Sandbox Trench Excavation

Generally, when I talk/write about vermicomposting trenches I highlight the “benefit” of not needing to harvest compost from these systems. I’ve always thought of them as in situ composting systems best used to fertilize plants growing in the immediate vicinity.

It’s fair to say that my perspective has shifted somewhat after digging a LOT of material out from my sandbox garden trench and putting it to good use as a compost mulch on a rather unsightly looking raspberry garden at the back of my yard.

I almost felt like some sort of compost archaeologist as I got further and further down, scraping back the humus from several years of rich organic waste deposits. Down close to where I stopped my digging I found loads of egg shell fragments – literally the only real evidence of ever having added hundreds of pounds (if not more) of restaurant food waste to this particular system during the summer of 2008.

While I certainly wouldn’t refer to much of the material as “vermicompost” (other than the stuff up near the surface), it was nevertheless a beautiful, earthy peat-like mix that I was more than happy to heap onto the raspberry bed! I was so inspired by this unexpected bounty of garden-worthy material that I ended up excavating another bit of garden that’s been home to various worm beds – adding that material as a mulch to one of my other gardens.

I think this might end being a new spring activity for me! Aside from being able to put all this great material to good use, I am also being left with a nice empty space – ready to be built up as a brand new vermicomposting system once again. I’ll tell you what I did with the other bed in another post, but let’s now look at how I set up my sandbox trench again.

Normally I will start ALL my systems (trench or otherwise) with some sort of absorbent bedding material, but every so often I like to mix thing up a bit and live on the wild side! haha
I happened to have a lot of grass and sod I’d ripped up during my initial raspberry bed clean-up, so I tossed a bunch of that down in the bottom of the trench.

I decided not to get too carried away, though, and followed that up with a nice layer of ripped up drink tray cardboard.

Some of the other materials added included lots of rotting leaves, hay and vermicompost – from what’s left of my “winter windrow” system (now basically integrated with the rest of my windrow network) – coffee grounds, and weeds.

Lastly, I topped the bed off with a nice thick layer of aged horse manure (already containing some Red Worms) so I could still make use of it as a decent “worm bed”.

(OK, technically the “last” addition was a layer of straw – but I forgot to snap a picture! haha)


I’m not sure that I’ll be excavating any more of my trenches this year (I’m content to continue building up the windrows that now sit over top), but I do have some other compost excavation projects to tell you about soon!

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    • John Duffy
    • May 21, 2011

    Those raspberries would love a good thick layer of pine needles…

  1. The thing I like about your ‘ideas’ is that they come back with more
    information, 3 years later in this case!

    Thanks for the information!


  2. Looks Good Bentley.

  3. I’m curious about the worms that were in your old trench. Red wigglers are not going to migrate too far from the trench if there is plenty to compost. Do you take any precautions as you dig up those areas and move the nicely composted soil? I’m sure that rototilling is out of the question.

    • Mary
    • May 27, 2011

    I too have used the compost from my worm trench. This spring I was able to fill 3 LARGE wheel barrels full of wonderful compost to spread around my flower beds and garden. It was very rewarding both spiritually and financially!!
    I have to re-dig my second trench however because it started to get a bit shallow when the sides of the trench kept caving in and adding more dirt than I would like. I’m wondering if i should somehow stake-in some burlap along the sides and bottom of the trench to prevent this from happening. Do you have any thoughts on that?


    • Steve L.
    • May 28, 2011

    You could form tapered sides in your trench with a spade/shovel. It might take a little more room from the grow bed you have the trench in, but if it works for you it might be less work than other methods. The number one rule in any vermicomposting is if it works for you, then it’s the right thing to do… that is until you decide to change it.
    I should really try one of these trenches!

    • Astrid Styles
    • June 23, 2011

    Hi. I would also like to know, what happened to all the worms in the trench?

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