Skip the Bin: Trench Composting

Ok, confession time: how many readers out there want to start composting but are apprehensive about the maintenance and potential odors of a compost bin? (Yes, I’m raising my hand.) Although I’m sure I'd get the hang of it after awhile, this novice gardener is nervous about the proper layering techniques, aerating and making sure moisture levels are adequate.That’s why I was interested to read about trench composting, a simplified version of breaking down your kitchen scraps that doesn’t stink or take up additional yard space.

Trench composting is as simple as it sounds: just dig a trench about 12" deep and fill it with 4"-6" of kitchen scraps before recovering with soil. Depending on the material and soil type, the scraps will usually take between one month and one year to break down. If you'll be regularly composting scraps using this method, you may want to develop a long-term plan for your garden. According to Colleen Vanderlinden at About.com, there are three general methods:

Trench Rotation

This is a method of incorporating organic matter into a garden a bit at a time while maintaining active growing and path areas. The general idea is that you divide your garden into three zones: a trench composting zone, a pathway zone, and a growing zone. Each year, you move the trench compost to a different part of the garden, and shift the paths and growing areas as needed. By the end of three years, you've got compost under every part of your garden bed, and you can start the rotation over again. If you like things very orderly, this is probably the method for you.

Trenching Between Rows

This works in any vegetable or annual garden in which you would plant in fairly regularly-spaced rows. Basically, plant your crops as usual. In the space between the rows, dig a trench to toss your compostables into. Fill the trench as you add materials, and it will break down and nourish the plants nearby.

"Dig & Drop"

This is the easiest way to do trench composting, and works even in perennial gardens and shrub borders. Say you've collected a large bowl of vegetable and fruit peelings. Simply take it into the garden, dig a 12" deep hole wherever you can find a spot, dump the kitchen waste in, and cover it over. It's fast, it's easy, and it requires very little digging.

In addition to no visible collection bin or odor, another advantage of trench composting is that the buried nutrients encourage a deeper, stronger root structure from nearby plants. The only downside - if you have a curious dog, this might not be the best method!

Has anyone tried trench composting vs. bin composting?

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(Image: Crafty Garden Hoe)