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Miranda Hodgson

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Improving the soil with trench composting

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 14 Jan 2013 at 12:21 PM

There is a corner at the end of the garden where we’d like to grow a few vegetables – it is sunny and warm but, for a couple of reasons, the soil needed some major work on it. Firstly, I have wondered if the previous occupants here ever added any organic matter to the soil; it seems a bit thin and stony and there isn’t a great deal of worm activity. Secondly, to screen the really rather inoffensive shed they’d planted six conifers, (some variety of Chamaecyparis lawsonia, I think) with the result that the soil for many feet around is bone dry. With not a little pleasure, we removed them. Even with the incredible amount of rain in 2012, the soil was still very dry indeed and I decided to try an idea new to me: composting trenches.

Instead of adding your vegetable kitchen waste to the compost heap, you dig a trench or a hole, at least a foot deep, and bury it. This adds moisture and nutrients at the root zone and encourages the activity of worms and other soil creatures. Starting in late autumn, a trench was dug where the conifers had been.



 Small trench for one bucket of kitchen waste.


Vegetable kitchen waste was collected in a covered bucket and generally filled up about once a week. This was then dumped into the trench, chopped up a bit and watered. To help things along, I added some red worms (Eisenia species) from the compost heap. 





We were then offered a large amount of horse manure – wriggling with red worms – so a good fork full of that got added in as well as being spread on the surface. Then the trench is filled in and you dig the next one and continue digging them, constantly adding organic matter and in the process encouraging worms and other wildlife.



 Trench with the kitchen waste and horse manure


After a few weeks, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see what was happening under the surface and decided to have a quick dig. To my pleasure, I found that every scrap of kitchen waste had gone and the soil was now moist and rich with plenty of worms in it. We’ll be trying beans in that spot and are looking forward to seeing them grow.


richardpeeej said:

I started doing this for the first time last autumn Miranda in my bean trench. I haven't checked to see if there are any worms in there though but hope so. There is a layer of snow out there on the ground at the moment, so won't be checking on it just yet 😀

on 14 Jan 2013 at 01:53 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Good for you, Richard. I'm amazed that you've held off having a look, though! How can you resist such temptation?

on 14 Jan 2013 at 06:15 PM

SkyeSteve said:

Hi, I'm making a new raised bed for potatoes this year.Do you think it's worth digging a compost trench, or is that really only beneficial for peas and beans?

on 20 Jan 2013 at 06:06 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Hi Steve, I'd reckon that a compost trench would be beneficial to almost any crop as it will improve the soil. There are some ornamental plants I can think of that wouldn't like it - Sternbergia and Lewisia come to mind - but edibles should certainly benefit. Hope your potatoes do well!

on 23 Jan 2013 at 11:30 AM