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One of the most important parts of potato cultivation is the hilling of the plant. Once your potato plants start to grow, you’ll have to hill your plant. In this post we will discuss the process of hilling and why it is so important for growing potatoes.
What is Hilling:
The main edible part of a potato plant is the tubers. The tubers are formed along little stems or stolons from a potato plant that is buried underground. So, no matter how you grow a potato plant you should cover the plant stem periodically with soil or other organic materials. This process is known as hilling of potatoes.
The soil will encourage the plant to grow deep and wide and allows new tuber formation. The more you hill the plant the more potatoes you will have.
Is Potato Hilling Necessary:
Your potato plants will still grow even if you don’t hill them. But If you don’t mound potatoes, you will probably end up with green and bitter potato tubers. This is because potatoes when get exposed to sunlight turn green.
Why You Should Hill Your Potatoes:
Hilling your potatoes, has many benefits for your developing crop, like:
- Higher yield
- Prevents toxicity.
- Kills weeds.
- Prevent the soil from getting too hot.
- Gives stability to the plant
Just preparing good healthy soil for your potatoes is not enough for a higher yield. As the potato tubers are formed in underground stems or stolons, By increasing the total number of stolons that are buried you are increasing the opportunity for the plant to grow more tubers. So generally, The more you hill the more potatoes you get.
Hilling Prevents Toxicity in Potato Plants:
When a potato plant starts forming tubers, it starts at the soil level. If they remain uncovered they will come in contact with the sunlight and will develop green skin. This can cause the tubers to taste bitter and can also be toxic.
So hilling the plant prevents the tubers from getting toxic. Depth and darkness also improve the flavor of potatoes.
Hilling also suppresses weeds and gives your potato plants the opportunity to grow without any competition. The plants won’t thrive if they’re competing with other weeds in the area.
Maintaining The Soil Temperature:
This is very important if you live in warmer climates. Hot soil can prevent a potato plant from developing tubers rapidly. So by hilling your potatoes especially with organic materials like straw, you’re actually insulating the soil and keeping it as cool as possible. This will result in a bigger better potato yield.
Provides Stability As Plants Grow Taller :
When you hill up your potatoes constantly you also give your plants support. This way, you won’t have to use stakes or cages to keep them from falling over. it will prevent your potato plants from falling over.
When to Hill Potatoes:
Once the potato vines reach a height of about 6 to 8 inches above the soil surface, you need to start hilling your potatoes.
Things you Can Use To Hill Your Potatoes:
You can use soil, grass clippings, or weed-free straw to hill your potatoes. Whatever you choose, bring them up over the plants so that only about the top 2 to 6 inches of vines are exposed.
This forces new potatoes to grow under the new mound of soil. When the potato vines again reach 6 to 8 inches above the soil surface, repeat the hilling process.
Do these hilling ups every two to three weeks to ensure you get the best potatoes possible during the harvest.
How to Hill Up Your Potatoes:
Dig a trench down the middle of a potato bed, it will give you the soil to hill the potatoes. A metal rack or a garden hoe will be very useful to do this job. Cover the soil and that place where your potato tubers are developing, in a way that only the top leaves stick out of the ground.
When you heal your potatoes take some mulch or dirt and bring it up against the potato plant and create a ridge. This way your potatoes will develop in that loose soil while the out layer will remain firm.
If you found mounding soil is too much labor for you can also use wood chips, hay, or weed-free straw to do the job.
When to Stop Hilling Up Your Potatoes:
You can hill potatoes till the ridge reaches your desired height. In most cases, a height of 30 cm is enough for getting a good harvest. Repeating the process a total of 2 to 3 times should be enough to reach that height.
But remember, natural factors like rain or wind can erode the hills. This may increase the total number of times you need to mound the plant. So rather than keeping them exposed, you can use wire mesh to hold up and prevent erosion.
It generally takes 100 to 120 days after planting for potatoes to mature. You can reduce the total time by using sprouted potatoes in planting.
For more information see other related posts on potato growing.
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