Cut the middle man out of composting! There’s no need for a fancy compost bin, tumbler, or even a compost pile. Toss kitchen scraps right into the garden for the best soil!
The number one goal of permaculture, for me, is getting a more real food for less work. One of my new favorite ways of achieving this is a method called “composting in place.”
Essentially, it means putting your kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves and “weeds” directly into your garden bed, container garden or even potted houseplants instead, instead of isolating them in a special bin, where they need to be rotated for months before being added to your garden soil.
“I have had the ugly compost bins made from wooden pallets, the worm bins, the big mounds and piles in the back yard, the huge round hog wire bins and so on,” says Dave from Dave’s Garden blog.
“I’ve turned them with pitchforks, concerned myself about heat, moisture and all the elements of cooking perfect compost, and here is my honest assessment: Compost bins aren’t pretty and the textbook cooking method takes too much work, too much time, and leaves me with too little product…”
Dave’s philosophy is “feed the soil, not the compost bin … let the gradual decay of organic matter feed the teaming microorganisms and worms in your soil. The heat created in a compost pile is energy lost to breaking down the organic matter to its smallest form, instead of letting that energy transfer gradually and more usefully in your soil.”
You still may want some pre-digested compost for a fast-acting fertilizer, but whole food scraps, “weeds”, sticks, egg shells, and even bones can be laid or buried right around the roots of the plants you want to grow (crops).
When it comes to “weeds,” I like the “chop and drop” method of cutting them at their base (leaving roots and soil intact) and then sprinkling the leaves around right where they grow. See a bare spot of soil in your garden? Toss some nearby dandelion, plantain or comfrey leaves over it to act as mulch to keep it moist, and as a slow-release fertilizer.
You may want to do this before your “weeds” flower, if you don’t want to spread more of their seeds… but, in my opinion, the “weeds” growing near your “crops” are the ideal compost, as they pull up whatever particular nutrients your topsoil lacks from deep below.
For this reason, I not only tolerate the borage, growing around my tomatoes, I hope the seeds spread so I can keep cutting down their leaves for fertilizer!
You can do the same with many kitchen scraps. If you’re afraid critters will trample your garden trying to get to your leftovers, you can dig ditches around the perimeter of your garden bed to dump them in and cover the ditches with dirt as they fill up.
Or, you can bury the scraps under the soil, near the roots of your crops, like this guy from New Zealand does.
On his YouTube channel, “Self Sufficient Me,” he demonstrates how he buries not only fruit and veggie scraps, but bones (like fish heads), and even whole dead birds, straight into his garden. He digs up the area where he buried them months, or even weeks, later to show how thoroughly they are decomposed by the soil.
Another great thing to compost straight into the soil is egg shells! Not only do they provide great slow-release minerals like calcium and magnesium, their sharp edges keep away pests like slugs!
Similarly, you can sprinkle twigs, sticks, and the stalks of woody plants over your garden as compost and mulch. And… you can even bury large pieces of rotting wood or logs underneath your garden bed for super-slow-release fertilizer that will last for years, which is an ancient practice called hugelkulture.
So keep your life simple and compost like the forest does, in layers right under or on top of your garden soil!