Guide to Direct Composting

Table of Contents

Compost, that nutrition rich soil that you can create from garden waste and kitchen scraps, is undeniably the key to healthy and productive green spaces. But many home gardeners are put off of making their own compost by the work and time involved in building a pile and regularly turning it. If that sounds like you, then you should consider direct composting (also called trench composting).

How to do it:

1. Dig a hole around 12 inches (30 centimeters) deep and dump in your kitchen scraps.

2. Mix in at least as much brown material (shredded leaves, paper, ashes, nut shells, used potting soil), and cover the top of the hole with removed soil.

Pro tip: As in any type of composting, do not compost meats, peanut butter, dairy, oily foods, diseased plants, manure from carnivores, ashes from a charcoal fire or glossy paper.

3. In as little as a month, your underground stew should turn into rich compost capable of feeding nearby plants or serving as enrichment for a future garden bed.

Pro tip: Make your hole in any empty space in the garden in which you don’t plan to plant this year. Alternatively, dig trenches between your vegetable or flower rows for composting. Next year, plant where the compost has formed, and compost where last year’s plants grew. In large garden plots, you can create a three-year rotation of crop, compost trench, and path.

Digging a Hole for Direct Compost

Pros of direct composting:

  • There’s no turning of the compost required. Once you’ve buried the scraps and brown material, your work is done.
  • You also don’t have to move the finished compost. Where it’s buried is where it will do its soil enriching magic.
  • Plants benefit from receiving their dose of compost nutrients at this deep root level.
  • Direct composting means no danger of bad smells or unsightly piles.

Cons of direct composting:

  • Animals–everything from the family dog to the neighborhood raccoon to a hungry bear–might dig into your compost, and dig up your garden in the process (this can be a problem with compost piles and bins too). The answer is the same as it is with any of the larger garden pests: make sure you have strong, tight, and high fences keeping intruders out of your beds.
  • With direct composting, you make the compost where you use it. In most cases, it’s impractical to try to dig it up to use in other areas of the garden.

Just because you don’t have the time to build and maintain a compost pile or bin doesn’t mean you have to give up on creating your own homemade soil amendments. Try direct composting for a simple, attractive, and care-free way to get the benefits of good compost straight to your plants.

Vegetable Tea Bags and Fruit Scraps for Compost


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