How to Hill Potatoes in 5 Simple Steps

What You'll Need
Rototiller or hand tiller

When growing your own potatoes, you must hill them, which involves hoeing soil up around the plant stems. This process requires some work, but those who have learned this process and have reaped its rewards will tell you that it beats by far buying commercial potatoes—even with the added effort. Follow the 6 easy steps below to hill your own potato plants and yield a delicious crop.

Step 1 – Choose Your Hilling Method

In choosing a method to hill potatoes, it will help you to know what you are expected to accomplish by hilling. One purpose is to keep the tubers from being exposed to sunlight. This exposure can produce chlorophyll on the potatoes, which is why you sometimes see a green color on surface of potatoes. Exposure to light can also produce solanine, which can be toxic if found in large doses. By hilling your potatoes in soil added after your initial planting, you will likely improve yield and ensure that your harvest will be edible. To prevent potatoes exposure to light, you can cover them with compost or nearby soil pulled up onto the potato plant. In our instructions below we will use the soil method of hilling.

Step 2 – Preparations Before You Mound Your Soil

Unless you have worked long hours with a hoe and have worn calluses on your hands, you should be sure to wear heavy gloves. Leather gloves work best because they allow you to get a better grip on your hoe. Even if you use a power tiller, you should wear gloves, otherwise gripping the handles of the tiller can cause serious blisters on your hands.

Step 3 – Prepare Your Soil for Mounding

Use a rototiller or hand tiller to cultivate the soil in the rows in which your potatoes have been planted. If you use a tiller, adjust it to dig no more than 2 to 3 inches into the topsoil. This will loosen the soil and make it easier to bring the soil to the top of the rows where your potatoes are planted. It will also bring to the surface any sub-surface weeds you may wish to remove.

Step 4 – Remove Weeds

Although weeds growing among potatoes are not likely to expose the potatoes to light, removal of weeds growing in your potato rows will result in healthier potatoes; therefore, it is better to remove them. Be sure when removing the weeds that you also remove the entire root, otherwise the weeds will simply sprout again from any remaining roots left on them.

Step 5 – Forming Row Mounds

Begin forming dirt mounds on your potato rows. Start at one end of a row and work your way along one side of the row, using your hoe to pull loose soil up onto the row against the potato stalks. The new dirt should cover about 12 inches of a mature potato stalk. It will be easier and less time consuming if, as you mound the dirt, you continue along one side of the row until you reach the end, then work your way back down the same row but on the opposite side.