May 032010

Trench composting (also called pit composting) is a good alternative for small vegetable gardens where there is not room or desire for a compost pile.  This is a rotational system using sets of three rows which will be referred to as Row #1, #2 and #3.

First Rotation:  Row #1=Trench…..Row #2=Planting…..Row #3=Path

Row #1 should be dug 10 – 12” wide and a foot deep.  You may want to deposit the soil from this trench on Row #2.  Next, plant seeds or seedlings in Row #2 as desired.  Row #3 is used for a path so that you have access to the other two rows.  Prepare the next three rows in the same way, and so on.

Deposit organic wastes in Row #1 as they are generated.  For safety, you may want to put a barrier around, or boards across trench one to prevent someone accidentally stepping into it.

Second Rotation:  Row #1=Planting…..Row #2=Path…..Row #3=Trench

When you are ready to plant again, dig the trench in Row #3, moving excess soil to row #1.  Row #3 will be used to deposit wastes.  Row #1, in which organic materials were most recently deposited, will provide fertile ground for seeds and seedlings.  Row #2, most recently used for planting, will be left fallow during this rotation and will be used as a path.

Third Rotation:  Row #1=Path…..Row #2=Trench…..Row #3=Planting

At the next planting, Row #2 should be dug as a trench, Row #1 left fallow as a footpath, and Row #3 will be used for planting.

Following this method, organic materials are continuously added to the soil for planting the following season, and spent ground always lies fallow for a season before being replenished with more organic material.  Caution should be taken not to deposit diseased or pest-ridden wastes in the garden as pathogens could remain dormant in the trench and infest the next crop.

Mary Tynes, Master Composter,

  2 Responses to “Trench Composting”

  1. […] Trench Composting | CompostMania: If you don’t have room for a compost pile in your garden, try trench composting; […]

  2. I never thought of doing trench composting. That is an interesting way to compost the garden year round.

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