Spring is finally here!
Here’s the low down…
(Link to the Academy)
- Any time of year – whenever you have scraps.
- If you don’t have the time, space, endurance, permission, or inclination to build a compost pile, trench composting may be for you.
- It’s easier than building a compost pile because you can do it whenever you have a pail of scraps (with a compost pile, you generally need to accumulate most of your materials before you build it), and because while a compost pile needs occasional maintenance and eventual spreading, trench composting involves only one “touch”.
- You can also compost pet waste (but don’t do that in a food garden because of pathogens).
- This method conserves more nutrients, especially nitrogen and sulfur, much of which is volatilized into the air in a regular compost pile.
- One of the main benefits of a compost pile is that you’re growing a huge diversity and number of beneficial microorganisms, which can dramatically improve your soil. That effect is less when it comes to trench composting.
- If you’re doing no-dig/no-till, you obviously don’t want to dig into your soil (in that case, though, you could lay the food scraps on the soil surface and then build a big sheet mulch on top of it).
- Dig a trench (or any shape, for that matter) 12-24” deep (some say it’s best to have at least 12” of soil on top of your scraps to prevent rodents from digging them up. I’ve always been okay with 6” in my garden, but you may want to go deeper).
- Spread your food scraps along the bottom up to 6” deep.
- Personally, I like to incorporate some carbon-rich materials in there, too, like leaves or straw, to balance out the carbon to nitrogen ratio (as you would in a compost pile). Not everyone does this, but if you don’t, be sure not to make the food scraps too deep and compressed, as it could become anaerobic, creating less-than-ideal soil conditions.
- I also like to spray it with effective microorganisms, which you certainly don’t have to do, but it will improve the composting process.
- Cover with the soil you dug up, and mulch if you have it. Alternatively, leave the soil where it is – sort of a raised bed – and fill in the trench with only mulch.
- Depending on the quality of your soil food web, as well as the temperature of your soil, it might take just a couple of months to break down or it could take a year.
- Some people plant into it not too long after they’ve done it, but what I prefer to do is plant beside it rather than right on top of it, especially heavy feeders like corn and squash. I’ll actually do that right away.
- Be sure to take note of where you’ve done it so you don’t do it again in that area until next year. You may do this every weekend – just find a different spot.