Trench Composting...

ezzirah011(7a)May 3, 2010

Can someone give me the details to trench composting? I am thinking I would plant the scraps in between rows of veggies, but if the material that is breaking down not under the plant, how does the plant benefit?

What will someone NOT compost? Cooked scraps?


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I believe the idea with trench composting is to place next year's plants over the area you composted this year and dig a new trench next year where this year's plants are located. Repeat as necessary.

Or, your plants roots might eventually reach the trench, but it will probably still be an open air trench and the compost won't be ready anyway.

Also, cooked scraps compost just fine. What you want to avoid is anything that was once an animal (meat, bone), or anything that comes from an animal (milk)... egg shells are the exception. You also want to avoid oils and fats as the repel water.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 11:26PM
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archerb; in trench composting there is no open trench you just bury the scraps and recover with soil. I have done this for years with fish cleanings, fresh and cooked scraps I don't want in the compost pile. Yes I mean fats and meats.
ezz: you can bury next to the plants but watch out how close you get to the roots on the plants. Or leave some room when you plant and plant over the trench next year. some things like fish will not have much nitrogen left after a year but some nutrients should still be in the soil and the wee-beasties will have worked their way through the scraps. Smell is no issue with trench composting and why it is done to meat and fat scraps.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:12AM
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Cut_Grow: Sorry, you are correct, fish is other exception. And, yes, it is possible compost anything, meats included. However, meat tends to smell if not completely and deeply buried, and even then, on occasion, a hungry raccoon may dig up that old, smelly, maggot covered chicken leg you thought you'd never see again and left it there. Sorry, not what I would recommend.

As for trench composting, if you have all your compost at once, by all means, bury it all at once. Unfortunately, I don't get mine that way and I don't know anyone else that does. Since we don't get it all at once, without a pre-dug trench, we would be out there digging up the roots of our plants several times a week. So, I need an open trench. I bury it as it fills, but for the most part, it's open. The problem is that if you bury it too close, it will disturb the roots (cut them off with a shovel). If you bury them outside of the root's reach, what good is it? That's why I say to grow on last year's compost trench. Next year, you'll grow on this year's.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 7:22AM
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Trench composting is a pretty simple method of "getting rid" of your vegetative waste, bury it. When I had a large garden plot space between the rows of plants were used for trench composting and I would simply dig down about a foot and bury the waste I had. The following year what was the space between rows then became a row and had the added advantage of this compost in the soil. If your waste is properly buried there will be no odor for any animal to detect and then dig to get that atuff.
I have buried meat and other animal products over the years with no trouble from any marauders even though I have seen Raccoons, Opossums, and Foxes around, have heard Coyotes and heard from others about Bears.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Trench Composting

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 7:47AM
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I think of burying kitchen/garden waste, instead of composting, as a way to handle more material than the compost pile/bin can handle or maybe due to time or other constraints.
The redwormcomposting site has an interesting series about trench composting [next to veg. bed] with kitchen/restaurant wastes, with worms added to the process. Lots of step-by-step pictures. No mention on how to keep critters out of the garbage. I have always buried my extra kitchen waste, due to raccoon/skunk night visitors...and found composting worms plentiful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vermicomposting trench

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 10:22AM
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My neighbor - in the dim distant past - would systematically bury her kitchen scraps between the rows of vegetables. The following year she would shift the rows over and plant over where the scraps had been buried.

Don't worry about how this year's plants will benefit from stuff buried between the rows or in a fallow spot. Next year's plants land on top of the old trench.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 12:28PM
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This might be an old thread, but here goes anyways!

I trench compost many of my kitchen scraps directly into my square foot garden beds every fall and early spring. I also bury all the tomatoe plants, sunflower stalks and any other plants as they die off and I clean up in the fall.

With only a couple of inches of soil in my beds, I expected this to take a long time to break down the first time I tried it but was very pleased to find that material buried in November is generally gone in February/March. I try to keep one bed "resting" every summer and use it for my trench in the spring.

Anyone else tried this?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:27AM
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I began to bury kitchen scraps decades ago when we lived in the city and I didn't want to bother with a compost bin/pile. Within 3 years the soil in the entire yard had improved amazingly, not only in the areas compost had been placed. Went from hard clay with about 3" of topsoil to lovely dark nutrient rich soil about a shovel depth. I just buried the scraps between the plants and left the shovel where the next hole should be dug. Even my teenage kids got into this and didn't mind taking out the compost.

I think what happens is that raw compost attracts earthworms and they move throughout the garden leaving their castings as they go. So they are improving the soil in areas other than the trench composting area also. I know I always find worms in the roots of my perennial plants and I think they must be feeding on the roots that naturally decompose.

I still use this method at various times and am thinking of no longer bothering with a pile as it's so easy and successful.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 9:32AM
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There is a lot of evidence that the active *process* of decomposition is very nutritious to plants, which is why this works (as does lasanga gardening). Making compost in a bin or pile, where 90% of the decomposition takes place away from plant roots obviously still benefits the plants in the end, but it's not nature's way. It's something we humans invented for neatness. :-]

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:45AM
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Some gardeners are stubborn and don't believe everything they've heard without first trying it out themselves. I've been thinking about the difference between decomposing rate of exposed and buried kitchen scraps and last month I finally went and did a small experiment.

I divided my compost material in half. Half of them was to be buried 3 inches in the soil and the other half was to be left on the ground:

The half that got buried was marked with chopsticks(right side) like this:

After exactly 2 days later I went to check them. I found that, to my utter surprise, the buried pile rotted "less" than the exposed pile. The condition of the pile that was left on the ground looked more decomposed. So the conclusion is that burying is still a good practice if you got smell problem or you are not in a hurry.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:17AM
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Interesting experiment. The result makes sense, because aerobic decomposition needs air which is limited under the soil cover.

At my place Mr. Possum or Mr. Raccoon would have their way with anything left on the surface, sot it's a non-starter. :-]

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 11:54AM
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