Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There's potatoes In Those Hills!

I planted potatoes in mid-June for a late summer/early fall crop. You can see how I planted them by going here.

The plants are now about 12 inches high and I knew it was time to hill them up. I would recommend hilling sooner than I did but since I planted the potatoes so deeply there was nothing poking through yet.



Potatoes form between the seed piece and the stem of the plant. The deeper you plant the seed potato the more room there will be for your tubers to grow. Hilling potatoes is necessary because as the tubers grow they begin to pop through the surface of the soil which causes the developing tuber to turn green. Green tubers can be toxic when eaten and cause a nasty upset stomach.

I read up on hilling potatoes and found there to be just as many methods for hilling as there are for planting the seeds. Good hilling materials include compost, soil, dry shreded leaves, hay, and straw. Each seems to have it's pros and cons. I did find that most gardeners recommend not using manure to hill since it often causes root rot.

I decided that the easiest way to hill my potatoes would be to use straw. Since I didn't want weeds in the bed I made sure to get a straw product that had been sterilized such as Mainly Mulch.



To keep the straw in the bed Andy screwed some stakes into each corner of the bed and then wrapped the entire bed in plastic garden fencing.



You can use any material to fence the bed in - chicken wire works great too. It doesn't need to be as high as we made our fence (we just used what we had laying around) but it needs to be high enough to contain the hilling material.

Here you can see the plastic fencing we used. It comes in a roll and is easy to work with. It's very inexpensive - we bought it last year at Lowes and had some left over to use here.



Once the fence was up we added the straw and made it sure it was fluffy. One of the problems of using straw is that it can attract pests as well as fungus as it decomposes so it's important to make sure you keep it fluffed up so the air lets it breathe. Packing it down would cause many problems and could reduce yield.



For this first hilling we made sure that we went about 6 inches up the stem. In another few weeks we'll add another 6 inches of straw. I'll keep a careful eye out for signs of disease and pests. Before we added the straw I sprayed the plants with copper fungicide to prevent blight. I also sprayed with Spinosa to ward off any pests. I'll spray both again in about 2 weeks.

12 comments:

Grace Peterson said...

Hi Jackie,

What a great idea. I hope your yield is bumper. Years ago when my kids were small, we took an idea from one of Sharon Lovejoy's books called "Tub O' Spuds" which basically was growing potatoes in a large container, adding soil as the plants grew. It worked. I don't grow potatoes any longer but I bought a bunch of fingerlings at the Farmers' Market a few weeks ago and YUM. I forgot how wonderful they taste. I hope you'll keep us posted on your progress.

Mildred said...

What healthy looking plants. It will be fun to follow your success. Love the photo of Ellie!

Outside In said...

The plants looks healthy, you'll probably have lots of great potatoes. I must try to grow potatoes next year. Have a great day
Jackie!

blushing rose said...

This will be fun to follow how your 'taters come along. Haven't grown them since the 1970s. TTFN ~ Marydon

Darla said...

Aren't ya'll smart? Great information here.

Valeri said...

They look wonderful. I keep telling myself to grow some spuds. Perhaps I'll put some in this Autumn for Christmas! Val

lynn'sgarden said...

Oh, didn't know that about green tubers! Good that you have a contained bed for them, otherwise, you'd digging up potatoes all over the place..lol! Looks great, Jackie!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Great idea, and one that we'll try next year. Our potatoes came up in all sorts of places so I can't really hill them this year. I found one coming up next to a rose of all places. I bet you'll get lots this year!

June said...

Jackie!

What a beautiful garden you have! And I especially love your potato bin. I hilled ours with layers of straw then compost this year. But with the weather we've had, I don't know whether or not to expect much.

Oh, how I loved your last two posts. LOVE having creative gardening friends like you...

Stacey said...

Hi Jackie. I've never grown veggies. You really taught me something. Never even heard of hilling th potatoes. I know how exciting it is to see your plants grow though. :)

Bug said...

You have such a cute doggie! Good blog post, I wish I lived at a place where I could have a garden.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Hi Jackie,
You explained that so well that I think I could even try it!

Enjoy those nice potatoes.