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mrsgreenthumbs
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Potato's - to hill or not to hill... that is the question

So I have some pretty little tater bushes going strong! I added some top soil/compost around the bases of the plants (pic's tomorrow I swearz!) and I thought "oh why not do a bit more research on how to properly grow these suckers!" So I started looking up guides and youtube videos and such and I have found 101 way's to grow potato's and not one way that explains why one way is better than another. Some people cover even the foliage... that makes no sense to me but ummm.... OK. Others hill up around the base and then let it just get as high as 26 inches tall no added compost just rows...OK... and yet others grow tater's in a cylinder or a bucket and cover the foliage after it has grown out of the soil then cover and let it grow and cover.... I don't personally understand that ... but OK.... So after a few hours of contradiction after contradiction I thought Id come here and ask the pro's ;).

So should I keep adding a bit of soil every so often and allow the foliage to stay exposed to sun and air? Or should I cover the entire things? Or should I just cover the bottom of the plant and let the leaves stay out of the compost?
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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mrsgreenthumbs
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Ok so I had a pic but I did NOT want to share because my garden is a HOT MESS right now and well.... whatever.

I have a lot of project's going on and a 6 yo.... so I get one hall pass this time! lol ;)

[img]https://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c388/queenofdabbws/S5030598.jpg[/img]

Ok so see the hoop house, at the far right corner is about 5 potato plant's. I plan on putting chicken wire around then and adding the compost and leaves. if that is the way to grow them....
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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applestar
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The reason you hill potatoes is because the crop of potatoes form and develop along the stems ABOVE the seed potatoes you planted. At the same time, you can't allow these potatoes to see the light of day because then the skins turn green and develop alkaloids (toxins).

So, if you don't hill or cover with mulch, all your hard work will be for nothing. You want to cover up at least 8 inches or so of the stem.

Also, it turn out that more you bury the stems, the more potatoes may form (assuming you give them plenty of water and the soil nutrition is reasonably good -- you don't want to over fertilize potatoes).

There IS a point after which you don't want to bury the stems and leaves any more because it won't do you any good and also because the potato plants will need all the leaves it has to concentrate on fattening up the tubers. I think it was once the flower buds form, but I'm not positive.

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gixxerific
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AS has some good points.

As far as plating in a hill and hilling up after planting. I'm down with the later. I my one year (last year) of potatoes I found the hilled (after planting) did better than the non hilled potatoes. But I see no reason to cover the leaves like you said. That is where the photosynthesis is done and that to me seems detrimental.

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!potatoes!
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well, just consider that almost all of the growth you're going to see coming from a seed potato is leaf. hilling involves covering some leaf material automatically, unless you're pulling the leaves in the area you cover, first.

agreed with as, there's a point of vanishing returns. i tend to start with a trough or ditch 4 inches deep. as the plants grow, i hill them continuously until the hill is at least 8-12 inches tall, thus giving (potentially) 12-16 inches of tuber production...honestly though, i mostly only see spuds on the lower 8-10 inches.

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Cagolddigger
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Have to agree with the last post.

I usually dig 4 inches and place my spuds. Cover em up and when I see about 2 inches of growth above ground I hill them up again another 4 inches. I do this a total of three times. Any more than that and it seems futile.

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mrsgreenthumbs
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Thanks for all the advice! I think, now that I have some more info that I'll create a little structure around the plants to hold the compost in that corner and see where we go from there. Hopefully I get some good spuds! So how long until harvesting? Iv seen youtube vid's where people harvested in 3 months but that seems premature to me.
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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rootsy
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Or you could just cover them in straw and the plant will grow out of the straw. Straw keeps the sun off of the taters.

I plant my cuts 3 inches deep and hill with the cultivator on my little tractor.

Soon as I get her back together and the ground dries out a bit more it's time to get some taters in the ground... Hopefully by end of the month.

TFA303
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Let me add my thanks - this is very helpful. Some set-ups look like you're supposed to build a three-foot mountain of dirt for each plant!

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mrsgreenthumbs
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TFA303 - Yah I was a bit surprised by that as well. I found people making 6 inches or more of base then adding the seed potato's then covering with another 6 inches, and these structures were like... 5 feet tall! if I can avoid all that Id LOVE to lol and if all I really need to do is hill about a foot more I'll be stoked!
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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jal_ut
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Yes, hill those tater plants. You hill them to keep the sun off the tubers.

You only need to hill them once. Maybe 4 inches deep.

As has been said, there are 100 ways to do it. What do you see the farmers with acres doing? Hilling them once. Leaves are what produce the food that is stored in the tubers. Don't cover any more leaves than what is necessary to get the 4 inches of cover on the tubers. You can wait to hill until the plants are about a foot tall. There won't be any tubers to worry about getting green before that. IMO
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jal_ut
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A picture to give you an idea how big potato plants get. I had one row of potatoes next to 4 rows of beans. The potatoe plants are about 18 inches apart. There are 4 potato plants in this picture. They were hilled one time, about 4 inches deep.
[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/potato_plants.jpg[/img]

Some of the harvest.
[img]https://donce.lofthouse.com/jamaica/potatoes_09.jpg[/img]
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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Ozark Lady
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I just lay the potato pieces on top of the soil. I don't plant them at all.
Then I cover them with leaves, as they grow I add more leaves, and more leaves. I usually leave some greenery showing, and it starts with like 6" then I mulch and leave 8", then I mulch and leave 10" and on it goes.
But, I do have to plant two beds, one for new potatoes and one to let get large. You can harvest new potatoes, you just stick your hand into the leaves and when they are as big as you would like to eat, you pull them out one by one, and let the plant continue making them.

The ones, that I let keep growing, I just wait, it will bloom, and I stop mulching or watering, and let them gradually die off. When most of the tops have fallen, it is digging time. Small ones will be mixed in, and again, I get new potatoes, or I can save these for my next year's seed potatoes.

Did I mention, I didn't even like potatoes? Then I tried homegrown... now I like potatoes. The taste of homegrown, just seems more robust to me, and nicer. And I have only grown grocery store potatoes, never a named brand.
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gixxerific
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Jal when you say hill them do you mean you plant them in the ground than after they start to grow you pile up dirt around them?

Or do you mean build a hill than plant the potato in that than add more dirt to them.

I do the first maybe i have been confused with the term hilling. I thought it mainly meant the second way.
Last edited by gixxerific on Fri Mar 19, 2010 1:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

Venomous_1
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In Tires

Well your probably all going to think I'm crazy, but I grow my taters in tires. Yep...you heard me right...tires. I place a tire on the ground, put in my seed potatoes and lightly cover. As the plant grows I keep filling up with good soil, compost or leaves, being careful not to cover the top few inches of leaves. The plant will continue to grow up and I just keep stacking more tires as needed.

Now, there are some very good reasons why I do it this way:

1) It keeps the crop neatly contained in a defined area. You can paint the outside of the tires to make it look pretty if you want.
2) When it comes time for harvest I can simply knock off a tire or two for however many potatoes I need. The rest can stay in until I need them, even into winter.

Now I only do mine 3 or 4 tires high, but I know some 'ol timers' who go 5 or 6 high. It's just a matter of preference.

Anyways...just my $0.02

Venom in TN

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mrsgreenthumbs
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Venom - I have heard of, and originally wanted to do this until my (know it all) mother twisted my arm about it. She was sure that I would be poisioning every one with taters that had chemicals leeched from the tires.

Are you worried about this?
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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applestar
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HG has posted a few times with his usual links about chemicals/toxins that leach out of tires.

Aside from that, I can't even walk in the bicycle section of a sports store or even ToysRus. The tire smell overwhelms me. Then, too, used tires would've picked up all the road junk, wouldn't they? ... not just asphalt, etc. but auto-exhaust and motor oil and whatever else leaks out of cars or gets spilled. If it was a used tire from farm machinery, maybe no road junk, but original chemicals are still in there, I presume, especially on the inside where it was not weathered away....

... :eek:
Last edited by applestar on Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mrsgreenthumbs
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:oops: Apple.... uhhh. are you telling me... -gulp- that my "Know it all" mother was right?




:roll: oh god she will NEVER let me forget this....

:wink:
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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I've heard of the tire method many times but, personally, I can't bring myself to do it. Although some may say that there is not much (if any) leeching of toxins with the tires and that it would not harm the plants or you, I personally don't believe it.

Just look at all of the things that were "proven safe" that were later dis-proven and you will see what I mean.

Here is a suggestion, instead of the tires, why not use wooden frames that are made with untreated lumber. The stack just as well and look way better that tires. :D Anyway, this is all just my opinion.
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mrsgreenthumbs
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This year I'm doing chicken wire for this first small crop. Just enough to support the added compost in the corner they are planted but I also am thinking of starting new crops of carrot's and potatoes in bucket's or some sort of container in different area's around my house so we always have some for harvesting. Maybe start some seed potatoes in a month or so and carrot's... IDK just thinking, trying to provide all year long at least a basic staple veggie.
Words of wisdom from the women of my family:

"I poured my dish water out the pan over my plants and never once in all my 96 years have I wasted money on "BUG SPRAY"!'

"Aww honey all you gotta do is love something to make it grow."

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gixxerific
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Down with tires.

Up with the earth and big ol' pots. :wink:

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!potatoes!
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i wanted to clarify one thing that ozark lady posted about on the previous page...for the plants you let grow to maturity before digging, yes, there will be smaller potatoes mixed in, but if you can successfully use those for seed potatoes for the next crop, then they're by definition not 'new' potatoes. the name 'new' potatoes is reserved for those immature tubers harvested early...a true new potato, if planted, will rot, not grow, it not being mature enough to have its growing act together. it's age-related, not size alone.

not trying to be a know-it-all, just...let's get our potato terminology straight. it's important!

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Alan in Vermont
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mrsgreenthumbs wrote:Are you worried about this?
Unlike the apparent majority here I'm not! There are enviro/issues that deserve attention but I have given up on following the various "reports" and "studies". Far too often they are based on crackpot science and produced by one or another organization looking for publicity. Even the few that might be trustworthy need real close inspection because often the tests used to formulate data are not even close to real life conditions. That whole mess, the sensationalism, the extremes used in testing, on both sides of issues creates so much of a smoke cloud that it is difficult, if not impossible, to sort the wheat from the chaff.

TFA303
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Even if you're not using tires, would that approximate diameter (18 - 24 inches) be a good figure for each potato plant?

garden5
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TFA303 wrote:Even if you're not using tires, would that approximate diameter (18 - 24 inches) be a good figure for each potato plant?
I'd go with the 24 in. if you can. The more are the plants have, the better they can produce.
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Venomous_1
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I've never worried about leeching from tires into my soil or potatoes and I know several ol' timers around here that have done this for 20-30 years.

Now I don't know about all the 'reports' or 'studies' either, but I can say this: If rain coming down over rubber tires 'leeches' chemicals that are bad for us, then God help us all considering the MILLIONS of cars on the road that drive in rainy conditions! Boy, there must be tire toxin EVERYWHERE. LOL

Ok, back to reality.

Another advantage to using tires is that the rubber insulates the soil within. Therefore, you can leave your potatoes in the ground (tires) long into the winter months.

Again...just my $0.02.

Venom in TN

RosieRenee
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We found old bathtubs work really well for potatoes, as long as they are tipped slightly toward the drain side to allow draining. They make hilling easy, just as in tires, and our old tubs look a little funky. This year, I plant to plant nasturtiums to flow over the sides to add to the charm, after the hilling.
Rosie Renee

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jal_ut
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Jal when you say hill them do you mean you plant them in the ground than after they start to grow you pile up dirt around them?
Yes, I dig a shallow hole and plant the potato eye about 2 inches deep on level ground. Then when the plants are ten inches or so high I pile up soil around them, about 4 inches deep.

One way to accomplish this is to use the Troybilt tiller with the hiller/furrower attachment on it. When my family was home and I needed lots of taters, that is what I would do. With several rows you just run the tiller between rows to cultivate, weed and hill them in one operation. Now I just plant one short row and am likely to just get a shovel to hill them up.
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gixxerific
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jal_ut wrote:
Jal when you say hill them do you mean you plant them in the ground than after they start to grow you pile up dirt around them?
Yes, I dig a shallow hole and plant the potato eye about 2 inches deep on level ground. Then when the plants are ten inches or so high I pile up soil around them, about 4 inches deep.

One way to accomplish this is to use the Troybilt tiller with the hiller/furrower attachment on it. When my family was home and I needed lots of taters, that is what I would do. With several rows you just run the tiller between rows to cultivate, weed and hill them in one operation. Now I just plant one short row and am likely to just get a shovel to hill them up.
AH, now I see. I misunderstood before. So for everytime I suggested that hilling potatoes was not need you can all slap me. :lol: I though that meant to build the hill first. I do however hill dirt as they grow. :oops:

In fact i like to dig deep plant potato than only fill a little bit not all the way. than as they grow keep filling and then hilling after above ground level.

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