Compost Advice: Trench Composting – An Explanation.


In the above video, Lars answers a question asked by another one of our readers, Heather. She asked us the following:

My husband’s grandmother had a beautiful vegetable garden. She just put leaves, newspaper, and vegetable scraps down the rows of her garden. She raked/tilled in under every few weeks. Is this a good idea?

Thanks for the question, Heather! Your husband’s grandmother is very wise – this is a legitimate method of composting – it’s known as trench composting, which is where you can dig a hole and place your organic materials in there. Cover it up, and it will break your materials down over time, and improve the quality of the soil. Famers have used this method of composting for hundreds, if not thousands of years…it’s a perfectly good way to compost.

So yes, it can be a great idea and has proven to work for years upon years. Thanks for your question and hope this helps!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

sibel November 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm

In collaboration with a local community and an NGO in Cyprus, we try to implement a yard waste composting project which is basically composting of leaves trimmings and wood-chipped branches with trench method. Wastes were pruned, chopped with a wood chipper and buried into the ground in late june. But there has not been a biological progress since then. Drought is a serious problem on this island. Moisture levels might be one of the reasons. But I cannot think of anything else. What do you suggest us to improve? What would be your advise to initiate the composting process inside the trenches.



Thank you for your question.

I see a couple of things that could be causing your problems.

One of them is exactly what you mentioned — the drought and lack of moisture. Things tend to break down a lot faster if they are damp.

But the other thing I noticed is that most of the materials you mention are carbon rich materials. Woody materials in general are very slow to break down.

I think you need more nitrogen rich materials in those trenches to really get it to break down faster. (Coffee grounds. Vegetable scraps. Fresh grass clippings.)

And if that isn’t possible, then I think you’ll probably see more breakdown when you get some rain. Is there any source of greywater that you could pour over the trenches? Water from bathtubs, showers, or washing machines? (You can keep a bucket in the shower with you, and then dump it out on the trench, for example.)


Is July 4, 2016 at 10:40 pm

This fall I am going to try a certain type of trench composting. I have a compost digester for kitchen waste that is full after 1 full year. I also have an Earth Machine that is for grass clippings and shredded news papers.

In the fall after the garden is harvested I’m going to spread out both bins and also dump grass clippings on the garden until just before the ground freezes.

Then I’m going to rototill the garden to turn the stuff under the soil. Then before we plant next years garden I’m going to get it tilled again.

I’m hoping that that makes nice soil for next year.


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