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Dig and Drop Method of Composting

Updated on January 2, 2015
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What is it?

Dig and drop composting is a great way for new and old composting gardeners to incorporate organic material into their garden beds. Unlike traditional compost which is placed in a bin and allowed to breakdown into dark humic material dig and drop composting is done in situ, right in the garden area.

Dig and drop composting is also known as trench composting and is an easy and simple way of adding compost at the root zone. Prior to adding any plants or compost a small trench is dug. There are two locations that these trenches are dug; either smaller narrows rows where the plants will go or larger rows betweeen the plant rows. These trenches are dug 8-10" down.

After the trenches are dug organic material is added. This material can include leaves, grass clippings, manure and kitchen scraps. Unless you have a well established stock it may take some time to fill up your trench. If you are adding a little at a time I would suggest adding some and cover that portion of the trench.

When covering the trench don't stamp the dirt back down. Leave it light and uncompacted. This will help plant roots grow faster and better giving more strength to the plant. Burying the compost will speed up the composting rate and allows nutrients to leach out into the root zone and increase overall soil fertility and while decreasing compaction rate.

Compost - What is it good for?

Absolutely everything - huh... Ok so I took some poetic licensing. The fact of the matter is that compost and organic material in general is crucial to the success of your garden and plants in general. But first is important to differentiate between organic material and organic gardening.

Organic material (in terms of gardening) is any plant or animal based product, it therefore that has carbon in its chemical makeup. Aside from carbon, an essential element for plants, most organic material also contains other essential materials that are necessary for plants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and so on. When added from organic sources (note - a different use of this word) it is free of pesticides, herbicides and other debatably harmful chemicals.

However, compost and organic material does much more than that. It can help increase water retention in your soil, increase chelation, holding of or biding of, metal ions such as iron, attract beneficial organisms such as earthworms, and the list can go on. You can find a list of primary and ancillary benefits from a short search on the web. It can also reduce or eliminate the need for additional fertilizers.

How to Do the Deed

Dig and drop composting is nearly self explanatory. However, because this is an article on dig and drop composting it should at least in some form and fashion explain dig and drop composing.

First, determine the best locations for your trench. When I employ this method I like to dig these trenches in between my rows. If I have a limited amount of compost I will do this between rows of heavy feeders, these include broccolis and tomatoes (not side by side, just examples of plants that are generally heavy feeders).

As an aside, if you do this prior to planting you can do this where you are going to put your rows this will provide organic content right at the root zone. However, if the material is not thoroughly composted the seeds may not have enough material to germinate and grown in.

Next, dig a trench that is several inches down. You don't want to dig so deep that your compost is below the average rooting depth of your plants. But you do want to make sure that there is enough room to place your compost and still be able to bury with a layer of soil.

Finally, bury the compost. you don't have to tamp it down but a good layer of soil light tamped will help. Then, as a finally to this finally, water it. That may sound odd but watering compost will help increase the rate of composting and will help any decayed nutrients begin to leach out into the surrounding area.

Things to consider

Dig and drop composting is helpful thing for sure. It is not, however, as efficient as incorporating compost throughout the garden area. Time before benefits will vary depending on the grade of composting that has occurred. So if you are putting in a layer of grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and similar into the trench it will take longer for the nutrients to leach out then if you had already well composted material going into the trench.

Finally, and this I know from first hand experience, make sure that if you are using fresh organic material (non-composted material) and have pets make sure to bury it well or keep them out of the garden. If you don't you will, and this is as near a definite as I can promise here, be cleaning what every you trenched in later that night off the floor. Happy gardening!

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