Ah, the vagaries of gardening in the Northeast… An exceptionally rainy Spring has brought more than a few false starts with rotting seeds, and slow starts with battered seedlings. Such setbacks are par for the course when you throw in with Mother Nature. It’s all part of the adventure.
Even with an uncooperative Spring, there are a few plants that are flourishing, including my potatoes, which are growing like crazy. Having just finished a second hilling, I thought I’d share a few tips on how and why to hill.
First the “Why”: Though hilling won’t necessarily encourage potatoes to form all along the stem the higher you go, it does improve drainage, minimizes frost damage and tuber greening, aids in weed control, and facilitates harvesting. If you don’t hill, the potatoes forming near the surface will turn green and the stolons near the surface which form the tubers may turn into leaves instead of tubers.
Now the “How”: Hilling is pretty straight forward. First you plant the potatoes in a trench below soil level. Then as they grow, keep adding more soil around the plant once it reaches anywhere from 8-12″ high.
If you want to hill for potato production along the stem, you need to hill often so that only two inches of stem are seen at the top. And you need to hill with a good growing medium–potatoes like rich, moist, well-drained soil.
It’s that simple: start with good soil and hill up to 3 times throughout the season, and you’ll be rewarded with an abundance of delectable little treats that store well and taste heavenly.
But be forewarned; once you taste a potato from your garden you’ll never be happy with store-bought again.