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How to Direct Compost (Trench Composting)

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If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the composting train, then I may have an easy solution for you. Direct composting (or trench composting) may be the answer you’re looking for.

Learning how to direct compost is easy, and it only requires a place to put your compost! Find out how to trench compost to improve your soil.

I was introduced to direct composting several years ago by a fellow blogger, Karen (you can check out her blog here).

I had been a fairly traditional tumbler-owning composter for a few years when my friend mentioned direct composting to me. While I do enjoy bin or pile composting, this more direct method did sound appealing. Less work and no pile? I was definitely interested in learning more!

What is Direct Composting?

Much like the name implies, direct composting involves putting your composting materials directly into the flower bed or garden area. Instead of having a separate pile where your brown and green matter breaks down, you allow it to compost in the actual bed.

This saves time, since you won’t have to transfer your compost from bin to garden. And it may also save your back from turning the pile and using the shovel and wheelbarrow!

The benefits of composting are many, including not sending kitchen scraps in the the trash, and having rich organic matter for your garden. Soil can easily be depleted after a heavy growing season, even raised beds, so why not use what you have on hand to create rich compost and beef up your soil?

Need a Composting 101 lesson? Check out my full post on How to Start Composting!

Compost Pile vs. Trench Composting

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve used a tumbler composter before, but now have a 3-bin composting system. So, direct composting was a new concept for me. In testing it out, here are a few points I discovered in using the direct method vs. a tumbler or compost pile:

  • Direct composting isn’t ideal for large amounts of organic matter. If you are making daily trips to the composter, then you may not want to use the direct method. (The exception is if you dig a good sized trench and gradually fill it up. But you’ll need to be careful for animals getting into your open trench.)
  • In flower beds, be careful not to dig too close to plants whose roots may be damaged by your shovel or spade.
  • It does seem faster and easier to have a pile or bin so you’re not having to dig holes each time you want to dump your compostables. But if you don’t have pets in the yard, then you could dig a trench and leave it open for a week or so until it’s full, then cover it. 

How to Trench Compost

  1. Collect the organic matter you would like to compost. (We use a pail like this.) This can be kitchen scraps (no meat or oil), dead leaves, grass clippings, etc. A have two posts on What to Compost and What Not to Compost to help you out.
  2. Dig a small trench in the flower bed or garden area you’ve chosen. Aim for at least six inches deep, especially if you have dogs, who like to dig for treasure!
  3. Dump your compostable materials in the trench and cover with dirt. Direct Compost
  4. Tamp down the dirt gently with your foot and voila! Your organic matter will break down under the surface and you’ll never have to think about it again. It’s really an easy way to compost especially if you’re just getting started. Direct Compost

Seasonal Direct Composting

I opted for using direct composting seasonally. For me, this means using this method in the late fall and winter, when my garden may not be actively used.

The reason for this is I can easily dig up a trench in a raised bed and fill it over a week or two. Our gardens are fenced in, so our dog can’t access the “goods”. (Here’s how we have our beds fenced in.)

Also, the late fall and winter is when our chickens get free range in the garden area, and since they leave their own compost behind, we work that into the dirt as well.

I love directly composting in the months our garden soil is at rest. The soil is taking a break from providing growing plants with nutrients, and it is being recharged at the same time.

As with lots of gardening techniques and ideas, try it out and see how it works for you. There are plenty of gardeners who use this method exclusively, and I’d love to hear if you enjoy direct composting!

Have a great week and happy gardening!

Composting Tips and Helps

Put kitchen scraps, leaves, cardboard, and other organic materials to work in your own backyard by learning how to compost. Whether you use a bin, a pile, or a fancy tumbler, anyone can compost at home!

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