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A different way to grow potatoes

Most people wouldn't think to find a productive use for something as simple as lake weed. Dave Schoeck works differently. For the past four years, Schoeck has been forming a mound of lake weed that has washed along his shore on Blackduck Lake and is now growing potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and sunflowers in it.

A year after buying his property in 2000, Schoeck noticed that lake weed was decomposing and filtering his shoreline.

"It really started to smell," Schoeck said.

Over the course of three summers, Schoeck started hauling the lake weed up to an area further back on his property. Over that period of time, a large pile had accumulated.

"In 2005, I happened to notice I had corn growing in the pile," Schoeck explained. "I feed the ducks down by the lake so some of the corn must have germinated in the lake weed I hauled away."

After seeing the corn growing, Schoeck decided to see what else he could plant and grow.

"I originally thought it was going to be a compost pile," Schoeck said. "I figured the lake weed would decompose and I could use the dirt in my garden."

According to Schoeck, he started with potatoes, which worked really well.

"After potatoes, I then went to cucumbers, zucchini and sunflowers. They all seemed to really thrive," he said.

Schoeck said after beginning the growing process he realized all the nutrients lake weed must hold.

"I don't even need to fertilize it," he said.

Lake weed has the ability to hold moisture more so than soil. Schoeck explained that when the potatoes grow in lake weed they have more of an opportunity to expand whereas in regular dirt, especially if wet, growing can be restricted.

Schoeck went on to explain that last year was one of his better years for potatoes.

"I think I harvested 400 pounds," he said. "I give them away to neighbors, friends, my kids and the food shelf."

After giving all the potatoes away, Schoeck still has plenty left to enjoy himself and to use as seed for the following season.

"I eat quite a few myself and I am responsible for the potatoes at Thanksgiving," Schoeck said.

Schoeck explained that his neighbors on both sides of his property have started growing potatoes in lake weed as well.

"They saw my potato patch and decided to grow them this way as well," he said.

Another perk to growing potatoes and other vegetables in lake weed is how clean they come out when harvested.

"There is no dirt mess or anything," Schoeck said. "If I do get some spill over after harvest, I just take my lawn mower and it blows it all back to where it belongs."

Schoeck plants his seed potatoes about a week before Memorial Day and harvests them in late September.

"The longer I leave the potatoes in, the bigger they are," said Schoeck.

Last year, he pulled out a potato that was about 12 inches long and weighed around three pounds.

Schoeck said that he hasn't heard of anyone other than himself and his neighbors taking up this unique hobby. He has thought about possibly bringing his potatoes to a fair one day but for now, he enjoys sharing them with everyone.

"I let anyone who wants to come, help themselves," he said. "We always have a french fry and onion ring feed at harvest time. These potatoes make good french fries."