Newly Registered
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Joined: Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:23 pm
Location: Southern Minnesota

Spud conundrum!

Hi! I have also posted this question in the intro forum. I made some raised beds along a sunny fence and have planted potatoes for the first time. I'm finding it difficult to get consistent info about when to start covering the bases of the plants and with what (straw, dirt, grass clippings ok?) The box is only 2 feet wide so don't have much extra dirt to work with. The biggest plant is about 6 - 8 inches tall now. Any comments would be much appreciated!

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

I too am growing potatoes for the first time and have found conflicting info on when to start covering up the plants.

Some sources say "when the plants are xx inches high." Some say to then cover the plants "halfway" or "until you can't see them" or something else.

So...we're covering them whenever the leaves poke out. Right now, that seems to mean daily! That's OK; to us it means that the potatoes are happy.

The more buried stem, the more room for potatoes to develop underground after the flowers bloom and fade.

Hmm...not sure how I'll ever see flowers when I'm so busy covering up the plants, but I'm sure the potatoes will find a way!

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

Senior Member
Posts: 264
Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 3:13 am
Location: Denver, CO (zone 5)

With gardening, there are probably several different methods for nearly every crop. Some people wait until the leaves are fully exposed, then they hill up. This is about 6 inches above the soil line. If you look at articles on the internet, people grow potatoes successfully either way, that's why you see inconsistent information. You have to determine what is the MOST successful method for you.

This is my first year growing potatoes also. I planted my potatoes in a deep and wide container. About two feet deep. I waited to add more soil until the leaves had cleared the soil line, but before the stems were fully exposed. At the rate my potato plants grew, that was about every three days. I covered the leaves completely.

I added soil yesterday so it is now just an inch under the rim of the container. Since I can't add more soil, I can now let the plants grow. You shouldn't ever see flowers when you are in the "hilling up" phase. You allow it to flower after to encourage good strong potato growth under the soil instead of using that energy to produce flowers.

Hope that clears it up for you. If you are still unsure, do half of your crop one way, and the other half another way. Then you will know which way works best for you to do next year. And next year, you can pass on your experience to someone else just starting out with potatoes.
"Love all God's creatures, the animals, the plants. Love everything to perceive the divine mystery in all." -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:23 pm
Location: Southern Minnesota

Thank you for the replies. Yes, the information is vague at best! I think that I will try a few test methods to see what works this season. I'm not sure that I have enough dirt to cover all of the plants so may get some straw. Surely the leaves aren't covered completely!? Maybe? Perhaps the plant only needs direct sunlight in the beginning? My plants are between 5-8" tall right now hope I'm not too late to start mounding!! Thanks again.

praying mantis
Cool Member
Posts: 68
Joined: Sat May 24, 2008 10:33 pm
Location: Northern California

Same here.
My potatoes are in a row with eggplants. This is going to be interesting.
Thank you for the information and suggestions.

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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I have 2 potato "beds" going.
One was planted earlier (Late March) in a 2'x2' (yep, very small "bed" :lol: ) area in a newly sheet mulched raised veg. garden in 9" deep holes and hilled by filling the holes as well as surrounding the 2'x2' area with a 12"H cardboard corral.
The other was planted (Early April) in a 2'x8' area of a fall sheet mulched raised veg. garden in shallow -- only about 3" deep -- holes (I forgot about trenching AND this bed was lined with sticks/branches that were still there when I tried to dig down to any depth).

I mulched the 2x2 with soil/leaves/grass clippings, etc to the top of the cardboard. The plants continued to grow and are now about 3' tall (I drove sticks in the corners and tied strings around them because I was concerned that they would flop over.) and ARE FLOWERING.

My question is this -- is there any benefit in constructing a higher cardboard corral and adding more mulch, or do they stop producing new potatoes once they start flowering?

The other bed of potatoes are just beginning to develop buds on approx. 24" plants. I mulched/hilled some more today, but could very well add more. I'd say the mulch is around 6" deep at this point. I've no corral there to hold the mulch except a short (6") coated wire garden border fence on two sides. FWIW -- this is the veg bed infested with slugs, so I've been muching with 1/2 composted pine needles (i.e. soil dug from under the pine tree with the composted stuff mixed with dry pine needles on top). It seems to be keeping the slugs down -- only a few. This bed has some flea beetles, but I hardly ever see them! :roll:

If the potatoes stop producing after flowering, then I guess there's no point in mulching the 2'x2' bed but I should get on with adding more mulch to the 2'x8' bed....

Thanks for your help! :wink:

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