First-time potatoe grower questions


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Hello,

This is my first post. I've been gardening for 10 years. Each year I try to grow something different.

This year it's potatoes. I've planted red & white potatoes in 2 raised beds & 1 tower. They're growing great, but I have some questions:
  1. I've read that once tubers get so long I should "Hill" them. I already did that once in the beds, but I'm leery of digging up more soil from the bed for the hilling. Can I just use straw for hilling or does it HAVE to be soil?
  2. The tower is exploding. Tubers everywhere. There's no way to Hill those. Will the fact they're exposed to the sun make the potatoes inedible?
  3. How do I know when they're ready for harvesting?
I've attached a pic of one of the beds and the tower.

Thank you in advance for any help

Zvonko
 

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Meadowlark

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Greetings. You will get more informed answers to your questions if you include your growing zone information.

1. Soil is preferable but straw will help if no soil. The new potato grows above the seed potato and the hilling is required to protect the new potato from direct sunlight.
2. New potatoes exposed to the sun will generally turn green showing chlorophyll which must be removed prior to consumption.
3. Depending on your location, when the tops fall over the spuds are finished growing.
 
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Thanks Meadowlark.

I'm in zone 6a.

I'll look to find more soil to keep hilling. How high do those get?

What about the tower? Can't think of any way to shield the tubers M sun.
 

Meadowlark

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Zvonko,
If/when you are seeing new potatoes on the surface you need more dirt and conversely if you don't see them exposed you're ok. You get better production by keeping them completely covered as well as avoiding the problems with them turning green (unhealthy to you ) from chlorophyll.

I haven't done the tower thing myself...but honestly those look overcrowded to me and the plants look somewhat underfed/undernourished. The beds look great! I might consider thinning the tower a bit, but like I said I just don't have experience with it. I know potatoes need their space. Throwing more fertilizer at this point probably will NOT help if they are overcrowded. The growth you want is in the new potatoes not in the above ground plants...which is a round about way of me saying I don't think fertilizing the upper plants more will do any good for the new potatoes in the tower at this point.
 
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I hilled them with soil & then covered them all that with straw for mulch.

Five days later, the tubers have again grown about 5-6" above the hills.

Do I need to keep adding more soil to make hills taller?

Also, when adding the soil I had to bury a lot of the leaves as well. Given how fast they grew in last 5 days, I'm assuming that's OK, right?

I sure hope the potatoes below ground are growing as well as the tubers.
 

Meadowlark

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Yes, I generally hill mine that are planted outside in double rows three times at least. The leaves are not a problem.

Its always a waiting game. You can "rob" some along the way to eat but of course that's goes against the theory of delayed gratification, LOL...but I normally succumb to the temptation.
 
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Thanks again Meadowlark.

I hilled twice already with soil. Now I'm just using straw.

The last few days I've noticed a lot of the tubers flowering. Does that mean the potatoes are ready? Seems too early for them to be ready.
 
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Meadowlark

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Some people pick off the blooms kind of like dead heading in the belief that by doing so they will get larger potatoes as a result. Myself, I'm happy to just enjoy the blooms as a certain message that you have spuds growing just under the soil.

When the tops fall over the new potatoes are finished growing.
 

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