create the "hilling" - I have seen car tyres used for this successfully.

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:42 am
by bonniethomas06
Thanks for the congrats and the suggestions all. Will keep you posted.

Flo - you raise an interesting point. Am I being unrealistic at having a full on veggie garden and having a new baby at the same time? In my mind I will be wafting around with a baby sling and a trug and keeping on top of things. Realistically, I won't have a lot else going on other than keeping a baby alive and keeping the garden going. I will have my husband at home for up to a month after the birth, so if needs be he can do the watering etc. Also both sets of parents are close by so can come and watch the babe for a few hours a few times a week.

Is this a completely unrealistic vision? I honestly would appreciate any opinions as we have never done this before. At the moment it is brilliant to have the garden to focus on as it passes the never ending waiting time and stops me thinking about things and getting nervous!

Re: How do you water potatoes through fabric?

Posted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:27 pm
by Weedo
Hi Bonnie
Is this your first?

If an ageing male can offer an opinion I would suggest you stop worrying too much and just go for it - kidlets are tough, resilient little critters and revel in being outside and involved with what their parents are doing. Wrap it up comfortably and take it out in the garden with you, keep it fed and its bum clean and it will be happy. They will watch the leaves and sunlight playing above them as avidly as any toy we could invent. If you involve them and teach them, the littlies will know as much about gardening by the time they are 6 as you do now; my 4 yo grand daughter already knows all about where her food comes from. By all means use the grandies to give you a break and a little "me" time and to be an integral part of the kids life.

I am fortunate to be part of a large and close family, one of eight I now have 22 nephews and nieces, 24 great N&N's and 2 great great nieces. In my opinion, you have to try really really hard to stuff up raising a kid.