Growing time – Hill or Mound Your Potatoes
The potatoes growing in your garden are a quiet bunch as most of the magic is happening under the surface. The soil under the potato plants is getting a good workout and will be quite easy to work in the next planting season while each plant is making a couple of lovely tubers.
Left to themselves, the tubers tend to grow right at the base of the plant, so if you do not mound your potato plants, you will get three to four large potatoes and a couple of babies. This is not a great return for the amount of space! Mounding the plants can double or even triple your yield so it is really worth the minimal time spent.
Here’s the unsuspecting young potato plant, growing it’s leaves in the sun. Notice that I have put some of the harvested Pinto Bean plants around the base as a little bit of mulch and soil additive; I typically mulch with yard and garden trimmings as long as there are no bugs or disease infesting the trimmed plants. There are three levels of leaves on this plant, plus a center of baby leaves at the very top. For the purposes of mounding, let’s call leaves with good stems “leaves”.
I put some garden soil around the base of the potato plant in a mound or hill. Since there are other plants growing near the potato right now, I don’t want to get too crazy mounding, but the mound will spread horizontally as well as vertically. I don’t pack the mounded soil down, as that could damage the stalk. There also some other potatoes planted nearby which have not shown up yet. Eventually mounding will be easier when all the potatoes are sprouted and they will all be sharing a large hill in the center of the garden.
I mounded garden soil all the way up to the base of the second set of leaves. As more leaves grow, I’ll keep adding more dirt around the stem, leaving the top two sets of leaves visible.
I’ll mound each plant three or four times and then let them grow and flower.
The plant will start making tubers along the parts of the stem that are underground, which will significantly increase the harvest yield!
When watering the mounded potatoes, be careful not to water the leaves as this can encourage several forms of disease as well as sun burn. Always water early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall and so that the plant has water to keep healthy during the hot mid-day sun.
I water with a slow stream (not a spray) under the leaf area and re-mound any dirt that has shifted afterwards.
As the potatoes start to grow, watch to make sure that they are not exposed to the sun, as this will cause them to turn green. The green parts of a potato not edible (meaning poisonous), which includes the leaves, flowers and stems. If you do discover a tuber that has turned green and/or is starting the sprout, separate it gently from its mother plant and replant it to extend your potato crop.