Composting is pretty easy, but it’s not fool proof, and not everyone wants an ugly compost bin hanging around the yard. In-ground composting is a simple way to compost right in your garden! No bin, stacks of leaves, or balance “green” and “brown” required!
Why Not Just Have A Compost Bin?
If you’ve been around here for a while you know that I have a black thumb and are generally pretty terrible at all gardening related tasks. But what I lack in natural talent I make up for in sheer determination and repetitive effort.
I have been composting for many years now, and attempting to compost even longer. So even when I screw it up I have a pretty good idea what went wrong. In our Oregon homestead, I had my compost system down pretty well, and there were plenty of fall leaves and hay from our goats and rabbits to keep a balanced pile. It was also pretty damp, and my biggest issue was having my compost pile become TOO wet.
That all changed quite a bit when we moved to San Antonio, Texas. Here, our live oak trees rarely lose leaves and there aren’t enough of them to keep up with our kitchen waste. I no longer raise goats or rabbits, and our chickens have much more room to roam, so they only produce a little bedding each year.
This is actually pretty fixable just by buying a bale of hay specifically for the compost bin, but what really made it difficult for me to keep up was the heat and how dry everything gets. Yes, I could go out and water my compost bin, but the reality is, I just didn’t do it. I didn’t get out there enough and it just dried out too fast.
So I thought about what type of method might work better, and I realized that instead of putting wet kitchen scraps into a dry compost bin, then adding more water to my bin AND my garden, why not just add the wet kitchen scraps directly into the garden and get the watering all done in one shot?
I did a little research, and it seemed as if I was not the only one thinking in a similar direction. Plus this is a great method for people who don’t have the space for a compost bin in a small yard!
What’s Better About In-ground Composting?
In-ground composting means you don’t have to go out and buy or build a compost bin. You don’t have to haul around finished compost or additives to your pile. It’s one less thing to accidentally forget about. You don’t have to clean it up before you move or before you have guests over to your garden. It doesn’t require regular turning. You can also compost meat and dairy (as long as you bury it deep enough.)
In-ground composting eliminates added work from your gardening chores, while still reducing the food waste you throw away. It improves your garden soil just by using things you were going to throw away anyway!
How To Compost In the Ground
Composting directly on the ground can be as simple as weeding the garden and leaving the pulled weeds between your vegetables as a mulch. You can leave all your food waste directly on the ground as well, although it looks less tidy while decomposing. For a tidier look, bury all your food waste. If you bury it at least 12 inches deep, wildlife such as possums won’t come looking for snacks in the middle of the night.
Generally people use one of two methods, the trench method, or the pit method. In the trench method, dig a long trench at least 12 inches deep and leave the soil next to it. Every time you place compost into the trench, cover it with the adjacent soil. Once you reach the end of the trench, dig a new one right next to it.
The trench method is great for building up a new garden bed, or rejuvenating an established garden bed that needs a rest. If you don’t have an entire trench available at one time you can still use the pit method. With the pit method, you simply dig one hole, dump your kitchen compost out of the bucket, and cover.
You can use this method between plants in the garden bed, in walkways, or even in your lawn, if you carefully slice a chunk and lay it back down like sod. If you’re really committed you could compost fruits and vegetables traditionally, and use this method for fats and meats or other things that can’t be traditionally composted. If you keep your regular compost bin in the chicken coop, in-ground composting is an option for anything you don’t want your chickens to eat.
In-ground composting is a super easy way to get the advantages of composting without some of the downsides. If you want to compost, but aren’t happy with a traditional system, give it a try!
Composting Tools You May Find Useful:
You don’t need fancy tools to compost, but it can be helpful.
I often gather my kitchen compost on a dinner plate or even just an empty plastic ice cream bucket, but an attractive counter top bin like this one can be nice:
If you want it hidden under the counter, this one could be a good option:
If you’re going with an in the counter style, I recommend using a liner. (Liners are nice to use if you are using curbside compost provided by the city).
At the very least you need something to bury the compost with. If you have soft soil you can use a hori hori garden knife.
But if you have harder soil or large amounts a basic shovel is likely less work.
And of course, if you really don’t think in-ground composting is for you, there’s the traditional black compost bin.
Compost for the Lazy: Throw It on the Ground by Zero-Waste Chef
Composting Techniques: How to Compost In-Situ by GrowVeg
Easy Gardening by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Simple In-Ground Composting by Dirty Gardening
In-Ground Composting Advantages: No Bin or Turning Required! by Thriving Yard
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