Instructables
Picture of Trench compost
I like to garden, not 'to compost,' and I found TRENCH COMPOSTING to be the easiest way for us to deal with our kitchen and yard scraps to make nice (wonderful) dirt.
Compsting isn't stinky, hard, or time consuming; you shouldn't have to buy or make special bins or powders or barrels. It should be (and IS) the most natural thing on earth, so don't make it more complicated than it has to be! Read on...
 
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Step 1: Find a location

You'll want to find a good location; preferably a place where it is easy to get to from where you'll be producing the biodegradable material (often from your kitchen) and where you want the soil to be enriched (like a garden or future garden).

Step 2: Dig a hole

Picture of Dig a hole
Dig a hole big enough to put some biodegradable material into. You're going to want to make it deep enough so that at least 6 inches of dirt ends up on top of your matter so make it 10-20 inches deep.

It is very efficient to pre-dig and do a long trench.

Step 3: Set displaced dirt aside

Be sure not to scatter the dirt that you're digging up. Set it aside in a pile for covering up your compost later.

Step 4: Save scraps or yard waste

If you haven't done so already, save up veggie peels and other food scraps to put in the hole. You'll get lots of advice about what you can and can't put in compost, but we put almost everything in there.
From what I understand, it is dangerous to use feces of animals that are capable of eating meat (so not even feces of vegetarian dogs).
I know people who put used facial tissue or paper towels in there. I'd also stay away from newspaper and other printed papers; again, think about what goes into the material and make your own choices.

Step 5: Cover up the biodegradable material with the reserved dirt

You can put dirt on the biodegradable material as you go, or do a bunch at once. You might want to keep a shovel by the trench.
Just Bill2 years ago
A variation on this theme is to use holes instead of a trench. The holes can be dug between plants all season and extras dug in late fall and covered with a handful of straw. Use a trowel, augur or post-hole digger, depending on your circumstances.
gemtree3 years ago
Superb! But since I am lazy, I will use this as well as my barrel. The barrel, I just go out, open lid, throw in. No digging til I am ready to garden. Hopefully next year will be gardening time.
ropegro3 years ago
Since I have a very small backyard and an even smaller garden 3x4, I love trench composting. I have noticed that when I bury my scraps they are completely gone in a maximum of two weeks. Any remarks as to why the ground absorbs the scraps so quickly? This garden is less than 1 year old. I bought a pound of worms and they hung around for about a month and now are gone. I have lived in the AZ desert all my life but have never seen anything like this.
ProBiotic (author)  ropegro3 years ago
The more bacteria, and enough water (but not too much!) does the trick. It sounds like you have the right ingredients for a very active compost pile, congrats!
Would you happen to know why the worms are not wanting to stay around?
ProBiotic (author)  ropegro3 years ago
I was wondering that myself when I read your comment. My guess is they prefer to spread out a bit, but I really don’t know. If you create the right conditions (food, enough water, but not too much) they will repopulate the area.
mbg0075 years ago
from what i understand, fishy scraps are no good for composting (shrimp shells, fish bones and skin, etc.)-- bad bacteria and stinky. is this true for trench composting too?
ProBiotic (author)  mbg0073 years ago
I put just about everything in the trench, including some traditional compost "no no's" like meat, bones, cheese and bread. Fish isn't a problem as long as you bury it deep!
strmrnnr mbg0074 years ago
The fish do make a good fertilizer but do smell. They are best used at the bottom of a hole covered with a good amount of dirt. The roots will find them and the animals usually won't bother with them if they are far down enough to cover the smell. We lived on a lake that depleted with oxygen every winter. The shores where lined with dead fish every Spring. We would dig deep trenches and pour fish in and cover them then plant the garden on top. The soil eventually became very rich, as the fish from the year before which had decayed and lost its smell, mixed with the soil while digging the next year.
lilykoart5 years ago
i agree with you! why bother with the expense, all that turning??? i just toss my table scraps under the bushes. i however avoid paper that has been bleached with chlorine. brown coffee filters ok, but i'd rather save them for biodegradable peat pots :)
Why bother with all that turning?  Aerobic decomposition vs anaerobic.
miriana19814 years ago
 Thank you for bringing simplicity back!!! I also remember my grandma using this method, she was also raising goats, sheep and rabbits and was adding the manure to a separate pile that was left to mature in sections...
Marathonmom5 years ago
Thank you so much for your instructable. I am very excited to start my own compost trench, and delighted to learn i don't have to buy , build or till any gadget to compost.
grimcat275 years ago
most newspapers are ok the ink is soy most of the time
dbjccomfrey6 years ago
hey Meddler- don't be so hard on the wifey!It was worth it! I've got one of those black tumblers, {$120} and their great! It also has a catch basin which I make compost tea with. I also have a 4 part pallet compost system,and plans to start another. This way there's always compost going, and I need alot. Even if you didn't have any compost at all, just mix some grass clippings from the mower- organic fertilizer in the garden, and I know you'll get produce. Then start incorporating the kitchen scraps into the garden as the season goes along. And remember you dont even have to dig to build a small garden if you don't want to just lay newspapers down- wet real good,secure with rocks if windy, and plant on top of that..no tilling...
speltbaker6 years ago
this is a wonderful instructable! thank you. my grandmother never composted - she buried all the kitchen scraps in her garden. she had quite a large plot of beautiful vegetables and flowers, so i know this method works!
osibisa6 years ago
i'm reduced to "composting" on a second floor balcony at the moment--So, into a large terracotta (in this case plastic) pot -I'm in the north, and don't want it to crack- I put all my good vegetable and fruit ends, after blending them to mush with a stick blender. I pour this onto a base of decent earth (in the pot) and work it in with my hands. It smells divine and fresh, and feels good, like really good soil. Next spring, it'll go into the ground. thanks for the nod to green manure crops. any specific suggested reading?
mcadwell6 years ago
IMHO that's too much work. I layer a few sheets of newspaper under a thick layer of grass clippings between my plants to prevent weeds from growing. Everyday I put the my compostables in a plastic container with a lid. It's normally a smaller amount, between 1-4 cups. Once a day I pick a spot under the grass clippings (a different spot each time) and shove the compostables under it. That's it. It starts to decompose immedietly giving the plants nutrients that year and the next year, when I barely till it, it's pretty much dissolved into the soil. Newspaper shreddings and some peels (canteloupe for example) take a while longer to decompose but not softer vegie parts (like tomato).
Oops, forgot to say that I took the compostables out of the plastic container first. This plastic container is NOT compostable... unfortunately.
meddler6 years ago
If your going to use newspaper the black and white part is ok most printers now use soy based ink, you don;t want to use the color section that ink is still toxic.
royalestel6 years ago
Your pic is gorgeous... Is that your garden, really?
royalestel6 years ago
As a disclaimer, I've never, in 4 years of trying, successfully composted. But, I wanted to let you know, shredded newspaper is an excellent addition to compost, and either attracts worms or just feeds them. Shredded white paper is okay, too, just not as thin and decomposable.
royalestel6 years ago
Please post bigger pictures of your compost trench.
ProBiotic (author)  royalestel6 years ago
Thanks for asking. I replaced the original pic with a larger one. Hope this helps.
meddler6 years ago
Now this is interesting, wish i had known this before my wife spent 60 bucks on some black composter bin thingy. What do you do if you don't want to wait a year to plant your garden? have two garden plots? Or dig your trench between the rows and compost that?
ProBiotic (author)  meddler6 years ago
Yup, both of those work. I am currently working in raised beds so I alternate between a few different gardens, but when I've gardened from one big plot of land I've had the trench in the paths and that works very well.
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