Trench Composting: I’m Sold, See What You Think

by Daisy on 05/11/2015

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When I first tried trench composting; that is, digging a trench, filling it with compostables, and covering it up, I didn’t know what to expect.

I didn’t know if I would have trouble with varmints. I did have some minor digging, but that was solved by planting a little deeper. I also didn’t know if anything would grow there–would the composting process rob the soil of nitrogen?

Let’s take a look and see what happened when I planted tomato plants and transplanted some lettuce seedlings and spinach there:


Yowzer! Giant green things!


IMG_3617Stout tomatoes.


A leafy explosion.

For contrast, I want to show you the neighboring row where I planted tomato plants the very same day:


What a difference! The spinach is too crowded, but that alone doesn’t account for the size difference. They were planted at the same time as the ones in the first bed.

While it’s not a scientifically controlled experiment, I’m convinced of the value of trench composting. Are you going to try it? I can’t wait to do this all over.

I’ll let you know if I come across any issues. The major one so far is that the trenched spot starts out as a mound and ends up as a valley once the materials decompose. It’s mainly cosmetic since my beds are already slightly raised. I haven’t had any problems with water trying to drown anything in these low spots. It may even act to concentrate rainwater and keep the beds hydrated.



{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

JBB May 12, 2015 at 3:54 am

I’ve done something similar to improve soil. I set aside part of a garden bed as an in-ground vermicomposting site, and used that instead of some indoor or in-container worm bed. The decaying vegetables and eggshells and such a few inches below the soil surface attracted thousands of worms, and the soil very quickly improved.

And all I had to do was spade up a square foot three inches deep, dump the kitchen scraps, and put the soil back on top.

It’s now the richest soil in the garden.

Debbie May 12, 2015 at 4:12 am

I had to go back to see when you did the trench and I am amazed that this is as a result from just this past march. My daughter works for a local restaurant and I thought just last night as I was picking her up about your article. Now I know it’s something I will definitely begin doing here in my own garden.

Thanks for the update. Your garden is beautiful.


Sallie May 12, 2015 at 5:47 am

I like it.

Mattie May 12, 2015 at 6:33 am

I kinda do it but with a kiddie swimming pool. I toss my veggie scraps in the pool up until it’s time to plant. It’s almost a year round compost pile except I add fresh dirt and remove the compost dirt as needed (too fill my planters). I also use a kiddie sand box as well and switch out which one will be growing veggies for the summer and keep the other strictly compost for the summer.
I got the pool off craigslist for free as a container for some new puppies we had, afterwards I didn’t want to waste it and came up with an idea for gardening and all I had to do was drill some holes in it. Lots of worms and the soil rarely dries out since it’s on the ground.

Lindsay May 12, 2015 at 8:05 am

The only problem we’ve had with any “in-the-bed” composting is that you can’t plant seeds in it until it’s good and composted or it gets too hot. And it’s too rough anyways. But, I love that method. Seems like such a ‘lazy’ method shouldn’t work so well 😉

I’d think that the trenches, with compost would be ideal in the long run, they’d collect water better, and since it’s compost, will shed water relatively well. We’ve had over a foot of rain in the last 2 weeks, so it might get a little soggy here, but that’s kinda abnormal here. We did raised beds with compost, peat moss, and rice hulls. The peat holds the water when it’s dry, the rice hulls shed the excess (thankfully!!!). My beds are like a damp sponge even after all this rain. Amazing!

Beks May 12, 2015 at 8:11 am

Nice! I’m trying to plant a veggie garden in the actual ground, because I used up all spots in my raised beds. This is VERY good to know! 🙂

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