Trench Composting 101

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In Brief: Trench Composting 101

Are you wondering how to enrich your soil with nutrients within two months? There is a low-effort solution, and it is called trench composting! It is a very simple process that allows you to maximize the benefits of compost while being really simple to do. It is a smell and turn-free method of composting, and it is much neater than a compost pile. Here we look at all you need to know about trench composting.

Most gardening articles talk about aerobic and anaerobic composting as the two main methods. However, trench composting may very well be the easiest method out there.

The best part about it is that you don’t see it, you don’t smell it, and most importantly, you don’t need to turn it!

In this article, we will go through the important points and give you a couple of tips on how to get it done. Let’s get right to it so you can get to your trench composting!

Why Use Trench Composting?

What is so incredible about this method is that it basically consists of two very easy steps – digging an adequate trench and adding a compost pile to it.

Basics Of Trench Composting

The main thing to remember for successful trench composting is that the hole you dig is deep enough. The difference between this and using a trash bin is the food scraps that you can add to the pile.

Gardener and most other popular influencers don’t suggest that you put dairy and meat residue in a compost container –


However, that doesn’t go for this method, considering the fact that covering it with soil will prevent rodents and other wild animals from coming in.

Not only that but unlike other common methods, this one allows you to compost pet waste, as well, as pathogens can’t really spread in this environment.

Still, if you decide to do this, make sure that the trench is around 10 feet away from the plants in order to completely eliminate the risks of spreading pathogens and pests.

It is safe to say that this is an ideal method to combine with growing cabbage, corn, and similar annual plants. The humus-rich soil that it creates will be a great advantage.

In Which Situations?

Trench composting allows for even more versatile results than anaerobic and aerobic methods do. It doesn’t matter if it is spring, summer, autumn, or winter, the environment created under the ground is good for composting year-round.

How To Perform Trench Composting

There are a plethora of trench composting variations, but before we get to that, we want to discuss the basic steps that are a part of this process.

Step-by-Step Guide

The first thing that you should do is find an adequate location. In our opinion, the best spot is close to your front door or the place from where you will be bringing the green and brown matter.

It all comes down to getting the most with as little effort possible. Also, it would be optimal that the soil at that spot is nutrient-rich – like a super garden.

While there are different opinions on how deep the trench should be, ranging from 12 to 24 inches, our personal opinion is that you are best off between 12 to 18 inches. When it comes to the length and width, that is something that you will need to figure out on your own.

The idea is that the trench is practical. This, you can go ahead and use the width and length of your shovel in order to determine ideal dimensions.

To be honest, the digging part is probably the hardest when it comes to trench composting, especially if you are just starting out with gardening.

Make sure that you put all the soil that you dig up right next to the trench. You will use it to cover the compost pile once it is in the hole.

As we have mentioned above, you can put any kind of green and brown matter into the trench, including fruit/vegetables, coffee, tea, meat, and dairy residue, as well as clippings, clips, and bales.

What you should strive for is that the compost covers about 1/3 of the total hole depth. Once you have done that, move on by putting the previously excavated soil over it.

Believe it or not, that is about all that you need to do when it comes to trench composting. No turning or anything else that is common for aerobic/anaerobic decomposition.

This is a great video highlighting the process from A to Z –


Dig/Drop Method

As we mentioned above, there are a couple of different variations of trench composting, with the dig/drop method being the most common.

It is basically what we have just explained – dig a hole that is anywhere between 12 to 18 inches deep and fill it with about 4 to 6 inches of compost. After a couple of months, you will be able to use the compost for fertilization of your garden.

Rows/Side Dress Method

This is one of the coolest methods out there, and it is best to be used during the growing season. You should dig a couple of trenches between your flowers/vegetables and add compost material on a daily basis.

In this case, you should focus on green matter, such as coffee grounds or eggshells.

While the first one will provide your plants with much-needed nitrogen, the second one is rich with calcium and should prevent root blossoming. There is just one precaution that you should take.

Make sure that the trench does not go too far down into the roots, as you don’t want to damage them during digging.

Trench Rotation Method

While this method may ask for the most effort, it probably provides the most diversified results. The idea behind it is that you divide your garden into three different parts – pathway, growing, and trenching zone.

By rotating these areas, you will be able to have your whole garden well-composted after only three years. The trench zone will find its place across the whole yard (which was the growing zone and pathway at first).


Luckily, there is not a lot to worry about when it comes to trench composting. As we have mentioned above, the process is quite simple, and you can use almost any green or brown matter that you think of.

The main thing you should be cautious about is that you don’t dig too close to the root of your plants.

Also, make sure that the compost pile is wet, which should be more than enough to stimulate the decomposition process and ensure that you have organic matter ready within a couple of months.

Benefits Of Trench Composting

The main advantage of this method is that you will be saving yourself a lot of time and money. The fact that it doesn’t require nearly as much effort is crucial, especially if you are busy and always on the go.

On the other hand, the nutrients that will be released into the soil will reduce the need for bought fertilizers (also you won’t need anti-pest products).

Maybe you didn’t know, but there are actually certain communities where composting is not allowed. This is a great solution for that regulation, as no one will notice what is happening below the ground.

Additionally, the plants will thank you because they will be getting the nutrients directly to their bottom. Thus, they will not only grow more efficiently, but they will also develop a healthier root system.

Lastly, the fact that trench composting doesn’t produce any kind of odor and is completely invisible is a great advantage compared to the anaerobic/aerobic methods.


When Can I Trench Compost?

The fact that you can trench compost all-year-round is what makes it such a good choice. Whether it is late fall and you want to have organic matter ready for spring, or whether it is summer, you can be sure that the soil will be infused with nutrients and healthy microorganisms.

What About Planting In a Fresh Trench?

It all depends on how well-drained the soil is. Gardening experts agree that if you are composting a well-drained soil, it shouldn’t take more than 2 months for the matter to be ready. On the other hand, if that is not the case, you might very well need to wait for a whole year.
However, there are certain plants that you can go ahead and plant immediately, such as squash or tomatoes given the fact that these are heavy-feeding and are able to acquire nutrients from organic matter right from the start.

Can I Compost Pet Waste?

Yes, you can. The only precaution that you should take is to dig the trench about 10 feet away from your vegetables/flowers. The reason for this is to eliminate any kind potential for pathogen spread.


In the end, it is safe to say that trench composting is quite effective for more than a few reasons.

You don’t have to worry about rodents, pathogens, and other external effects. It is budget-friendly and nowhere near as time-consuming as regular composting!