Friday, April 2, 2010
Some of my potato plants were getting tall enough to progress to the next stage, hilling. This helps the potatoes produce more potatoes. I'm using leaves as my hilling medium, but you can use compost, soil, straw, or mulch. Basically, you pile your hilling medium up the stems of the plants, leaving only about 2" or so of leaves showing.
Hilling has many purposes. One, it cools the soil, which here in Texas is very much needed. Second, it creates space for tuber development. All tubers (spuds) form at the same level as the seed piece and higher, so you are also creating more growing space. Third, it keeps the sun's rays from the tubers. Exposure to the sun causes 'greening' of the potatoes, which often taste bitter when eaten. Fourth, it gives you something to do with all those leaves and dried grass clippings in your yard. Fifth, it helps with drainage and prevents weed growth. Lastly, it makes harvesting easier since the tubers are in the leaves, straw, dead grass clippings, compost or whatever you use.
Here are the first containers with leaves. I only hilled around the plants that were 6"-8" tall. I covered the stems and any leaves at the lower level. If you're overly zealous, you can clip off the lower leaves. I am lazy, so I didn't do that.
We already need to add either another layer of sides or some kind of wire caging to the box so we can add more leaves!
Same planter, different angle. In this pic, you can see that I have too much plant showing and need to add more leaves. I know what I'll be doing on Easter Sunday! LOL
The big blue planter. One of these plants is growing like it's on steroids! Couldn't completely cover the bottom with leaves because of the new little shoot poking its head out.
This plant is appropriately hilled--for now.
I'll continue hilling until the plants start blooming and stop growing. Then they'll start making tubers!!
For more information on potato growing, check out the growing guide on Ronningers Potato Farm's website. Scroll down the page to the *.pdf documents under the form for the paper catalog.