We keep our compostable material in a covered bucket – maybe one big bucket of vegetable scraps and so on during a week – and I just take it out and bury it Saturday mornings. Right now I’m digging up unused space (we have too much path and not enough plants), bunging the rotting scraps into the hole, and covering it up, chopping and mixing with the shovel as I go. When I run out of unused space, I suppose we’ll start rotating.
They say this method (trench composting, though my method is a bit more haphazard than the pretty illustrations there) takes longer than aerobic methods do to decompose the stuff, but I’m in no hurry and I really don’t want to buy or build a box, devote a corner to it, turn it over, take the stuff back out, sneak out to pee in it in the middle of the night, etc.
Also, they say you can throw in otherwise verboten material (meat, fish, etc.) if you’re digging deeply enough, though we keep to the vegetables and I’m not digging to China.
Here’s a pdf file from the Greater Victoria (BC, Canada) Compost Education Centre: Trench Composting.
This is interesting. It’s really amazing how many different ways there are to compost.
Have you tried sprinkling in some bokashi enzymes while you’re accumulating it in your covered bucket? The purveyors try to get people to buy special buckets and carry-on (which is fine if you have limited space), but I don’t think it’s necessary if you’re going to use the trench method anyway. However, it is great for getting the stuff “fermenting” and breaking down faster in the trench.
I’m going to give trench composting a try. Here’s my plan:
I have two different small areas (3×4 feet each, about 1 x a bit more than 1 meters) in my garden that I’m going to put new raised beds in next year. This weekend (the weather is supposed to be good), I’m going to head outside and dig trenches in those areas, 12 inches deep if I can manage (the soil in those areas is quite poor). I’ll collect food scraps in the fridge in a container during the week, and at some point take it out, dump it in the hole and cover it with dirt. I’ll probably also put leaves in if I can find them (the county has taken most of them away already). I’m planning on something like 4 inches of scraps/leaves covered with 10-12 inches of soil. I’ll tamp down the soil to hopefully make it difficult for pests to join the party.
Oddly enough, I like digging holes, so this should work well for me.
In the spring, I’ll just build my raised beds over these areas as planned. If I like the method, I have one spot for a raised bed left — it’s about 3×5 feet. I’ll just start trenching there too.
Hi Katxena, I did something similar last year and then planted tomatoes in it. They grew like crazy so I’ve continued the process this year. My soil is also poor and I can never get down 12 inches deep but so far have not had any critters (and I’ve got lots) bothering anything. It’s amazing how many earth worms I get in these areas.
Good luck, I bet it will work out great for you.
That’s good to know, thanks for the encouragement! On one side of the yard I think I can get down 12 inches — the other side will be a lot dicier.
I’ve done this the last couple of years where my beans are going to grow, and it works pretty well. Last year though I put a melon skin in, and it appeared to be dug up. I couldn’t work out what would have done that, but this year I put one in the compost bin (we don’t have melon too often!!) and the cat next door went crazy, circling the compost bin for ages trying to get in. Normally it’s totally disinterested in whatever I put in there. The case is closed… :-)
I’m so glad to know it worked for you. Is it really as easy as it sounds?
I think so. I used to work at this coop restaurant concert place and a guy from the garden coop next door used to come by and take away buckets to trench compost. Since we were always having to check the garden at night to make sure no one was getting drunk or shooting up or something, I’m fairly confident I would’ve noticed if anything went wrong with the compost, but it never smelled or anything. In fact, it was pleasant enough that people lived there on and off. He took away way more food scraps than a typical household would generate.
It really is that easy. I don’t have my worm farm set up, yet, so this is my only way of composting right now. I’ve been doing it for as long as I have been gardening (only a couple of years) and my mom (who taught me to do it) has been doing it for much longer. It does take longer than normal methods, but it does work. That is the only fertilizer that my first raised bed has ever had, and stuff grows like crazy in there!
The only thing you do need to watch out for is that you dig it far enough down for the smell to not attract animals. That is the main reason I don’t put any meat scraps (fish, etc.), but I will put in eggshells and sometimes paper (egg cartons and paper bags).
Thanks for the advice and encouragement. My husband is still adamantly opposed to a worm bin (which breaks my heart, but he cleans that cat box so I forgive him), and my DIY compost bin hasn’t worked all that well for kitchen scraps (for leaves and yard waste it’s been great). So I have high hopes for trenching.
My grandmother who passed away at the age of 100 gardened until she was 95. She always buried kitchen scraps in her garden and she had the best vegetables and flowers I’ve ever seen, so that’s about 75 years of first (second?) hand experience that demonstrates it can work :) She never used commercial fertilizer or bug spray, either. Looking back, I should have paid more attention to her methods, but I was young and silly and not interested in “old-fashioned” gardening or even gardening at all. I always think of her when I’m burying my kitchen waste in the garden.
My grandfather was an avid gardener, with the biggest, lushest backyard garden you’ve ever seen. He died when I was 18, and I was young and silly too and never paid attention. I must have gotten the bug from him though. :) I would go outside right now and dig a trench, except that it’s dark!!!
This sounds great! So much easier than a real compost bin. Thanks for the advice.
I am so glad I heard about doing this! I have been planning my garden for 2 years (since we moved into our new house), and all that time have been trying to decide what to do about composting. I can’t build my own open bin (HOA rules and frankly, I don’t want to look at it in my backyard!), so I was going to get a small “discreet” one, but they are expensive. But then I saw someone talking about doing trench composting on here!
So, I started collecting our veggie scraps (and eggshells) in a container, and keep it in the fridge. Last night, it was full, so I started digging. I just dug up some space between the plants in my garden. I did 2 patches, one between the tomato and the strawberries, and one between the tomato and the zucchini.
I figure I’ll just rotate where I dig & bury, and eventually most of the garden will have been hit! It may not do any good this year, but hopefully by next year, it’ll help improve the soil.
I think you’ll be surprised by the results XUMusketeer! The best thing is that it will attract worms, and they will make your soil soft and lovely. I can’t wait to see how it works out for you. :)
I stared trench composting a while ago (thanks to Katxena :) and I’m very happy with the results. I’ve never seen so many worms in my garden, my soil has gone from good to great and the tomatoes that I planted out a couple days ago (?) are already putting out new leaves, but I think the best thing about trench composting is that it’s so easy and doesn’t take up any space at all.
Given that I can’t seem to get a proper compost bin started (too hard to get enough volume to get the reaction started), this sounds like a great idea. In fact, when I’m ready to put in soil for my potager, what I currently have in the bin is getting spread out underneath. This seems to be the easiest way to get those nutrients into the soil and it just takes a few minutes.
I did that last year a little. I didn’t know what it was called, but it always bothers me to throw perfectly good scraps in the trash. My husband doesn’t like the idea of worms in the house so I can’t get a worm bin. This year I have a community garden plot and we have a commnuity compost pile. But I still bury my eggshells around my tomatoes and try to put at least 1/2 of one under the seedlings when I put them in the garden. :)
Now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just trench compost what I have in the backyard instead of keeping it as a pile. I like the pile because I always know where to throw things, if I buried the whole pile I could steal the dirt from where it is to fill out where I need more dirt…. Hmmm…
Eventually, I will win you all over to trench composting! :)
No… I talked it over with my partner and we’ve decided to do a trench/pile hybrid… We’re going to sink the pile in a hole and use the stolen dirt where I need dirt. But we won’t dig it deep enough to bury it; he likes to have a place to throw various clippings and know it’s ok. So at least part of the pile will remain above ground.
I’m currently using a pile for the weeds at my allotment, along with the lumps I get from sifting the city-provided manure/compost mix. I’ve recently dug a couple of beds (see the details here), and I plan on trench composting in one of them for the remainder of the year, since it’ll be a new bed for plants in the spring. Depending on how quickly it gets filled, I might also do this in the beds I’ll be re-configuring at the end of the season.
I actually doa bit of both types of composting. I’ve buried a bunch of kitchen scraps in the veggie garden, covered it with a huge bacg of cow manure and continued throwing kitchen scraps into it as well as ash from our fireplace. Once it’s good a full, I cover it with soil and plant on top of it and move onto the next square. The one thing I have noticed through doing this is that the veggie garden holds a lot more moisture this year compared to last year. So I am sold!
I also have a traditional compost pile that needs to be turned etc. This is where the landlord throws all the grass clippings and prunings. Suits me fine. :)