By Suzanne Seryck, Peterborough Master Gardener
After squirrels chewed through my black plastic compost bins 2 years in a row, I decided it was time to try something new. Trench or hole composting is a relatively simple, easy and cheap way to compost kitchen and yard waste. The plants are fed at the roots, where they need it the most, producing healthier plants with strong root systems.
The rules of what materials you can compost using this method are similar to that of a compost bin or pile:
- Dead leaves
- Kitchen Scraps
- Coffee Grounds
- Fresh Garden Waste
- Wood chips
- Vegetable waste
- Corrugated cardboard
- Fresh grass clippings
- Corn Stalks
- Dry Straw
For more information on what to use look at this Planet Natural article
In just 2 years of composting using this method I have already noticed a difference in the health of my soil, my plants and especially in the number of earth worms.
Trench composting works well in larger vegetable gardens and involves digging a trench approximately 12 to 18 inches deep, filling it with roughly 4 to 6 inches of yard waste and/or kitchen scraps and then back filling with the soil you removed. Trenches can be used either in a rotation cycle, where you would divide the garden into zones, an actively growing zone, a path and a trench composting zone. Each year you would rotate the zones, allowing you to compost the whole vegetable garden in 3 years. The second method is to dig trenches in between the vegetable rows, this method works well if you grow your vegetables in evenly spaced rows. Over time as everything breaks down the compost will then nourish the plants nearby.
However for my small city garden, I found the trench composting system did not work well. I don’t plant in rows and whilst I do practice crop rotation (which is a method of rotating your crops each year to manage soil fertility and help control pests and diseases) I like to use almost every available space in my vegetable garden. Instead I practice “Hole composting”, which works in all types of garden, vegetable, perennial and shrub, just about anywhere where you can dig a 12 to 18 inch hole.
It is especially good if you do not have room for a composter or do not have a sunny location to place a compost bin or pile. Basically you dig a hole, put in the kitchen and/or yard waste, again about 4 to 6 inches and fill the hole in. It really does not get any easier than that. Over time the waste is turned into decomposed organic matter or humus along with millions of microorganisms and there is nothing better for your plants. This type of composting is invisible, does not produce odours, takes very little effort (you don’t have to turn and layer as you would using a compost pile), it costs nothing, and you don’t have to buy other soil amendments or plant fertilizers.
During the active growing season, I dig holes in my perennial garden and bury my kitchen and yard waste. However, in the fall after I harvest the vegetables I also practice this in my vegetable garden, in particular the areas where I have grown heavy feeders, like corn or squash. The following spring most of the material has decomposed and you are ready to plant. In just 2 years of composting using this method I have already noticed a difference in the health of my soil, my plants and especially in the number of earth worms.
Additional information on trench or hole composting here