How to Hill Potatoes
Potatoes form along the underground stem of the plant, and when you hill them, you lengthen that stem
Welcome to Homegrown/Homemade, a video series from FineGardening.com. We’ll be following a gardener (Fine Gardening executive editor Danielle Sherry) and a cook (Sarah Breckenridge) as they plant, maintain, harvest, store, and prepare garden vegetables. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, you’ll find these videos very helpful. In this video, the topic is potatoes.
Episode 2: How to Hill Potatoes
The main reason for hill potatoes is to increase yield. Potatoes form along the underground stem of the plant, and when you hill them, you effectively lengthen the underground portion of the stem. You can either add additional soil to the bed and then mold it around the plants, or you can scoop up soil from the rows and press it against the stems. Later in the season, it’s easy to reach in and check the potatoes for size before you harvest them.
From a cook’s point of view, potatoes are not all the same. There are waxy and starchy types, and Sarah is planting three waxy fingerling types and Yukon Gold potatoes, using purchased “seed” potatoes. Before planting, Sarah and Danielle cut the potatoes into chunks, with at least two “eyes” (buds) per piece. Then they dig a planting trench 6 inches deep, fill the trench with 3 inches of compost, and place the seed potatoes in the trench cut side down, 6 to 8 inches apart. Finally, they shovel 3 more inches of compost on top.
You don’t have to wait until the end of the gardening season to harvest potatoes. In the middle of the summer, if your potato plants are large and the plants are flowering, you may be able to harvest “new” potatoes. New potatoes are thin-skinned and sweet. You can check the hills and feel around for potatoes, then either harvests them up individually or uproot the entire plant. You can use new potatoes right away, or store them.