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How to Compost in Trenches

A pile of food scraps in a dirt trench

Composting is a natural way to recycle your food scraps and yard waste back into the earth. This material decomposes into a nutrient-rich, organic matter, that can then be used to boost your soil’s fertility and help your plants flourish. Trench composting is nearly undetectable by smell and can be done almost anywhere in your garden. It helps enrich your soil in as little as a month with no hard work or turning.

What is Trench Composting?

With a spade digs a large pit for composting

Trench composting is just like the name, composting using a trench system. Start by digging a trench approximately 12 inches deep. Fill these trenches with scrapes from your garden or kitchen, about 4 to 6 inches worth then cover and with the soil you used to dig the trench and you’re done.

What are the Benefits of Trenching?

a blurred close up of a woman holding a hand shovel as she scoops up dirt from the garden
  • There is basically no maintenance required with trench composting. Once you fill and cover your trench you’re done. There is also no need to aerate or turn the pile. 
  • There is no odor or flies accumulating around your compost, because it’s buried. It also gives your plants nutrition right at the roots where they need it the most. 
  • Some housing associations don’t allow for free standing compost, trench composting is a great way to get around that rule.

Try out Different Methods

Gardener in red wellington boots digging over soil in an organic vegetable garden with a stainless steel garden spade. Beetroot, carrot, lettuce and beans grow behind.

Trenching allows you the freedom to be organized or to just wing it. You never want to plant directly on top of your compost, because it will sink as the material decomposes. There are a few tips and methods you can use, trench rotation, trenching between rows, or dig and drop are our top three methods.

Trench Rotation

Trench rotation incorporates organic matter into a garden a little bit at a time. Split your garden into different areas, a composting zone, a walkway, and a growing area. Shift these areas each year, for even composting.

Trenching Between Rows

Trenching between rows, works best in gardens with evenly spaced rows, and like the name, dig trenches between your rows of vegetables. Your plants will gain beneficial nutrients as decomposition happens.

Dig and Drop

If you want to compost and just be done with it, then dig and drop is the way to go. Simply dig a 12 inch hole and drop your kitchen scraps into the hole then cover it. It’s simple, easy, and fast.

Whether you want to help your garden thrive or reduce your carbon footprint, trench composting is simple, easy, and fast. You don't have to be an expert gardener to start a trench compost, you just need a little time and a shovel. Start planning out your next trench with tools from your local Do it Best store or shop online at