Hilling Potatoes: How To Hill Potatoes Effectively For Maximum Yield

At this stage, the first important thing to do is to explain the very process of hilling potatoes (unless you are already familiar with it) since that will help you appreciate the rest of the article a whole lot better.

Essentially, hilling potatoes refers to the process of adding additional organic material such as soil to the budding stem of the plant in a manner that it encourages the growth of additional potatoes. 

 You see potato tubers primarily form around the base of the plant. At the same time, these tubers do not do well when exposed directly to sunlight. Therefore, when you “hill” the base of the plant, you allow budding tubers to form and grow effectively.

The end result of all this effort is that your overall yield of potatoes – from the same crop that you planted, increases exponentially. Globally, this is the crux of hilling potatoes – to maximize yield from each planting of the crop.

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How to Hill Potatoes

The next major question that arises is to know exactly how to hill potatoes. After all, doing it the wrong way will only prove counterproductive since your yield would not be higher than usual, in spite of all the effort you would have put in.

The first thing to understand here is that potatoes do tend to grow fast; from the time you first plant your seeds, you can expect the potato plant to have grown to about a foot in a matter of weeks. This is when you need to plan your potato hilling activities.

It primarily involves nothing more than taking soil from elsewhere and “hilling” it around the base of the plant. For instance, you could scoop up soil from in between the rows of potato crops that you have planted and place it firmly against their stems. Alternatively, you do have the option to add more soil to the entire bed of plants and then make the effort to actually mold it against the crops themselves.

Either way, the job will be done and you would have hilled your potato crops in a way that their eventual yield will be incrementally higher.   

We suggest watching the following video, which will give you a very good idea on how to hill potatoes correctly, helping you maximizing yield and avoiding green potatoes (more on that in the next section):


Why do Potatoes turn Green?

In the previous section, in the lead up to the video, we mentioned about avoiding green potatoes. Well, potatoes turn green when they are excessively exposed to the sun. Besides the off-putting color, this green color is a possible indication of toxicity. That is the reason it is highly recommended that every attempt is made to avoid your potatoes from turning green.

Now, hilling potatoes helps prevent this kind of greening in potatoes. After all, the soil and organic material atop the potatoes avoids direct exposure to the sun.

In addition to the possibility of toxicity, green potatoes have a rather bitter taste. On the other hand, potato taste is enhanced considerably by hilling since it gives them the depth and darkness which they fervently need to grow in the most ideal way possible.

Weed Prevention

Another reason hilling potatoes proves very effective is because it prevents the formation of weeds. Otherwise, weeds tend to form rather easily and quickly around the base stem of potato plants such that they take away the nutrients otherwise meant for your potatoes.

When you hill your potatoes in the correct way as described, you effectively do away with weeds altogether. As a result, there is simply no competing for precious nutrients.

Growing Potatoes Organically – when and how to plant, hill, and harvest

Potatoes can easily be grown organically. Yes, you do need to know when and how to first plant their seeds, then hill your potato plants, and finally to harvest them. We will go step by step.

hilling potatoes

Planting Potato Seeds

Timing

As we have reiterated throughout this article, potatoes actually grow with considerable ease. Therefore, it really boils down to obtaining potato seeds and planting them at the right time. There are different variants of potato seeds so you can choose the ones that meet your requirement the best.

“The right time” is frequently determined by weather patterns in your area. For instance, if you do experience frosty conditions around you, then it is recommended that you plant your seeds at least two to three weeks before the final frost.

In the United States, weather variations between the North and the South imply a slightly different planting timeframe. Typically, in the north you would plant your seeds towards the end of March till about the beginning of May while in the south, anywhere between the end of fall and before the onset of winter would be good. 

One tip we always share with our readers, irrespective of the plant in question, is to make referral checks with other producers in your area about ideal planting times. Once you’ve taken inputs from a number of producers in the vicinity, you would have a fair idea, keeping local conditions in mind.

How to Plant

The next important aspect to consider while planting potato seeds is how to go about things. While there is no right or wrong per se, some tips on this will go a long way in planting your potato seeds correctly.

  • Often, potato seeds arrive in clusters, with a few really large ones and others of varying medium to smaller sizes. It is recommended to cut the larger ones into smaller sizes while planting since that will increase your yield.
  • Overall though, try to plant entire potatoes whole – especially the more manageable sizes, since cut potatoes are prone to worms and other pests.
  • As far as the soil goes, potatoes are versatile enough to grow well in a number of different soils. At the same time, soil which is loose and can retain moisture while also draining effectively when required would be just ideal.
  • Manure is good to use but it should be well composted. Consider using a quality, organic fertilizer such as 2-4-2.
  • Shallow trenches are ideal for planting your potato plants.
  • Each potato seed can ideally be planted at a gap of about a foot from the other. Larger potatoes can be placed further apart since they tend to yield more number of potatoes as they germinate (the extra space gives them adequate leeway to do so).

Hilling

With the when and how of planting potatoes firmly established, we come to the all-important hilling part. Again, some intuitive initiatives on your part can ensure that hilling is done effectively.

  • Bring loose soil around the bottom of your potato plants once they reach about a foot in height.
  • The level to which you hill does make a difference. Usually, during the first hilling, you go relatively higher, to cover most of the plant barring the leaves at the top. Subsequent hilling sessions will be up to lower heights.
  • The gap between the first and second hilling is usually 2 to 3 weeks.
  • During your second hilling, you can possibly opt for straw or leaves in place of more soil. The guiding light for your choice of mulch has to be a loose texture and breathability; both straw and leaves fit the bill.
  • Remember that all this hilling effort on your part will not only ensure greater yield but also keep your potatoes protected from undesired elements such as beetles and other such creatures.

Harvesting

You have clearly put in a lot of your effort and time in planting potato seeds the right way and hilling the plants that grow out of those seeds.

Eventually, it is time to reap the fruits of your labor!

Some intuitive steps at this stage too will ensure maximum rewards.

  • The vines tend to die off. This is when you know that your potatoes are ready to be harvested.
  • Before this, you will notice your potato plants flowering. A few weeks after this is when you know you can harvest.
  • Potatoes are typically very easy to harvest gently, without doing any damage to other potatoes (not all potatoes in a bunch would be ready at the same time).
  • Potatoes can survive relatively cold climate. At the same time, if you do anticipate excessively frosty weather, then you should ideally harvest before that.

Conclusion

In this article, our clear focus has been on hilling potatoes. In that regard, we described the entire process of how to hill potatoes in significant detail. We also spelt out the reasons for which hilling is so important; with the obvious and most important one being the fact that yield is increased significantly, thanks to hilling.

Subsequently, we went over the steps for growing potatoes organically, from planting their seeds, to hilling, and finally to harvesting – with tips and tricks galore!

Anything glaring that you feel we missed out?

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