Full Review - Ruth Stout Method

Back40

Homesteadin'
Gold Subscriber
#1
We've prepped the area and had a full grow season using the Ruth Stout Method now, and I thought review might be helpful!

First off, if you're not familiar with the method, here's what it entails:

We put down a plot that is about 20'x30' back in the fall. We put down a layer of cow manure and tilled about 6" deep, smoothed out the ground, and then put down 10" of hay. The hay was scraped from the hay rings... if you have cattle, you know that they tear the bales up and don't eat what falls to the ground. We were able to salvage enough hay from the hay rings to make this entire plot! As a bonus, some of it was pre-fertilized...

This is what the plot looked like initially:

20190320_191014-1612x907.jpg

The hay sat for about two months before we planted potatoes.

That's not ideal - ideally you want it to sit six months or so to enable the bottom layer of hay to compost and provide a richer soil. Next year I expect the soil to be much better!

We put in Pontiac Red and Yukon Gold. About 150 plantings altogether.

We also planted squash (two varieties) and watermelon (two varieties).

When planting, you merely scrape away a small bit of hay to get down to the dirt and place the potato/seedling/seed on the surface of the soil. You don't actually bury anything in the soil.

After planting, the potato plants came up quickly and were very healthy.

20190414_154535-1612x907.jpg

The potatoes did extremely well. Our soil is primarily clay here, and you certainly can't plant them in the ground.

Due to excessive rainfall this year and the winter cold lasting well into the spring, we were the only people around who actually harvested potatoes this year. Everyone else around us couldn't even get them to grow in their raised beds. This method took us from total potato failure this year to a great harvest! The drainage is superior, and the bottom layer of hay is always damp. Perfect growing conditions for potatoes.

We averaged something like 2.5 pounds of potatoes per Pontiac plant, and about 1.5 pounds per Yukon. I will say though that the Yukon potatoes are the best I've ever had. They taste like there's already butter mixed in... very smooth and creamy.

Harvesting was really easy. Move aside some hay, and pull out the potatoes. Done. No digging!

The squash and watermelon didn't like the method much. Squash took twice as long to grow for some reason, but did in the end do well and produce. I'll put them back in dirt next year.

The watermelon hated it. The plants never even produced a small watermelon.

So, this is a 10/10 for potatoes, but I wouldn't use it for other plantings just yet.

We'll experiment further next year!
 

HandLoad

Magnificat
Brass Subscriber
#3
We had great success in Years past with the Yukons, in Hay Columns, defined by Four-Foot high Hardware cloth cylinders. Every Two or Three Weeks, add enough hay to cover all but Two or Three Topmost leaves of each plant.

Two ways to harvest: just need a few, reach through the hay from top;
Need lots (or end-of-season), take off Hardware corral, and dig through all the hay (garden rake worked a treat for this, leaving behind only small potatoes).

While We didn't keep track of yield, I am pretty sure We have done better than 1.5 Pounds per Plant...

Because Health Problems, didn't plant them this Year.
 

Back40

Homesteadin'
Gold Subscriber
#5
I looked into something like that, HL but I personally wanted something that was zero maintenance. Didn't want to have to add more hay, etc., plus we wanted to do 150 plantings in total.

We literally didn't touch the plants after they were put under the hay until harvest time, and with all my other homesteading projects that's what I was going for!

Sounds like your system is great for what you needed it for!
 

HandLoad

Magnificat
Brass Subscriber
#6
Yeah, I couldn't use production from 150 plants! Second Year, the smalls had resurrected the Potato patch, without the cylinders, and just like You showed, ZERO Maintenance produced a fair amount! We only had Six Plants, IIRC.
 

Inazone

Pro Libertate
Brass Subscriber
#7
We had great success in Years past with the Yukons, in Hay Columns, defined by Four-Foot high Hardware cloth cylinders. Every Two or Three Weeks, add enough hay to cover all but Two or Three Topmost leaves of each plant.
I know you mentioned not growing potatoes this year, but do you happen to have pictures of this? I need to find a better way than what I've been doing, which is to put down a base of dry leaves in the fall after done harvesting, and then dig down just a few inches to plant my seed potato segments in the spring, piling the leaves back over top. Unfortunately, I run out of dried (or damp by that point) leaves as they break down or blow away, and then end up having to mound dirt around the bases of the plants, pull weeds, rinse, repeat.

I might not be able to accomplish the same thing with leaves as with hay, but the cloth cylinders sound intriguing.
 

HandLoad

Magnificat
Brass Subscriber
#8
Sorry, No. Pretty easy to set up. Rough up Your dirt, level. Get Four Foot wide roll of Hardware Cloth, the kind of Steel wire, with 1/2 - Inch Holes. Make up a cylinder. I made mine about Four Feet across. Pitched in a mix of leaves, and hay, about 6 Inches deep. Put in the Potato starts (quartered Yukon Gold Potatoes, each with at least one "eye". Covered with about Nine inches of Compost/leaves/chicken coop sweepings. Watered eal good, and left.

As leaves come up, would bury all but the top/middle three leaves every couple or Three weeks.

That's it.

Ya end up with a Four to Five Foot column. Dig in with Your hands for z couple spuds. Later, open a port to get some from lower section, or unlace the whole cylinder to harvest the whole column.
 

AGreyMan

Doing the best I can
Brass Subscriber
#9
We've prepped the area and had a full grow season using the Ruth Stout Method now, and I thought review might be helpful!

First off, if you're not familiar with the method, here's what it entails:

We put down a plot that is about 20'x30' back in the fall. We put down a layer of cow manure and tilled about 6" deep, smoothed out the ground, and then put down 10" of hay. The hay was scraped from the hay rings... if you have cattle, you know that they tear the bales up and don't eat what falls to the ground. We were able to salvage enough hay from the hay rings to make this entire plot! As a bonus, some of it was pre-fertilized...

This is what the plot looked like initially:

View attachment 9335

The hay sat for about two months before we planted potatoes.

That's not ideal - ideally you want it to sit six months or so to enable the bottom layer of hay to compost and provide a richer soil. Next year I expect the soil to be much better!

We put in Pontiac Red and Yukon Gold. About 150 plantings altogether.

We also planted squash (two varieties) and watermelon (two varieties).

When planting, you merely scrape away a small bit of hay to get down to the dirt and place the potato/seedling/seed on the surface of the soil. You don't actually bury anything in the soil.

After planting, the potato plants came up quickly and were very healthy.

View attachment 9336

The potatoes did extremely well. Our soil is primarily clay here, and you certainly can't plant them in the ground.

Due to excessive rainfall this year and the winter cold lasting well into the spring, we were the only people around who actually harvested potatoes this year. Everyone else around us couldn't even get them to grow in their raised beds. This method took us from total potato failure this year to a great harvest! The drainage is superior, and the bottom layer of hay is always damp. Perfect growing conditions for potatoes.

We averaged something like 2.5 pounds of potatoes per Pontiac plant, and about 1.5 pounds per Yukon. I will say though that the Yukon potatoes are the best I've ever had. They taste like there's already butter mixed in... very smooth and creamy.

Harvesting was really easy. Move aside some hay, and pull out the potatoes. Done. No digging!

The squash and watermelon didn't like the method much. Squash took twice as long to grow for some reason, but did in the end do well and produce. I'll put them back in dirt next year.

The watermelon hated it. The plants never even produced a small watermelon.

So, this is a 10/10 for potatoes, but I wouldn't use it for other plantings just yet.

We'll experiment further next year!

Thanks for this great post. I got a lot out of the photos and description. Much obliged!
 

AGreyMan

Doing the best I can
Brass Subscriber
#10
Here are the results from the people who did the video you posted:


I have a question: does it need to be spoiled hay? Can you use unspoiled hay?

And how come the plants you want to come up come up, but weeds don't? That seems like unholy voodoo!
 

Back40

Homesteadin'
Gold Subscriber
#11
Here are the results from the people who did the video you posted:


I have a question: does it need to be spoiled hay? Can you use unspoiled hay?

And how come the plants you want to come up come up, but weeds don't? That seems like unholy voodoo!
My results were similar to theirs!

The hay I put down wasn't spoiled - just let it sit out there a few months and the bottom layers will decompose on their own.

The only thing I had grow in the hay that I didn't want was some bermuda grass - zero weeds.
 

Catapult

Well-known member
Brass Subscriber
#13
We've prepped the area and had a full grow season using the Ruth Stout Method now, and I thought review might be helpful!

First off, if you're not familiar with the method, here's what it entails:

We put down a plot that is about 20'x30' back in the fall. We put down a layer of cow manure and tilled about 6" deep, smoothed out the ground, and then put down 10" of hay. The hay was scraped from the hay rings... if you have cattle, you know that they tear the bales up and don't eat what falls to the ground. We were able to salvage enough hay from the hay rings to make this entire plot! As a bonus, some of it was pre-fertilized...

This is what the plot looked like initially:

View attachment 9335

The hay sat for about two months before we planted potatoes.

That's not ideal - ideally you want it to sit six months or so to enable the bottom layer of hay to compost and provide a richer soil. Next year I expect the soil to be much better!

We put in Pontiac Red and Yukon Gold. About 150 plantings altogether.

We also planted squash (two varieties) and watermelon (two varieties).

When planting, you merely scrape away a small bit of hay to get down to the dirt and place the potato/seedling/seed on the surface of the soil. You don't actually bury anything in the soil.

After planting, the potato plants came up quickly and were very healthy.

View attachment 9336

The potatoes did extremely well. Our soil is primarily clay here, and you certainly can't plant them in the ground.

Due to excessive rainfall this year and the winter cold lasting well into the spring, we were the only people around who actually harvested potatoes this year. Everyone else around us couldn't even get them to grow in their raised beds. This method took us from total potato failure this year to a great harvest! The drainage is superior, and the bottom layer of hay is always damp. Perfect growing conditions for potatoes.

We averaged something like 2.5 pounds of potatoes per Pontiac plant, and about 1.5 pounds per Yukon. I will say though that the Yukon potatoes are the best I've ever had. They taste like there's already butter mixed in... very smooth and creamy.

Harvesting was really easy. Move aside some hay, and pull out the potatoes. Done. No digging!

The squash and watermelon didn't like the method much. Squash took twice as long to grow for some reason, but did in the end do well and produce. I'll put them back in dirt next year.

The watermelon hated it. The plants never even produced a small watermelon.

So, this is a 10/10 for potatoes, but I wouldn't use it for other plantings just yet.

We'll experiment further next year!
Back40

Did you use a specific "seed" planting distance for the taters?