Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Direct Composting Method for Busy Homesteaders

Direct composting, also called trench composting, is an easy way to get started composting.  You can get started without any special equipment, and it takes very little time to do.  It's a great solution for busy homesteaders because it's so easy to do.





Direct Composting Method for Busy Homesteaders


Composting never crossed my mind when we lived in the suburbs.  I had a fancy garbage disposal and weekly trash pickup, so I didn't really give it much thought.


Besides, the only food scraps we had were what I scraped off of the kids' plates after meals, so there wasn't much to get rid of.


Then we moved to the farm and started gardening and growing our own food again.


We do have trash service, but we have a dumpster because our house is a half of a mile away from the road, making it impractical to have a can.  This means we get it dumped every 3-4 months, so I don't want food sitting it.


We also don't have a garbage disposal since we have a septic system.


This created a bit of a conundrum when we moved, and especially when I'm in the middle of canning season!


This is when I started researching composting methods.  I had no idea that composting can be so complicated.  


Worms gross me out (if it doesn't have legs or wings, it should not be able to move!), and I don't want to mess with watering and maintaining a compost bin.  


I work full time, and I was homeschooling three kids at the time. I  do not have time to babysit a compost bin.


This is why direct composting is perfect for busy homesteaders.  


For more rural living tips and ideas, check out these posts:






How Do You Compost For Beginners


Composting, and especially direct composting, is very easy to do. To start, you will want to begin collecting food scraps from your home. 


Store them somewhere where pests will not get into them as you build up enough to use for composting.   I use a counter top small composting bin like this one.


It has charcoal filters to absorb odors. I also use biodegradable bags to keep the bin clean and to make life easier.  


My composting bin does not have a liner.  Our gardens are a big of a walk from the house, so I couldn't see walking with a ceramic pot that far and risk dropping it and having pieces that could hurt someone or an animal.


As far as composting itself goes, there are a few different methods you can take advantage of. Following are some of the more common methods of composting, in addition to a section on the direct composting method itself. 


For more information about composting, read these articles:


  • Backyard Composting for Beginners
  • What Can You Compost at Home?


Worm Method


The worm method just means introducing a sum of worms to your compost pile. Worms can help to break down food scraps faster and more efficiently than just letting time pass by. 


There are a few things to keep in mind with the worm method. First, be careful not to overfeed them, and because worms are living creatures, you will have to meet their needs as well. If you do not, they will not be effective at composting your food scraps.


Further, there are some scraps that cannot be put into a worm composter as they cannot break it down. I recommend, then, having two compost piles with one with worms and one without. 


Personally, we do not use worms except for the ones that are naturally in the ground.


Aerators


Using an aerator isn't a method of composting in and of itself, but it does help when directly composting. An aerator is a tool that allows you to turn the scraps in your compost more effectively. 


They are rather inexpensive and can be purchased online. Using one helps your compost pile to be more effective than without spinning or manually turning the scraps in the pile. Using an aerator is advised when composting directly on the ground or direct composting in a pit or trench. 


Again, we don't use one.  My goal is to keep it simple because otherwise I would not be composting.





What Is Direct Composting?


Direct composting is one of if not the oldest methods of composting. Simply put, direct composting is digging a hole or creating a space to store scraps while they break down. It is incredibly easy to do, but has some limitations. There are a few different variants of direct composting which need to be discussed as well. 


Trench Composting


Trench composting is incredibly simple to do. All you need to do is start storing your scraps in a bin until it is full. Then, dig a trench somewhere and fill it with the scraps. Cover the trench and allow the composting to begin. 


Can I Compost Directly In My Garden?


Yes! You absolutely can compost directly in your garden. Simply bury your compost into the soil before planting your crops and over time nutrients will be added to the soil. This is different from composting directly on the ground or laying scraps on the garden as it requires a burial of the scraps themselves. 


We have four garden beds, and we use three of them each year.  We do use the empty garden for direct composting food scraps and other matter from the farm.  


What Happens When You Bury Kitchen Scraps In The Garden?


When you compost directly into your garden, or when you bury scrap food, it is broken down over time by insects and the elements. As the food breaks down and remaining nutrients seep into the soil.


Then, when you go to plant your crops they will be much healthier because they can absorb the nutrients in the soil from the composting process. This is why composting directly on the ground is not advised, as you do not get many of these benefits. 


Does Compost Need To Be Dug In?


No, typically speaking compost does not have to be dug in all the time. Sometimes composting directly on the ground is okay.  Digging in compost just means burying it and covering the compost with topsoil. 


This does not always need to be done and sometimes compost can sit in the open. For instance, in off-seasons you do not need to dig your compost in. However, if you have dogs or other critters on the property that could tear it up you might want to dig it in. 


We will also till the garden bed before we plant, so this helps get the nutrients back into the soil.





How Long Does Direct Composting Take?


Depending on a number of variables, direct composting can take as little as two weeks or up to six months. This all depends on the method, food being composted, and other such factors. 


Directing Compost Method Pros


Direct composting is the easiest method of composting. Simply digging a hole and filling it with collected scraps is super easy and makes it so that you can compost no matter where you are. 


For instance, direct composting in pots is a very common practice. Direct composting in pots lets you have your compost pile wherever you want, and it even makes it mobile. 


Direct Composting Method Cons


There are some cons with the process of direct composting, however, in that it is a slower method of composting. Further, there is always the chance of pests getting into the pile and delaying or running progress. 


Direct composting, while simple to do, is best done after careful planning as to yield the best results. 


Is It OK To Put Food Scraps Directly In My Garden?


In short, yes, you can directly put food scraps into your garden, depending on the food of course. Some of the most popular types of food scraps for direct use in the garden include crushed egg and nut shells, banana and orange peels, and coffee grounds.


Even though all of these foods are safe for use directly in the garden, many recommend taking them into the topsoil to increase effectiveness.


Can I Just Throw Vegetable Scraps In My Garden?


Creating a direct composting garden, or throwing kitchen scraps into the garden is not advised for a few reasons. It is not very effective as a composting method when compared to burying the scraps in the garden. 


Further, the scraps could be blown or washed away. The scraps might also attract animals who could tear into your garden which could present issues. As such, most will need to take additional measures to protect their direct composting garden against pests. 


There are, however, some foods that can be scattered in your garden that will yield benefits. For instance, crushed eggshells can be scattered around your garden and will provide nutrients and deter pests such as slugs or snails.





How Do You Turn Kitchen Scraps Into Compost?


Turning Kitchen scraps into compost is super easy to do with any of the methods we have already discussed. Which method you choose ultimately depends on what is easiest for you, but don’t worry as you have plenty of options. 


You can also use your chickens to compost your kitchen scraps.  If you have scraps that are safe for them to eat and aren't rotten, then feed them to your chickens.  They will reward you with compost for your garden when you clean out their coop.


Don't forget that chicken manure needs to age before it can be put on the garden.


How Long Does It Take To Make Compost?


On average, it can take anywhere from three months to a year to finish making compost. This estimate is for making compost without much involvement, however, and there are ways to speed up the process.


Some homesteaders take their composting seriously and have worms or a composting bin.  If that's right for you, then that's perfect for you.


However, for us, composting has to be simple.  We have other goals that we are working towards, so direct composting works better for us.


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