How To Build Your Trench Garden

Planting potatoes in trenches

Trench gardening is a practice similar to creating a traditional vegetable garden. However, it involves digging a trench instead of a raised bed.

It is designed for vegetable growers to lay a moisture-retaining fertilizer before the start of planting the crop. It needs only a minimal amount of soil over the ground surface. It is easy to build, but the effort and cost all depend on the materials of your preference.

In a trench garden, the layer of the organic materials gradually break down over time and slowly add nutrients to the soil. It encourages an ideal way to grow vegetables and flowers that are friendly to the environment.

Trench gardening is excellent in soil nourishment and moisture retention. It only requires minimal effort and time to maintain the garden.

This gardening method is inexpensive, easy to build, and requires little to no materials that you need to purchase. There’s also an English trench gardening that uses a three -seasons system, which means a practice of incorporating soil and composting and having a garden in the same location.

Trench gardens in warmer climates provide year-round gardening as they absorb heat from the sun on cloudy days.

How To Build Your Own Trench Garden

Tomato seedlings on trenches
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  • Pick an ideal area in your yard large enough to dig a trench, about as deep as the length of the shovel.
  • To complete your trench garden project, you need tools like a wheelbarrow, spade, pick mattock, medium to large sized stones (you will use these to line the perimeter of the garden), dried leaves or small branches, straw, and about 15 wheelbarrows of domestic animal manure.
  • Map out the layout with a rope, mark it out with chalk and start digging using your shovel.
  • After digging the trench with sufficient depths, start laying branches and dried leaves at the bottom, followed by the straw or any organic materials available.
  • Add another layer of organic materials consisting of compost, domestic animal manure, and the mix of conventional soil dug out from the site.
  • For the final layer, add more manure to provide plenty of nutrients into the plants.
  • Place the stones around the garden’s perimeter to prevent soil erosion. It will also help retain the heat of the soil.
  • You can build a trench according to your preference, but a size about 3ft X 6ft long is the ideal size that is the most manageable.
  • To make it easier for you to build a trench garden, gather all the needed materials before the construction begins.
  • The soil that is too dry requires more effort to dig up. It is best to wet the area a day before digging. It softens the dirt and makes the spade easy to push through.
  • Digging is a very labor-intensive task, this will make it better for you to dig at a steady pace. Start by digging a small portion of the dirt and gradually make it larger as your body becomes familiar with how it works.

How To Plant In Your Trench Garden

The trench planting method is another way to create and grow root crops. This method is particularly beneficial if you have a hard clay type of soil.

In this method, the organic matter will gradually decompose, keeping the soil soft and moist. The slow process will result in a crop able to enjoy a loose humus-rich soil.

If you happen to use compost or well-rotted manure, adding fertilizer won’ t be necessary.

However, if you only use dried leaves or chopped hay in your trench, it is best to sprinkle a 10-10-10 fertilizer in every 2-3 feet of organic materials to make up for the loss of nutrients on the gradual breakdown.

Always add soil to the organic substances like kitchen scraps about two inches thick to protect from any rodents or the infestation of flies.

The trenching method is an excellent way to improve your soil over time, particularly if you have clay compacted soil. Rotating your crops each year will also make your soil rich and loose.

Additional Tips:

  • It is best to limit your garden with four types of vegetables only to ensure your garden stays fertile and pest resistant.
  • Allow a 20-inch spacing between rows to provide sufficient room for plants to grow. It will reduce the vegetable’s possible competition of nutrients and moisture.
  • You can also use the companion planting method of sowing different types of crops next to each other.
  • Placing leafy crops next to root vegetables to obtain mutual benefits is likely the one that works well in the trench gardening.
  • Another method you can also try is the succession planting within your trench garden. You can plant in regular time intervals and harvest vegetables from one garden while another is still maturing.
  • If you opt for this type of gardening, you have to consider building three or four trench gardens and do the planting schedule with a weekly interval.
  • Doing this will allow you to plant in the fourth trench garden and will give you the privilege to harvest the vegetables in the first one.
  • You can repeat this cycle weekly if you wish for a constant supply of vegetables from your trench gardens.

Pros And Cons Of A Trench Garden

Tomato seedling in a trench.
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  • Improve the soil structure
  • Help reduce soil compaction and enhance soil aeration
  • Excellent at retaining moisture
  • Provides more oxygen to the plant’s roots
  • Significantly improves the water drainage
  • It helps the plant’s roots to penetrate and reach out further easily into the soil.
  • Adding manure to the trench can also help enrich the soil quality
  • It makes sowing and planting simple by having the seedlings finding and breaking through the soil surface much easier
  • A trench garden is easy to build and inexpensive
  • The most labor-intensive jobs in the garden
  • If you enjoy working in the garden everyday, this specific method requires minimal maintenance after it’s finished. Although, you have to devote a bit of time here and there to keep up with continuity of the garden.

Ideal Plants For Your Trench Garden

Fruit of Aubergine eggplant.

A trench garden is ideal in areas with compacted or with high-clay content soil. This method is especially beneficial with root vegetables.

Other vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and larger crops such as eggplants, beans, tomatoes, and peppers also work well in this type of garden.

Trench planting is beneficial, especially for tomatoes. It helps the plant produce more roots in a buried stem. This way, the plant can take up more water and nutrients and get off to a healthy start.

Establish A Trench Border In Your Garden

Sideyard garden with trench border.

Aside from helping to prevent weeds, a garden border can make the garden easy to maintain and visually appealing.

You can establish a border in a garden bed in many different ways, and the materials you will use can significantly improve your garden looks according to your preference.

The use of fabricated edging, bricks, and concrete will give your garden a formal appearance, while the use of rocks, grass, and trenches boost the sense of the garden’s natural style.

The border on a formal side often has straight lines and an intentional color system. It usually conforms to a pattern that needs cultivation and maintenance.

The natural style border is more freestyle and natural-looking. You will find the style with a less manicured look. It emphasizes the texture more obviously and requires less time and maintenance.

Maintaining the border will make the crisply trench-edged bed combat the invading weeds from nearby areas.

In addition to that, it helps hold mulch in place and prevents the mulch from spreading throughout the lawn.

Trench edging does not require expensive materials or tools. You can use sand to fill hollows, but make sure the edging is compact so that it stands firm.

Maintaining the border is essential to make it look good, and if you’re on a limited budget, you can opt for colorful ornamental border plants as they too are efficient and attractive at the same time.

How to Build a Trench Border:

Materials you’ll need:

  • Hose
  • Stakes
  • Trowel
  • Spade or half-moon edger
  1. Lay out the design with a garden hose or twine to create a border. Soft curves create an illusion of a larger space compared to straight lines and hard corners, as rectangular shapes can make the garden look smaller.
  2. Start by pushing the spade 6-inches deep into the soil. Push the blade at a 45-degree angle to create a cut that slopes toward the garden bed.
  3. Work along the twine until you’ve created the entire border. Digging the edge at an angle helps prevent weeds from spreading across the border.
  4. Cut the second line between the first and the garden bed equivalent to the first line. Create a V-shape sump by digging in angle way of about 6-inches wide at the ground surface.
  5. Remove any existing grass and dirt using the trowel and make it a little bit deeper than the notch.
  6. Check the edge regularly throughout the year and re-dig if the border starts to collapse or when the plants start to overlap.

Final Thoughts On How To Build Your Trench Garden

If you are new to gardening, any strategy in your garden preparation will take a lot of work, more than you expected. Trust me!

But getting your preparation done first is far better than jumping into your garden right away to plant.

Doing this will increase your chances of success both in preparation and in planting. Planting itself requires a ton of tasks, even after you finish the job. But the good news is that the trenching method is probably the least expensive way either in planting or in bordering.

A trench garden ensures your soil is ready to feed your plants with adequate soil nutrients from the added organic matter content, and as a border, it helps define the garden and makes it easy to maintain while it helps tomatoes and a few other plants establish roots and thrive until they are ready.

However, you also need to keep in mind that this method, though inexpensive to build, is also labor-intensive.

Always secure your foot balance if you opt to use pick mattock for digging, and the use of protective accessories like gloves, boots, goggles is necessary. Also, be extra cautious when building the trench garden to avoid possible accidents. Better safe than sorry!

Have you tried the trench gardening method and want to share your experience with us? Please don’t hesitate to comment below and if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!

About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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