Pros and Cons of Trench Composting – Garden Tips 2024

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Any time you can re-purpose old materials into something new, you save time, money, and the environment. Composting has long been a staple for many gardeners but another version, called trench composting, can make the whole experience even easier.

Pros and cons of trench composting: With trench composting, you only have to dig a hole in your garden and fill it with collected yard waste and organic kitchen scraps. These materials will break down in the soil in a few months. However, you will need to constantly repeat these steps as you won’t have anywhere to store large amounts of green and brown materials.  

What is trench composting?

With traditional composting, you place garden waste and food scraps into a large container and wait until it breaks down. Then, when it looks like soil, you transfer it to your garden.

However, with trench composting, you simply dig a hole, bury your scraps, and let them decompose in your garden. As you can see, this is a much simpler way to do things.

How does trench composting work?

Trench composting is simple but it does require some steps to make it work efficiently. Here are a few different methods that you can use.

Easy digging

The easiest way to start with trench composting is by burying a large amount of waste. You will need to store up what you want to use, however.

You will need a large bucket where you can place vegetable scraps, grass cuttings, and fallen leaves. Don’t store this matter for more than a week or two, however, because it can start to smell.

Once you have your collected green and brown waste, dig a hole in your garden. It should be at least 12 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches wide, or larger if you have more waste.

Spread the material around and then cover it with the dirt that you removed from the hole. All the organic matter will start to break down and in a few months will turn into nutrient-rich soil.

Side dressing

Another common method of trench composting can be done in smaller amounts. This is best if you have an established garden but want to add nutrients to existing plants.

Be careful not to disturb the plant roots but dig deep and narrow trenches between your plants. Again, aim for at least 12 inches in depth but stick to just a few inches wide, depending on how much space there is between plants and structures.

Take whatever organic matter you have on hand and then add it to these holes before burying it again. If you can, store up your organic matter in a large bucket and dig your trenches at the same time to maximize efficiency.

Rotation Trenches

Finally, if you are big on planning, you can employ a trench rotation method. This is when you alternate the places where you bury compost with where you plant your crops.

This requires you to slightly change where you plant your crops in a garden each year. Rotate planting space, compost space, and walking space so that over three years your compost is buried in three separate areas that cover the entire garden.

Pros of trench composting

Instant results

Okay, you actually have to wait a few months for the buried compost to decompose but you don’t have to wait to act on it. With traditional composting, you would have to wait for weeks or months for your organic matter to be ready to incorporate into your soil.

Larger objects, such as leaves and pumpkins can take a long time to be ready in your compost bin. With compost gardening, simply dig a larger hole, spread everything out, and walk away.

Less up-keep

In order to break down the contents of your compost bin, you need to do a lot, all the time. This involves turning the pile, adding the right amounts of green and brown layers, and ensuring the mixture has the right moisture level.

While compost will break down if left alone in a compost bin, this will take much longer than if you actually tend to it. Trench composting eliminates all these steps so you don’t have to constantly worry about your compost bin.

Cons of trench composting

More odor

If you want to store your compost in order to employ a large batch of trench composting, things can get messy. All those vegetable and fruit scraps that are stored in your bucket can grow moldy and create a slimy, foul-smelling substance.

Regular composting involves a mixture of brown and green matter plus plenty of aeration to cut down on smells. Either be prepared for a bad smell from your waiting compost or get ready to dig your trenches more often.

More digging labor

With traditional composting, you can choose to mix your compost with your soil or you can simply layer it on top. However, with trench composting, you need to dig holes.

These holes need to be at least a foot deep to hold all the compost and enable it to break down fully. The result is more digging which can be hard on your back.

Remembering where you’ve dug

In order for your compost to have enough time to break down in the ground, you can’t keep digging up the same area. This means you will need to mark where your latest compost is and when it will be decomposed enough to start digging again.

If you have a small garden space, you may start to feel confined about where you can dig and where you can plant.

How Long Does Trench Composting Take?

It can take up to four months for compost to break down in the soil. During this time, it’s best not to dig in that area so you don’t disrupt the process.


Trench composting is an easy way to introduce nutrients into your soil. Simply collect enough organic kitchen and yard waste, dig a hole in your garden, and then cover the material with soil.

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