We decided to try potatoes under straw this year. While the technique seemed too good to be true, I'm happy to report that there's no better way to grow them. I'm in Maine, zone 4. We tilled up two 5' wide, 100' long rows of old pasture. We had a round bale of old hay in the barn that we used for the mulch. We spaced red seed potatoes about 15" apart in double rows and placed them on the surface of the ground, covering them with just a liberal sprinkling of soil. We then covered the seeds with about 8 inches of hay and walked away. We also did a test patch of our traditional method, which was to bury the seeds in 6' trenches and hilling them as the plants grew. It was a rainy and late season here, and I did worry that the seeds might rot. It took about 2 weeks to see the seedlings coming up. We found almost immediately that the straw potatoes grew much faster, owing, I think, to the fact that the root system was kept cool and moist by the mulch. In late July, our nemesis, the Colorado Potato Beetle, emerged from the soil in droves, and despite our relentless hand picking efforts, they came close to almost defoliating some of the traditionally trenched and hilled potatoes. The straw potatoes were virtually untouched. I speculate that the straw mulch confused them as they emerged from the soil and that they died from starvation because they couldn't get to the plant in time. I have read that they have a very small window of time to come up from hibernation and get that first meal of nightshade. Well, harvest time is here now, almost a month early for these parts. The potatoes are abnormally large, smooth and round from not having to grow around the rocks and other obstacles in the ground. The potatoes grew about 2 inches into the soil, often with the tops sticking out and visible under the hay. They're scab free, which is a blessing in Maine, and the insect damage from pin worms and other grubs is non-existent. The best part is the harvest. For new potatoes, lift the hay, grab a few off the plant, pat down the soil and replace the hay; the plant continues to produce. For the main harvest, lift the hay, use a fork to lightly stir the soil, and pick the potatoes. There's no more back breaking work associated with potatoes, and the final product is superior to the old method. So, I have nothing but good things to say, and I hope you'll have enough information from this post to decide to try it for yourself. Happy Mashed Potato Eating!