Why Hill Potatoes?
On this week’s episode, Travis is demonstrating how to hill potatoes in the garden. Here in the south, we have experienced a good bit of warm weather which has caused our potatoes to grow quickly and they are around six inches tall. Since the potatoes are around six inches tall it is time to hill the potatoes in the vegetable garden. The two main reasons we hill potatoes is quantity and quality. On a plant, there are three main organs the root, stem, and leaves. The actual potato is a modified stem, not a root, that is used by the plant for storing energy and nutrients. In other words, the more plant we cover leads to the more stems we bury, and that in return gives us more potatoes (modified stems) to harvest at the end of the growing season. Another factor is if we do not hill the plants then the potatoes get exposed to sunlight which causes a buildup of chlorophyll and decreases the greenness of the plants. They can also build up a chemical known as Solanine which is a toxin that can be poisonous if you consume it. Therefore, the quality of potatoes is best when kept buried or underground in the garden.
Hilling Potatoes in the Garden
When planting potatoes they do best when planted in late winter or early spring while the temperatures are relatively still cool. They should be harvested before the heat of summer becomes relevant in the garden area. To begin the hilling potatoes process, the first step is to use the Single Wheel Hoe and cultivate the pathways between the rows to ensure we have plenty of soil to throw on the plants. Once, the pathways are cultivated it’s now time to the potatoes using the High Arch Wheel Hoe. As opposed to the Double Wheel Hoe which has a clearance of around 5-inches, the High Arch has a clearance of 15-inches which allows the potatoes to become bigger before we have to hill them. Another, reason to use the High Arch over the other wheel hoes is your ability to adjust the spacing on your row or plants. For example, if you wanted narrower cultivation on corn or wider cultivation on lettuce. Using the plow set attachments allows you to throw the soil directly to the plants while working along the rows. After, hilling the potatoes this week, Travis mentions he will probably hill them again in another week or two. However, he will move the plows out even wider to create a wider hill onto the potatoes.
We currently have four different varieties of potatoes that all do great in the vegetable garden. The German Butterball produces medium to large-sized potatoes that contain a buttery-yellow flesh with an excellent flavor profile. The Adirondack Blue is a purple-fleshed potato that is rich in antioxidants and provides maximum yields. Its unique color maintains when cooked and has exceptional flavoring profiles. The Red Norland is known for having exceptional storage and is great for boiling or roasting. It also has better disease resistance to scab, potato virus, and rhizoctonia, unlike other potato varieties. Lastly, Yukon Gold is the most popular and versatile potato variety around the world. It is another variety that produces heavy yields, excellent flavor, and makes medium to large-sized potatoes.