Potatoes are a classic cuisine staple and actually quite easy to grow. The potato trench and hill method is a time-tested way to increase yields and help plants grow their best. Seed potatoes are the fastest way to start your plants, but you can also use grocery store potatoes that have begun to sprout.
Potatoes in a trench are “hilled” as they grow to encourage root growth and more tubers.
About Potato Trenches and Hills
Anyone can grow potatoes. You can even grow them in a bucket or garbage can. The method where you trench and hill potatoes produces more tubers and is easy to do even in a new garden. Just make sure you have adequate drainage and a soil pH of 4.7-5.5.
Farmers have been using the trench and hill potato method for generations. The idea is to dig a trench for the seed potatoes and as they grow you fill in over them with soil from the adjacent hill. This leftover soil from digging the trenches is arranged along the trench and helps keep the plants moist initially and then encourages further root growth as the plants mature.
Potato trenches and hills aren’t necessary for growing the tubers, but they will make the process easier and increase your crop.
How to Plant Potatoes in a Trench
Make sure you have loose soil with a good amount of organic matter incorporated. Select seed potatoes that have already begun to sprout or chit them. Chitting seed potatoes is the process where you place the tubers in a shallow container in a warm, dark location for a couple of weeks. The potatoes will begin to sprout from the eyes and shrivel a bit.
Once sprouting occurs, move them to moderate light to green up the sprouts. When sprouts are green, prepare the bed by digging trenches at least 6 inches (15 cm.) deep with the removed soil mounded on either side of the trench. Space rows 2-3 feet (61-91.5 cm.) apart for the potato trench and hill method.
Planting Chitted Potatoes
In order to maximize your crop and encourage further sprouting, cut the chitted potatoes into pieces with one or two eyes in each piece. Plant them in the trenches with the eye side up, 12 inches (30.5 cm.) apart. Cover the potatoes with 4 inches (10 cm.) of soil and water. Keep the area moderately moist.
When you see leaf emergence and plants are about 6 inches (15 cm.) tall, use some of the mounded soil to cover new growth. As they grow, continue to hill around the plants so just a few leaves show. Repeat this process in two weeks.
Mulch around the potatoes and protect them from pests like potato beetles. Harvest when the plant has turned yellow or whenever you want some new potatoes.