Saturday, December 16, 2017

Trench Composting

I have some good reasons for wanting to compost our kitchen trash. I'd like to keep organic matter out of landfills, we don't have trash pickup to save money, and compost is essential for gardening. I don't have the dedication (or the back) to turn mounds of compost, fight ants, bugs and critters and I know I won't continue in summer temps over 100 degrees.

Trench composting does it all for me, and when each spot is 'complete' and it sets a couple of months, I'll have a hand-tilled garden that will require virtually no work. Even if I don't, the trash went away and didn't cause problems. Our lovely decomposed granite 'soil' is lacking in organic matter and when dry, turns rock-hard. We have to water it to dig a hole.

This is the 'cathole' method. I marked a spot with landscape timbers and wood and dug a hole about 14" deep. First in is all our organic kitchen trash, fruit and vegetable peels and cores, coffee grounds and tea leaves, etc.. If you don't have enough nitrogenous trash to bury every 3 days or so, you can freeze scraps in a container until you do. Meat and bones need to be disposed of by the next day. Trust me.

Then for carbonaceous material I layer all our used tissues, torn paper and newspaper, and cardboard torn into small pieces (no plastic or tape). The paper layer on top does a good job of preventing smells from attracting critters. I water the paper, fill in the hole, water a little more and dig the next hole if I feel like it, and cover with a large sheet of cardboard from a furniture store. Even if I'm pressed for time, if the hole is already dug I'll 'take out the trash'.

I've ordered some Red Wiggler worms from a worm farm and when they arrive I'll add them to one or more of the holes. When they're finished processing one hole they should move on to the others. The big deal for them is fresh food and adequate moisture. Without enough water they will either dry up and die or move on. As they move through the soil they will loosen and aerate it and add their castings (valuable worm poop).

I know this works because in an area I've been trench composting rather haphazardly, I went to add some plants I had to get in the ground right away. Even though it had not rained for weeks, the soil was moist and the shovel went into it like butter. In this case I'll have a 4x8' area of improved soil. I can plant in the soil or just dig up the compost for other uses.

One of the most important things to remember is that composting and worm activity will only occur in a moist, well-drained environment. If you cover with any impermeable material, you'll need to check and water it occasionally. Generally speaking, if the area isn't covered, rain will be able to get to it. Still, check now and then.

For the best instruction on Trench Composting I've ever seen, check out this video.

A slide presentation on Trench Composting for anyone to use for any purpose,  


I fill a hole with garbage every few days, and occasionally bury trash in other spots around the yard in places I may want to plant later.

Here I've finished the 4x8' bed I want to plant winter vegetables in next fall, so I bordered it with limestone blocks. My nice neighbors gave me a couple of washtubs full of dirty pine shavings from their henhouse and I put another 3" of chopped leaves on top of that. Now for the trash and the worms and the mulch to 'cook' me a nice bed that never needs to be turned again. The first bed has no cardboard barrier so rain will be able to moisten it. Still, I'll check and water it when necessary.

Then I started the next one.