No Dig Potatoes from seed to harvest

See the whole process from sowing to ‘earthing up’ to harvest, by pulling not digging. Potato plants easily root into undisturbed, no dig soil, while developing potatoes need soft, surface material to grow in. It’s often assumed that potatoes just won’t grow in soil that has not been thoroughly loosened, but this video shows the opposite. Filmed at Homeacres April to July 2018, in a spring that started cool and wet, then turned hot and dry after 3rd May. My garden is no dig and you see how few weeds are growing. We spend most of our time planting and picking, about two hours/week on weeding a quarter acre/1000m2.

63 thoughts on “No Dig Potatoes from seed to harvest

  1. Hi Charles:
    I have a question about potatoes?? Will the roots of the potatoes grow through the cardboard under the compost of a newly built bed, as the cardboard has just been put down or do you need to put holes in the cardboard–the ground is hard and has not weeds! Thank you for your reply! Annette from Saskatchewan, Canada

    1. Hello Annette and thanks for your question. Since there are no weeds, you do not need cardboard!
      I keep saying how cardboard is only necessary as a weed suppressant when there are a lot of them.
      Since it is now there, the best way to enable passage of roots is to ensure that it’s moist. Once it’s fully moist, it starts to degrade and roots pass through within about two months I reckon. Moisture helps also to soften hard ground.

    1. You can.
      Slight risk of slugs, and then you may want to remove most of the grass to compost if it makes follow-on plantings difficult in late summer

  2. I’d like to try no no dig potatoes but I don’t have enough home made compost left. I could buy bags of compost from garden centre etc but is there an alternative I wonder. I have access to lots of broken down bracken on the local hills. Probably not much in the way of nutrients though?

      1. Hi Charles. I’m in the Highland, so lots of bracken here too, I was hoping to use it for something useful – but read reports that is had carcinogen properties.

        All the best

        1. I am sure that many materials have such properties if used inappropriately! There are so many fearmongers out there who want to stop us doing good things and I would happily compost bracken.

  3. Do you place Seed Potatoes in a box open to the light on a shelf inside in the warm room temperature.

    Many Thanks

    1. Yes exactly, because otherwise they are in a dark sack and grow long shoots which are difficult to transplant. So the seed potatoes in full light grow shorter shoots called chits

  4. [email protected]
    Thank you for all your good work.
    Please tell me if I have a chance of getting potatoes from seed potatoes planted in September in potatoes bags, they have sent up long green shoots and have fed them with liquid sea weed feed, I purchased the growth bags and seed potatoes from Dobbies the sister company to Suttons
    they did not have any growing instructions for the time of the year for planting, other than advertised to be ready for Christmas.
    I was thinking that I would move them into the green house when colder for shelter.
    Should I cover the green shoots with compost as they grow as bags were not completely filled with compost?

    1. I would not cover them Maureen, yes bring in the greenhouse and simply allow to grow as long as they do, say until hard frost, then pull to harvest

  5. Hi Charles. Just ending my first season of no dig and have been very pleased with the results. Only one real failure and that was spinach. Went straight to seed. Weather I suspect!! Reason for email is to enquire about the means of stopping worms or whatever from burrowing into my potatoes. I had quite a bit of damage. I aim to be organic, but I am not averse to a little chemical help in some cases! Thank you for all the advice that comes from your books and emails. I’m thoroughly enjoying no dig. Wish I’d started years ago.

    1. Nice to read this Philip, and your spinach probably went to seed because you sowed too late in the spring. There is still just time to sow now, for groing through winter and next spring.

      That sounds like wireworm. You can trap some by cutting potatoes in half and placing them face down on the surface. The worms, to eat and then you remove them, every day!

  6. I grew potatoes last year in containers but I want to use a patch of ground next year which is currently full of clover. If I lay cardboard how many inches of compost should I put on top? Do the potatoes get planted on top of the cardboard or do holes need to be dug in the cardboard to put the seed potatoes into? Of course this will be done next year as our growing season is ending soon. Zone 4b.

    1. Maybe 3in compost, lay it on the card now (preferably) or in early spring, the tubers may need to go through holes in the card if compost is not deep

  7. Dejar Charles,
    Have been following you for a while and finally converted our beds this year to no dig after going through the first two online courses. It’s been a bit slower than usual because of the weather this year but it’s going good.
    We are growing potatoes for the third time but have not been piling them with earth this time. We recently reteurned from a long holiday and a few that were on top are green. They say you shouldn’t eat green potatoes but can we use them for next year to plant if kept in a dark and cool place?
    And for the nice ones – do you wash off the dirt before storing or will they keep longer with it?
    Thanks Charles, for everything you are doing for the garden community!

    1. Hi Yifaat, nice to read this and yes that is correct.
      Next year, you could spread a little compost on top of the plants to reduce the number of green potatoes. And you can keep the green ones to use for seed.

      To store potatoes or any root vegetable, don’t wash them ever, just rub off any lumps of soil and compost.

  8. Hi Charles, I’ve got several varieties of potatoes growing in bags, such as Desiree, MC Cain first earlies, kestrel etc. I think I planted these out in early april. They have produced lots of lush green leaves on strong stems. I had used fertiliser occasionally (the fertiliser pellets) I may have used too much fertiliser, as this is my first time of growing potatoes and I was bit over enthusiastic. Today I decided to check the mc Cain’s out of curiosity ,and I dug a bit in the bag, but no potatoes, dug a bit further, but didn’t see any.

    What should I do now? If I’ve over fertilised is there still a chance potatoes will appear or did I scupper my chances?

    1. Pesky fertiliser!! I think your potatoes have a chance to correct the imbalance over time, there still is time thankfully and when leaves are still green that will now be putting energy down to new potatoes! So I will just wait until you see at least maybe a third of the leaves going quite pale, then have another look and you should find a fair harvest 🙂

  9. Hi Charles, its my first year of no dog and i’m finding your online course fabulous…so much information! I have one question on potatoes, mine have been chitting for a few weeks and are going in the ground in a couple of days. But a couple of the potatoes have gone very soft and spongy, are they still ok to put in the ground or shall i discard them?
    many thanks Chrissie

    1. Thanks Chrissie, good to hear, and they should still be alright, however if they are noticeably very soft and spongy compared to the other potatoes, it might be best to compost them

  10. Hi Charles,
    Love to see all your videos,
    Are you replanting potatoes in the same bed after harvest? Thinking of growing an early sort which will be ready for end of June wonder if it possible to plant potatoes again for harvest in late autumn? Or are there any other crops that I could plant after?
    All the best

    1. Thanks Tommy, and I would not do that because June is really too late for potatoes that might give a serious amount of harvest. Check my sowing timeline for ideas because there are so many vegetables which can follow early and second early potatoes, especially if you raise some plants in readiness.

  11. Hi, I have a question/comment to make about using flattened cardboard from boxes in the garden. I recently put down lots in the vegetable garden to decompose over the winter, however, when I went to check on progress the other day, I was shocked to see that the different layers making up the cardboard are joined with white glue which isn’t visible when they are dry and intact.
    My immediate reaction was to remove it all until I’ve found out more about the type of glue used although it may be harmless.
    Any thoughts on this?

    1. I don’t know Emma and I’m not sure that many people do, it’s difficult to find out what these clues are and also they vary a lot so it sounds like your cardboard may have an extra amount.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Charles. I’ve since discovered from 3 different sources that most cardboard is glued together with a mix of water and starch. So, thumbs up!
        Having great results from my first experiences of no-dig, although it’s hard making enough compost for my whole garden!

  12. Evening Charles,
    Been avidly following your no dig process, and so have began transforming my allotment plot with this said method. Your potato growing video was very informative, and i intend to attempt this during this year, along with many other vegetable crops. I luckily have access to unlimited cardboard!! so making the most of these resources at the moment!


  13. Hi Charles, This winter we moved to a new home with 1/2 acre garden, very heavy clay soil, former pastureland. I happened to find a 15k bag of Arran Pilot seed potatoes at B&Q for £2! I just dug a little hole in the grass sod for each spud with a trowel and covered the whole area with plenty of (fresh!) horse manure, however with a very high proportion of straw. (A lady up the road has a couple of horses, and I first inquired as to how her hay and straw are grown.) Now I have been harvesting, and am amazed at the size of the potatoes and how the crop has loosened the soil. Only problem now is whether the potatoes will store long enough for us to eat them. I have built a clamp using straw, wire mesh and old carpets, and hope we don’t get another heat wave. Many thanks for your tips and inspiration.

    1. What a wonderful result Frances.
      Quite similar approach to Irish lazy beds. Good luck with storing them. Heat is less an issue than perhaps rodents.

  14. Hi Charles. If you’re growing potatoes in a bag/sack, do you need to fill with compost to top of bag or can you just put initial layer on top and leave to grow up?

    1. As the plant grows, say with a small amount of compost, potatoes push up and go green in light + roots run out of food & moisture, so you need to keep topping up, keep potatoes covered & white, until leaves go yellow = harvest time

  15. Hi Charles, my potatoes have been hit 3 times now by the frost and the leaves have blackened and wilted. Should I leave them or cut them back as new growth (hopefully) comes through?
    Many thanks again for your super advice!

      1. Many thanks! I love this! My beautiful potatoes were just hit by some minor frost in June! (I live in HSK Germany)

        1. Ah thanks, and so sorry to hear that – we were one degree above freezing at ground level, phew. The squash look not too happy.

  16. Thanks for all your videos! I have a question about earthing up. My potatoes are a new no dig bed this year, sown through the cardboard layer on top. They each have a roughly 3 inch sq hole to grow through. Should I still be earthing them up or will the cardboard offer enough protection? I’m thinking that a spade full of compost won’t do any harm to each one?
    Many thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Pam and both possibilities can work. If you have enough compost, yes some on top will be good. And over leaves before late frost!

  17. I love your videos and am trying to establish a little more of a garden this year. We have grown a few potato plants in the past, but always from leftovers from the grocery store. I was hoping to do the no dig method this year and have a whole bag of potatoes from the store that are all covered in chits. So, is it okay to plant so many from the store or am I liable to harm the soil if there is disease? Does it matter if they are organic? The bag I have is yellow potatoes, organic. Thanks so much. Happy Gardening!

    1. Nice to hear Carla and that can work.
      The bag should have a variety name, best do a Search to learn when it’s likely to mature, probably August.
      Plant asap before chits are too long & risk breaking.

  18. Hello Charles,
    I’m a bit late putting my 1st earlies in the ground this year as the ground was too wet previously. I’m clearing previous crops now to put my earlies in, I’ve got had the chance to prepare my bed for no dig, if I put cardboard down now and compost on top, will my potatoes still grow,
    I’ve only got 3 x 50L compost bags, but 3 x famyard manure bag so how deep should I go and what size bed would you recommend for 1st earlies?
    Sorry for long message!
    Very grateful to you.

    1. Timing is ok.
      You may not need cardboard depending on weed situation.
      Say 3in compost/7cm with potato seed at or just below soil level.

  19. Thank you for a great video 🙂
    May I ask when would you start to water them? And would you cover with compost as soon as you see potatoes appearing or wait for the 8 weeks?
    Thank you

    1. Watering depends how dry it is.
      In our climate, very rarely.
      Most benefit in final three weeks of growth.
      Compost on top if you see tubers pushing up and at risk of going green in light.

  20. Hi Charles

    Thank you for this video. I have a couple of questions though:
    1) do you water the potatoes after you have planted them?
    2) some of the earlier I have just bought do not have chits, is it still ok to plant them or better to better to leave them until the chits appear?

    1. Pete
      I would mention watering after planting, if I had – there is no point.
      Always fine to plant without chits, when it’s the season.

  21. Hi Charles,
    LOVE your videos and am a complete (novice) convert!
    If I remember correctly, earthing up meant covering the foliage (or is that wrong too?!). Presumably you don’t cover the foliage, just any potatoes that may appear on the soil surface?
    Thanks so much! Excited for NoDig2020!

    1. Lovely to hear Bee and it’s true that earthing up was also to protect foliage from late frosts, if they happened.
      Mostly it’s to stop tubers going green.
      Have a great 2020.

  22. Hi Charles,

    Very excited to be doing more no dig vegetable growing this year as we now have another 4 veg beds in our back garden 😀 (plus 3 in the front garden & another out the back). No dig makes veg growing a lot more accessible for me with a chronic illness which is great. Loving your videos (& books) for hints and tips & direction.

    My question- please could you let me know if there anything that we could plant either in between the potatoes (catch crop like radishes maybe or intercropping?) or very near (potentially cabbages as you had done as they looked pretty close to the potatoes- would you recommend that over putting anything inbetween them? Anything else as well as cabbages that could work well?) thank you in advance 🙂.

    1. Yes I plant multisown radish and turnips (sown now) between potatoes.
      Early cabbage and coriander close.
      Enjoy your new beds!

  23. No dig has made it to my backyard farm in Beavercreek, Oregon. I have a couple of potato questions if you don’t mind. I found that if I don’t order my seed potatoes now, there aren’t any left in the shops by the time I want to put them in the ground. Do you have any tips on storing until planting? Also what are your thoughts on sprouting them in a window and cutting/chitting them before planting.
    Anxiously awaiting my 2020 calendar…..

    1. Hi Holly and nice to hear.
      After buying seed potatoes, just lay them one deep in a box and near a window, so the sprouts they make stay short and strong, not long and white which happens if kept dark.
      Those sprouts are called chits. Your two Q’s have one answer, plus I would cut them only of large, which they should not be.

  24. I have just had my seed potatoes delivered and I bought an allotment beginners selection of 6 x 1kg which is around 13 seed potatoes of 6 varieties. I went and measured the bed I was hoping to use to grow the potatoes this year which is 4.3m x 1.4m and it seems I will struggle with space. What would you advise? To either grow a smaller selection, maybe 5-6 of each type or grow and harvest the earlies and then plant the main crops mid-June to harvest end Oct/early Nov?

    1. Up to you Darryl, maybe grow earlies mostly as they plant more closely and as you say the space is then free to grow other vegetables

  25. Dear Charles,

    This is my first year of ‘No Dig’ and I’ve been very busy reading your books, diary and calendar. I just have one question. When would you purchase your seed potatoes first early and seconds in order to chit them in time?



    1. No rush Charlie as chitting is not obligatory! However any time from now is good, park them on a windowsill in light. Not in a greenhouse where they might freeze.

  26. This is my first year growing vegetables and after doing lots of research I had come to my own version of no-dig for almost everything, however after breaking my back all day harvesting potatoes I have found this online and am thrilled.

    I will 100% be following this procedure from now on and hope to find more useful information on your site, Charles.

    And the icing on the cake is that I live within 5 minutes of Homeacres so hope to meet you at the forthcoming open day!

    Many thanks

  27. Thank you Charles! This is very helpful. This will be my second year of no dig (so far great) and will be first at proper ‘no dig’ potatoes, so thanks for this information. I should be 100% no dig now with this!

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