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!

Compost Piles: Check your local ordinances to see if they are allowed

Photo found on courtesy of Blackstarjewelry.

A compost pile is just simply what the name implies: a pile of compost that may or may not be covered with a tarp that sits on your lawn and decomposes until it is sweet, rich, compost ready for your lawn or garden.

However, some cities do not allow compost piles because they can be unsightly, and they can attract pests if they are not constructed and maintained correctly. So you may have to check your local city ordinances to see if a compost pile is kosher with the city (or in some cases, your homeowner’s association if you have one).

If a compost pile is allowed and you still desire to create one then great – you are in the money. If one is not allowed or if you are considering other viable options – a compost bin may be right up your alley.

Photo found on courtesy of TroyJunkinStuff.

There are numerous styles and types of compost bins – from tumbling compost bins, to recycled plastic compost bins, to homemade compost bins, to even multi-bin systems that can fit with ease in your backyard. These are amazing and very helpful, because they can still get the job done with ease. If your city has an ordinance pertaining to compost piles in your yard, having a bin can essentially bypass said ordinance, but still allow you to produce rich compost for your lawn.

It is also good for your lawn and for the prevention of pests. For example, a compost pile generally sits right on the lawn, which means there is just going to be an area of your lawn which is not being used for normal purposes. By using a compost bin, everything is nice and neat in a corner of the lawn of your choosing, and the vast majority of them are above ground. This means that animals, insects, and other pests cannot inhabit them, ensuring that your compost is as “good as black gold.”

So do not fret if your city ordinance does not allow a compost pile – with a compost bin, perfect compost is still highly attainable for your lawn, crops, and garden.

Don’t miss our other post about how to make a compost pile.

How to build a compost pile

A compost pile is literally what it sounds like: a pile of compost in your yard to use as rich, fertile soil for your garden. Of course, a compost pile doesn’t just “happen” – you have to build one. Do not fret, for it is a simple process. By following certain guidelines, you can ensure that you have a proper compost pile in our lawn.

First things first, make sure you have a large surface area for your compost pile. The larger the surface area, the quicker your organic material will decompose. When selecting the area of your lawn to create a compost pile, the following is highly important:


You want the area that you are creating the compost pile on to be able to touch the ground. Placing your compost pile on wood for instance can cause the wood to decay. Try to avoid the compost pile touching any buildings. In addition, you want the surface area of which the compost pile is to be placed on to be level, and with good drainage. Make sure the compost pile is in a convenient location, so you can access it with ease.


You want the size of your compost pile to have the same dimensions throughout. Ideal sizes for your compost pile will range from 3x3x3 to 5x5x5.

Now that you’ve got location and size settled upon, now what?

So, now you’ve selected your location and you are aware of what size you want your compost pile to be. Next comes the construction of the compost pile. The most important thing you can do when creating your pile is to layer your materials. A good compost pile has an equal balance of Nitrogen rich materials (fruit peelings, vegetable trimmings, etc) and Carbon rich materials (sawdust, newspaper strips, leaves, etc).

The easiest way to maintain this balance and to have your compost pile work efficiently is to alternate layers between Nitrogen and Carbon rich materials. You want to start with Nitrogen rich materials closer to the ground. This will also help keep animals and pests away from the compost pile.

Ideal Layer Structure:

  • Nitrogen Rich Organic Material
  • Carbon Rich MaterialJust repeat the layers on top of one another and you should be good. You can also cover these two layers with an additional layer of compost starter and soil. If this is the case that is fine, but then make sure you repeat the cycle if you are adding new layers to your compost pile.
    In addition, you may cover your compost pile if you so desire, however this is not necessary and will certainly not make or break a good compost pile. The purpose of doing so is to help reduce drying of the organic material and to keep the compost pile moist. In addition, it may help retain heat for the compost pile – a hotter pile will decompose quickly and efficiently.


    The following things are not recommended for your compost pile:

  • Bones
  • Cheese
  • Diseased Plants
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Milk (or any other dairy product for that matter)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Vacuum Bags (or any other sort of item as such that will contain a lot of dust)
  • Don’t forget to make sure that compost piles are allowed in your city. If not, use a compost bin instead.