Real Men Sow

Growing in Trenches

Last year, I tried growing veg on top of trenches. This involves removing a spade depth of soil and adding organic matter, covering back over with soil and leaving to rot down before planting seedlings on top in spring.

I tried this method when growing sweet peas for my wedding back in June, and also had a go at a row of dwarf runner beans rather than climbing wigwam types.

There are a number of advantages to growing this way, but the best part is that a trench offers plants the opportunity to get off to the best possible start. I dug my trenches in January, and began filling with anything that would normally go straight into my compost bin, such as leafy greens, old veg plants, tea bags and even paper. Well rotted manure is also a good choice.

If you haven’t got all this to hand straight away, leave the trench open for a few weeks and fill up when you can. Cover with soil, leave until Spring, and then plant your seedlings on top. If my runners are anything to go by, your plants will get off to a flyer.

This led me to wondering what other veg I could use a trench for this year. Hungry crops, such as squashes and courgette certainly fit the bill. In fact, a trench is almost be an extension from the method I use for these plants now, but would allow for even more good nutrients to be put into the soil.

Because a trench focuses the roots around the organic matter, I also wondered if other veg that I’ve always struggled to grow to any considerable size would benefit from this method. My caulis and sprouts have always been small, and a better concentration of goodness around their roots can’t fail to help them grow larger.

Although trenches should ideally be dug in the winter, I reckon there is still time to dig one if you’re going to fill it with well rotted manure. In fact I only dug one last weekend for my potatoes.

The beauty of this was that two trenches only took me about 20 minutes to dig, compared to the good hour or so it would take to dig the whole patch. Trenches are a lot more economical, and save a great deal of back ache.

I’m filling my potato trenches with grass clippings after a tip off from a very experienced plotholder nearby. I’m after big, baking potatoes this season, rather than the little ‘uns I normally get, and hopefully a trench will do the trick.

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  1. 5ollyApril 6, 2012 at 7:15 amReply

    If you haven’t got one already I cannot recommend one of these enough. I dug about 30 metres of trenches for potatoes in about 20 mins. I have a lightweight one.

  2. Jono

    JonoApril 6, 2012 at 6:05 pmReplyAuthor

    That’s an interesting looking contraption? How’s it work? Do you simply just slap at the soil?

  3. AlisonApril 7, 2012 at 6:33 amReply

    Hi Jono, I’ve used chopped up comfrey leaves in the trenches for potatoes with very good results.

  4. HelenApril 7, 2012 at 12:17 pmReply

    Last year I buried a lot of garden rubbish under one of my vegetable beds and then planted my courgettes on top and they went great guns

  5. Jono

    JonoApril 7, 2012 at 9:29 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Alison and Helen, thanks for your comments.

    Comfrey is a good idea Alison. I wonder if nettles would work in the same way? Easy to find as well. Maybe sea weed too.

    I put all my old plants in my compost bins normally. Do you put your nettles in the beds Helen?

  6. Dee SewellqApril 9, 2012 at 3:27 pmReply

    Hi Jono

    I grew my runner beans in trenches a couple of years ago lined with wet newspaper then with grass clippings and comfrey leaves on top – had the best crop ever so am a huge fan of them here! Nettles should work too, just make sure not to put any flowers or roots in – wilted is best.

  7. Jono

    JonoApril 10, 2012 at 6:27 amReplyAuthor

    Thanks Dee. Looking forward to a bumper harvest!

  8. NeilApril 16, 2012 at 2:21 pmReply

    Grass cuttings actually in with the seed potatoes also v good. I’m going with the same as you though – grass cuttings in the trenches alongside the potatoes – mulches out the weeds as well as giving a nitrogen boost!

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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