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Trench Mulching, Pit Composting, Anaerobic Composting...Honey Holing: call it what you will -- it works

Trench Mulching, Pit Composting, Anaerobic Composting...Honey Holing: call it what you will -- it works.

Burying rubbish may be a crude way to garden but I find that it suits my lifestyle. It's simple. Little exertion is required. And it's all done UNDERGROUND -- so, in that sense, it's like an offering to the critters of the soil.

A sacrament.

Despite my many efforts at studying the manly art of composting -- that is the standard layer-it-and-turn-it aerobic mode of composting -- I  can't tune in. Rot is rot and while the route you choose will require different soil biota, in the end you are gonna arrive more or less with the same product.

You may arrive sooner if you toss and turn your rubbish to aerate it and heat it up -- but as I always say I generally prefer to pass my produce through the back end of the vertebrate before it touches the dirt.

I'm more of a manure man.

Of course manures can burn your plants so you need to dilute them. I also discovered that if I want my excrement supply to go a long way,  spreading it atop the soil is wasteful of good poo.

So I mix n'match and pit mulch my supplies. 

I was doing some research on this preference of mine and realised that I was inadvertently ticking a  few boxes en route. 

First of all, I'm gardening on sand so in trying to add a lot of carbon to my underground I'm doing so with the presumption that any pit or trench is sure to be porous. That allows me to explore recipes for concoctions that may be more intense than is the norm. I mean any pit is sure to be less self contained. 

It surely 'leaks'.

I'm also digging holes with worm numbers in mind. In my logic I'm building feeding stations -- sort of like neighborhood takeaways --  for earthworms. They're my mentors.

However, after reading up on compost tea and being a cook at heart I marinate my rubbish before burying it.

Practice makes perfect in this. Routine rules. 

I throw newspapers and other paper products into my wheelbarrow and drown them in water. I leave them to soak for a few hours or a day or so before pulling the pages apart. I then throw in some manure and grass clippings, twigs, and whatever other stuff  then mix all that up with the torn papers. I then immerse this medley in a water top up before leaving the brew stand for at least 5 days, wobbling the wheelbarrow every day to agitate the mix (as you do with compost tea). 

For me it's like making bread. It's all about 'feel'. Grass clippings are such a good blending medium that the analogy with baking is  useful. Just imagine you'll be creating loaves for burial.

After the marinade runs its course, I dig myself a few honey holes -- trenches-- no more than forearm deep, slip on a pair of latex gloves and stuff the mix into the holes. I then ram it down with a shovel, cover with a dressing of soil and mulch before marking the spot with a flagged stick.


If I have old bones or shellfish shells or dead cane toads...they go into the bottom of the hole first. That way my dogs noses don't usually register the presence of the underground larder(esp with all that muck on top).

Anytime I hand water the garden I make sure I direct spray at these holes by squirting at the base of their markers. I give them a good soak not only in order to foster the composting process, but the carbon content is gonna be moisture retentive.

So far so good. I've been trench rotting like this for some time but have been fiddling with my methodology. Past experiments -- primarily of rolled up newspapers and twigs rammed vertically into the earth with a manure dressing -- have been successful exercise in creating sponge stations. All I've done since is integrate my primary mulch medium -- grass clippings -- into the process and explored marinades with compost tea in mind.

So it's more about  breeding bacteria. 

I'll review my practices after a few months of rot once I've had the opportunity to explore breakdown in situ and monitor neighborhood worm numbers. I'll also assess local plant growth. 

I'm digging holes where I can fit them in among already existing plantings. So I'm trying not to damage any root systems directly by my construction work or enriched stuffing. But already, as a focused use of manures, I'm way ahead.Previously spreading manures atop the soil was wasteful as even with the mulch covering break down was desultory. This way I'm getting the stuff underground  without turning over the whole bed.

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Comment by Dave Riley on April 19, 2014 at 9:17

I've found that a limiting factor with my other experiments is that of lack of moisture. Anything thrown atop the soil or buried in a sheet mulch -- cardboard, manures or logs of wood for instance -- exists often enough in a dryish milieu. By combining the stuff -- premixing -- I foster more intense activity because there is not only greater concentration of stuff but also a penchant to hold onto more moisture.These holes are sponge holes. 

I'm gonna write next about my experiences with sheet mulching. 'Mulching' is talked up big time as a garden panacea but there are issues with the engineering. Since I've created my soil via mulching methods over a few years thru successive break downs of vegetative matter it took me some time to distinguish between the surface and the underground activity.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on April 19, 2014 at 6:09

The indefatigable experimenter! :-) All of this makes a great deal of sense.

I see the pic at the top - a beach crab hole. One day I was lucky enough to see the crab. Asking my companion what made the hole, a tiny white crab popped up and tapped me on the toe with its claw. Surprised? Yes - a wonderful experience. 

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