Why and how to butter potatoes ?

Among the vegetables in the garden, some species require special care. This is the case of the potato which must benefit from successive hillings. This presents of real benefits and must be carried out a few weeks after planting, then at various times thereafter. Let’s see why he is so important to butter the potatoeswhich method to apply, which tool to use, and find out if there is an alternative to ridging.

Hilling potatoes: an essential task in the vegetable garden

Potatoes are tubers which, if exposed to light, produce a glyco-alcaloïde which is called the solanine. This allows them to protect themselves against attacks from all kinds of parasites such as pathogenic fungi, insects and bacteria. The problem is that solanine, which can be detected at tuber greeningis toxic and therefore should not be ingested. In addition, it makes potatoes bitter.

This substance being a poison, the potatoes which have turned green are unfit for consumption. They must therefore be thrown away because they should not be given to animals either. They are just as dangerous for dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, etc. Consuming green potatoes leads to symptoms due tosolanine poisoning, such as headaches, intestinal cramps, burning in the digestive tract, hypersalivation, diarrhea with black stools, drop in body temperature, even serious neurological disorders. Solanine can even cause death, especially in children.

Hilling potatoes has serious advantages, namely:

  • Create a screen against the light in order to avoid the production of solanine. Indeed, thanks to the successive hillings, the underground parts of the plants are perfectly kept in the dark throughout their growth until their harvest, even late.
  • Encourage rooting.
  • Protect tubers from frost.
  • Allow better drainage of excess water.
  • Keep each young shoot straight during its development.
  • Preserve the rods against breakage in the event of high winds.

Another advantage and not the least: the fact of buttering increases production potatoes since it boosts the growth of the edible part of the plant.

Butter the potatoes: the right method to follow

It is best to ridge potatoes when the soil is not too wet as this will make it more difficult to work. We also choose, as far as possible, a little sunny momenteven when the sky is very cloudy, or the very beginning of the evening.

Potato hilling is essential as soon as the young plants reach a height of around 23 cm (between 3 and 5 weeks after planting). He should be performed several times afterwards, as growth progresses of these herbaceous plants, the aim being to always have soil piled up at the foot of the plants.

This operation consists of creating a small mound of earth on each foot of potato, with the rakethe hoe or the serfouette which are very suitable for a small vegetable garden. The goal is to pull dirt with the chosen tool without going too deep so as not to touch the tubers. It is necessary to be able to create despite everything a mound or a promontory 15 cm thick, until covering the first leaves, namely those which are located at the base of the stems.

If we grow potatoes on a larger scale, and the surface area of ​​the potato field is quite large, it is quite obvious that we will not perform hilling with a hoe because it would be extremely tedious. In this case, we can buy or rent a tiller equipped with a ridger formed by two Vs, one horizontal and the other vertical. The first (the coulter) penetrates shallowly into the soil, which must be sufficiently loose, and the second spreads it. The machine must therefore be passed between the cultivated rows to lift the soil from the field and then deposit it gradually at the foot of the plants.

Whether you use a hand tool or a tiller with a ridger, it is essential to ridge your potatoes several times because over weeding, watering, rain, the ridges tend to crumble or crumble. thin. If we are not careful, the tubers will automatically turn green and therefore become toxic. This is why the gardener must compel himself to mound again and again as soon as necessary throughout the growth of his potatoes.

Growing potatoes under dry mulch: no more ridging!

To save time and have less effort, some gardeners prefer to grow their potatoes under mulch or sous mulch rather than in the ground, and thereby skip the traditional ridging sessions. It is a self-respecting gardening technique, giving excellent results in terms of productivity.

To do this, at the time of planting, we simply lay the tubers on the ground, which has been well loosened beforehand by arranging them in staggered rows and respecting intervals of about thirty centimeters. They are therefore not planted in the ground, but are covered with 15 to 18 cm (or more generously still) of very dry compostof hay or of dry straw so that they are in the dark. It may be necessary to re-mulch as the tubers grow.

At the time of harvest, no need to take out the spade or hoe. Simply lift the mulch and the case is in the bag! This way, there is no risk of injuring the tubers as there is when pulling out with a sharp-toothed tool. We therefore put all the chances on our side so that the potatoes in the garden keep better.

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