Eat What You Sow: Growing Potatoes 3 Ways

This summer at Parky’s Farm, I planted three experimental beds of potatoes using different planting techniques. The three ways I planted the potatoes were traditional trench and hill, straw, and containers.

Trench & Hill

A trench dug into a garden bed. Plants grow on either side of the trench.
The trench and hill potato-planting method. (Photo: Ellen Meehan)

The trench and hill method is the most commonly used technique of planting potatoes. For trench and hill, I dug a trench 4–6 inches deep, placed the seed potatoes (tubers that you can use to grow new potatoes) at the bottom of the trench and covered them in soil.

Once the spuds had sprouted and reached about 8 inches, I made hills of soil around the plants covering the first 4–6 inches of the plant growth. Once the plants died back, I harvested the potatoes and weighed them.


A potato plant grows from a bed of straw.
Using straw to plant and grow potatoes. (Photo: Ellen Meehan)

Another way to plant is using straw. Planting potatoes in straw reduces digging efforts and weeds (yay!), and yields cleaner potatoes. To plant in straw, I placed the potatoes on top of the garden soil. Then I covered the potatoes with 4–6 inches of straw.

For the second time, once the spuds sprouted and reached about 8 inches, I covered the plants with another 4–6 inches of straw. I harvested the potatoes and weighed them once the plants died back.


Several potato plants grow from individual green containers.
At Parky’s Farm, we used grow bags for the container method. (Photo: Ellen Meehan)

Containers are an excellent way to grow potatoes in small spaces or where soil is inadequate. For the container method, I used grow bags and filled them with equal parts 1/2 compost and 1/2 coco peat, leaving about 1 foot empty at the top of the container. I then placed the potatoes on top of the soil and filled the container with an additional 4–6 inches of the compost and coco peat mixture.

When the plants were about 8 inches high, I filled the rest of the container with the compost and peat mixture. Finally, once the plants died back, I harvested the potatoes and weighed them.

I then compared the techniques taking into account effort, cost and harvest.

Trench & HillStrawContainers
EffortPlanting was a lot of work and so was harvesting. Weeding was a nonstop chore.Planting, harvesting and weeding were all easy.Planting took work due to mixing the compost and peat, but weeding was minimal and the harvest was easy.
Harvest 2.4 pounds4.2 pounds7.6 pounds
A pile of potatoes varying in size and shape sit in a basket.
A pile of potatoes varying in size and shape sit in a basket.
A pile of potatoes varying in size sit in a basket.

From left to right: The potatoes yielded from the trench and hill method; the potatoes from the straw method; and the potatoes grown from the container method.

For me, the straw method was the winner as far as effort was concerned since they were the easiest to plant, weed and harvest. The trench and hill method came in the least expensive overall and most cost effective at $2.50 per pound. The containers yielded the largest and prettiest potatoes. While very expensive ($7.30 per pound), this technique would be less expensive the in subsequent years since containers could be reused.

Next time you’re thinking about experimenting while gardening at home, consider the effort, cost and what your harvest will be. Who knows, you may find a new favorite type of planting technique to use again and again!

Ellen Meehan
Nature Interpreter, Parky’s Farm