Modified Raised Bed Gardening with Wood Chip Trench Composting — 5 Comments

  1. Actually, an inverted system (compared to the blog post above) works extremely well in arid climates.

    Brad Lancaster, who you have previously posted about,

    … advocates using similar trenches and dished out soil beds to hold large organic “sponges” filling the trenches completely, or even overfilling to mound up the organic matter, which will hold water for very extended periods of time, if well mulched on top. Simply plant your vegetation directly in the organic filled trenches and use the mounded up ridges of soil as your pathways to avoid compaction of the growing spaces.

    This video, different from the one previously posted on this blog, gives a demonstration of Lancaster’s techniques.

    Lancaster’s system has proven itself many times over in the desert areas of the southwest U.S. The key is to have the trenches dug in such a way that they will have an area to overflow to if you get a massive burst of rain that fill them up.

    The more rain your climate gets, the more important it becomes to have overflow capacity for your trenches.

    I suspect that if one lives in or near a rainforest climate, then inverting Lancaster’s process like this blog post shows may be appropriate to provide enough drainage, but still put the runoff water to good use. Then again, I have absolutely zero experience in the very wet climates so my guess on that may be completely wrong. Perhaps someone with experience growing things in wet climates might confirm or shoot my hypothesis full of holes. As long as they have such experience, I welcome either response.

    On a slightly different topic, perhaps worthy of a blog post if deemed appropriate by the blog authors…

    For what it’s worth, the water level that Lancaster advocates in the video I listed above is a very useful tool in building construction. Valuable when digging foundation trenches, and assuring proper grading to get the correct slope for runoff. Well worth the effort to build one, right from the start of a construction project. It becomes easy to find the high and low spots before excavation, during excavation, and after.

    Water is the enemy of all buildings, regardless of what they are made from. Controlling how and to where a structure sheds water is perhaps the most important factor for a builder. If it’s not the most important, it’s near the top anyway.

    Here is Brad demonstrating how to build one. One can be built almost entirely from scrap components.

    • Thanks for reminding me. Yes, that’s what Brad recommends in arid climates and I think he knows as much about this as anybody.

      I’m in a rainy climate so that’s where I’m coming from.

  2. I like it! It is both inexpensive and practical. I sent this blog to one of my students in Haiti who recently completed the Entrepreneur Training. He holds a degree in agronomy and is dedicated to making improvments in Haitian life.

    • As you know, the soil in Haiti is mostly very low quality, sometimes just rocks. They denuded the mountains and so most of the topsoil washed away. Can they get wood chips? Or maybe they can find another organic material (coconut husks? rice hulls?) in the trenches. But for sure they need to build up their soil and become food self sufficient.

  3. This seems like one of the fastest, easiest ways to build good topsoil. Rotted wood chips improve soil structure. All 100% natural — no chemical fertilizer needed. The only downsides are you need loads of wood chips and the wood chips need to stay moist. So this may not work in arid areas.

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