Garden ProjectsImproving Your Soil

Creating a Compost Trench

Pea GreenshaftI’m not saying to forget about your compost heap, this is just another method and has its pros and cons. We still recommend using a compost bin from our fabulous range of products, see this method as another string to your bow. It’s excellent for peas and beans and heavy feeders like cabbage and courgettes.

The material will break down more slowly and is not really suitable for wet waterlogged ground. On the plus side the process uses anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition which retains more nitrogen than ordinary aerobic composting. You can also include meat, dairy and bread which are normally excluded from your compost heap.

Trench composting is very simple. You dig a trench (I’m using the word “trench” loosely here; it doesn’t matter what shape your hole is) approximately twelve inches deep, add roughly four to six inches of compostable materials, such as kitchen scraps, spent garden plants, prunings, thinnings, and weeds, and bury it with the soil you dug out of the trench. The matertial will need to break down in the ground over the winter and should not be planted on for 3/4 months.

A compost trenchWhy Would I Want to Compost in Trenches?
Maybe the best reason to compost in trenches is that it makes composting so simple. You don’t have to worry about maintaining adequate moisture levels, or aerating, or sifting the way you do with a compost pile. Here are a couple reasons to give trench composting a try:

It gives plants nutrition right where they need it: at the root zone.
Plant roots will make their way down deeper into the soil in search of the nutrition that you have buried there. So, the plant will be healthier in two ways: it will be nourished from the organic matter in the trench and it will develop a deeper, stronger root system. This means the plant will be better able to cope with dry conditions and heat, and will require less help from the gardener.

It is invisible and will not produce odours.
One of the issues many people have with composting is trying to figure out where in the garden to put a compost pile. While there are plenty of small-space composting solutions, trench composting completely eliminates this issue because you can bury waste anywhere you have an open bit of space in your garden. And, because it’s buried under several inches of soil, even the smelliest kitchen waste won’t be an issue.

It’s perfect for legumes.
Deep rooted peas and beans will love the nitrogen in the rotted material, trench composting is a traditional way of feeding the legume family the following year.

  1. I

    We have a very small garden so every inch is spoken for. I have a compost digester that I made with a 60 gallon barrel. I drilled holes in the sides and bottom and buried it so about 10″ are sticking out of the ground. The top is surrounded by fire pit bricks and I have an old disc blade for a lid. I put all kitchen waste in that bin. I also have an Earth Machine compost bin for lawn clippings and shredded newspapers. In the fall they are not fully composted because they are both “add as you go” but I spread them both on the garden and get it rototilled. I get it rototilled again in the spring time and by then you can’t recognize any of the contents. I think that’s a type of trench compost.

    1. admin

      Hi there

      Your compost system sounds very interesting, there are so many methods for breaking down waste material. I go for full composting because I add the material to the surface of the soil as a mulch so don’t rototill. I avoid disturbing the structure of the soil as much as possible as it brings weed seeds to the surface and breaks up beneficial fungal networks. We all have different methods of composting and gardening, the great thing is that we are all doing it. Thank you for your valuable comment. Andrew

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