How To Hill Potatoes In a Raised Bed

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One of the most important tasks when growing potatoes is hilling up soil around the plants. Once you have the seed potatoes planted, the potato plants will grow pretty quickly. After the plants reach about eight to twelve inches tall, soil or straw needs to be hilled around the plants for the potato tubers to grow in. These “hills” are where the potatoes will form, and it’s important to keep them covered and away from sunlight.

If the potato tubers come in contact with sunlight they can become green and not fit to eat. In fact, green potatoes can carry toxins and could become poisonous.

To prevent this, potatoes should be hilled at least a couple times during their growth cycle. The more you can hill the potato plants, the more potatoes they will produce. When I grow potatoes in a raised bed, I hill the potatoes twice, possibly three times, during their growth using soil and straw. Here’s how to hill potatoes grown in a raised bed.

Hilling Potatoes The First Time

Once the potato plants reach a height of eight to twelve inches tall it is time to hill up soil around the potatoes. If potatoes are grown in the ground, in rows, you simply use a hoe or shovel to hill the surrounding soil up around the plants. Since my potatoes are in a raised bed I will need to add soil to the bed.

As you can see in the picture below some potato plants have grown a bit more than others. This is fine, but I’ll just not hill the smaller plants as much as the taller ones.

Potato Plants In a Raised Bed

I like to use a combination of good top soil and a little compost, added with vermiculite. You can also use a quality, organic potting soil. The vermiculite has water absorbing properties which helps keep the soil from drying out quickly.

Hilling soil around the potato plants is pretty straight forward – simply add soil around the potato plants until just the top sets of leaves are sticking above the soil.

Hill Soil Around Each Potato Plant

Continue adding the soil around each plant until the raised bed is filled and just the top leaves are sticking above the new soil.

Hill the Soil Around the Potato Plant Until Just the Top Leaves Are Exposed

As you can see in the above picture the potato plants are covered with soil, except for the very top leaves. Water the raised bed well, making sure the new soil is soaked thoroughly. Continue to keep the potato plants well watered for the next couple weeks. After a couple weeks the potatoes should be ready to hill again. The potato plants typically grow fairly quick, so keep an eye on them.

Hilling The Potatoes The Second Time

After a couple weeks, the potato plants should grow another eight to twelve inches tall. At this time they are ready to be hilled again. For the second hilling I use straw around the potato plants. Using straw makes it much easier to harvest the potatoes when the time comes.

Once Potatoes Reach Another Six or Seven Inches Tall Hill Them Again

The trick to hilling potatoes with straw is to lay the straw down very thick. The thicker the straw, the better. Remember, we don’t want the potato tubers (the baby potatoes) to come in contact with light until they are ready to harvest.

The easiest way of laying the straw around the potato plants is to just use small handfuls of straw at a time.

Use Small Handfuls of Straw

Take the small handfuls of straw and carefully work it in around each plant in thick clumps. Take your time during this part to ensure you cover as many of the nooks and crannies as possible. Just work your way around each potato plant.

Carefully Place Straw Around Each PlantCarefully Place Straw Around Each Plant

Again, make sure you take your time and carefully work the straw in each little nook and cranny. Try to cover every bare spot you can. After a little work you will have the entire raised bed of potatoes hilled with straw.

Potato Plants Hill a Second Time With Straw

If you are having trouble filling in all the bare spots with straw you can use top soil and sprinkle it on top of the straw to fill in the empty places. This is also good insurance for avoiding any green potatoes.

Once you have completed hilling the potatoes with straw make sure to water the raised bed thoroughly. You may need to add more straw to the raised bed after it settles some from watering.

After a couple more weeks the bed can be hilled with straw again if needed. Now you should be on your way to some great potatoes!

Thanks to my Facebook friend, Rachel Podwolsky for providing some of the tips!

Try These Delicious Potatoes

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Comments

  1. This is our second year for planting potatoes. Last year went pretty well, and so we are hopeful for this season too.

    We will be re-hilling our plants for the second time this week but I had not heard of covering them with straw for the reasons you mentioned. Thanks for the tip, it makes perfect sense to me after having to throw out a few green potatoes last year.

    I am thankful to have found your site. You give such helpful information and I look forward to coming back often to find more insightful gardening tips.

    Thanks and blessings to you,
    Christine
    .-= Christine┬┤s last blog ..Advantages of Vegetable Gardening in Containers =-.

    • Hi Christine! I’m very glad you found the site too ;) I have hilled potatoes using straw and using soil. I prefer to hill first with soil, then hill second and third with straw. It’s really important to place the straw in small batches at a time in layers. Doing it a little at a time seems to cover the area more thoroughly in my opinion. Also another trick is to use some soil and sprinkle it on the straw in a layer. This will help to cover in little openings in the straw if you are worried about that. Of course you may need to re-apply the soil after rain because it will wash out.

      Good luck with your potatoes and keep us progressed on how they are doing!

      Tee

  2. Joyce Woods says:

    Some of my plants are already mabye 2 feet tall. Is it too late to add soil?

    • Hi Joyce – It might be too late if they are that tall. The soil should be mounded as soon as the plants reach anywhere from 6 inches tall to one foot. You can still try to mound soil around them and see if it works. It won’t hurt to try it.

  3. Dave carlson says:

    I have planted some Banana potatoes in my raised garden, in organic soil and they seem to be doing well, but the plant itself is about 24″ to 30″ high, and falling over from its own weight. I only planted these about 6 weeks ago and I spaced them according to the dirctions on the box, and it looks like a jungle. Can I prune these down a little? Would it give more nutrient to the potatoes if I do?
    Waiting for your advice.
    Thank you
    Dave

    • Hi Dave – I wouldn’t prune them any if it were me. That foliage is what delivers energy and growth to the potatoes. You can do some very light pruning perhaps, but I don’t think it’s necessary. You can hill soil up around the plants. That will help support them a little and encourage more tuber growth.

      If you are unable to hill around the plants you can always use a couple stakes and tie the plants to them.

  4. Gashirai Chikonyora says:

    Hie Tee
    How many times should i hill the potatoes before harvesting?

    • Hi Gashiral – Technically, you can hill potatoes an infinite amount of times as the plants grow. If they are grown in rows I think 2 – 3 hillings works pretty well. I have tried 4 hillings in a season, but didn’t see any difference. Just hill the plants once they get about 8 inches tall, then hill again in a couple weeks once they grow another eight inches. You can hill one more time once the plants reach another eight inches in height.

      After that I just let the plants grow until it’s time to harvest.

  5. Matthew Armstrong says:

    Should I hill my potatoes as sson as they start to grow out of the soil or wait until they reach 8-12 inches?

    • From what I read wait until they are 8-12 inches. I made the mistake last year and hilled the plants every change I got from when the plant first came out of the ground to when it was 2 feet high and my yield was next to nothing. After the harvest I looked at the plant and all it appeared I did was extended the stem of the plant instead of allowing the plant to produce leaves and therefore allowing the tubers to form.

  6. Tee,

    If I have a successful harvest is it possible to save a couple of potatoes to use the next year? If so, what is the best method of storage so that the potato doesn’t rot before it can be placed into the ground?

    Thanks.

  7. martha greenwald says:

    Hi Tee,
    Do the leaves that you cover as the plant reaches the correct height grow flowers that turn into potatoes? You say to cover the bottom leaves keeping the tops out of the soil..Is this a quality special to all tubers? It is funny but I like to know exaactly what the heck is happening..at what point in the plants growing season do the potatoes form ..how much time does this usually take..? Martha in UP of Michigan

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