Compost Alternatives

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For years I have kept a compost pile. And it has never been much to look at. In preparation for the wedding I dismantled it, spread the decomposing kitchen waste out and covered it with leaves. There was no smell or flies. Now that the big event is over, I am reluctant to set it up again. Instead I have been burying the kitchen waste in the back garden and covering it with leaves (sometimes called “pit composting.”)

Compost pile in back garden (3/29/2009)

Shirley, the lizard, inhabits the compost pile along with some lovely iridescent beetles. The beetles come from enormous grubs, neither of which bothers any of my plants.

Occasionally I would remove the plastic bin and turn the compost, and spread some of it in garden beds and top-dress lawn areas.

An internet review of the practice of burying kitchen waste reveals that there can be problems with rats and anaerobic rotting.

(As a quick aside, for those new to composting, whether you use a bin or not, you should compost only vegetable waste, no meat or dairy, egg shells are okay. When I have the energy I cut up melon rinds, though even large pieces will eventually decompose. Mix wet, dense kitchen waste with dry leaves to keep the pile from getting anaerobic – rotting without oxygen. Check with your Extension for complete composting instructions.)
Returning again to pit composting, my piles aren’t big and I mix them with soil and leaves. There is a lot of aerobic decomposition in this bed and it does not smell. Regarding the problem with rats and mice, my yard has two very large avocado trees that have been dropping fruit for months, of which we can only eat a portion. The squirrels are well fed, and I can only assume that rats, mice and other small mammals living in and around our yard have shiny coats too. It seems to me that this is the major food source for mammals rather than my cucumber peels. And indeed, nothing has been digging in this garden bed – yet. Furthermore, we have found that removing all of the ivy – ideal rat condos – in our yard and closing all holes into the house did the most to address the issue of rats and mice.
New process of burying small amounts of kitchen waste throughout the yard instead of collecting it in one place.

Small hole for green waste is filled with some leaves and soil to keep it aerobic.

And magic! No waste and no ugly bin. Hopefully no problems!

The process is still experimental, but I will let you know how it works. Is there anyone else out there doing this kind of composting with kitchen waste?

8 thoughts on “Compost Alternatives

  1. Anonymous

    I would love to try it but am afraid– mostly of coyotes coming to visit. The raccoons and possums come by to drink water but don't seem to bother the cat. How deep do you dig the hole.

  2. Ha! If I could manage to dig holes into my dry clay, I might be tempted. But I honestly can&#39;t even make a hole for a 4 inch pot. <br /><br />Good luck! I personally don&#39;t mind my compost bin, but this should be an interesting experiment.

  3. TM: Not only would it be hard to dig in clay soil but I would worry about the buried waste going anaerobic in those conditions. <br /><br />Anon: I dig down about a foot. Do you have problems with coyotes digging in your yard? My yard is fenced and I don&#39;t think coyotes enter, though they seem to party in my front yard (poor kitties!).

  4. RV

    I used to do this, but it doesn&#39;t get my whole family involved because they don&#39;t know where the last burial was. I think it&#39;s more work too because I have to go get a tool to dig and then I have to put it away. I&#39;m sticking to a compost pile where the tool stays in one place, and since I need a lot for my vegetable bed in the spring it&#39;s best for me to keep it in one place.

  5. Now that I&#39;ve filled up my dedicated composter I&#39;ve been torn with the reality of sending kitchen scraps to the greens recycling. Even with holes drilled in the bottom of the trashcans a week or two of scraps definitely gets the anaerobic vibe going. Doing something like what you&#39;ve done looks like a good interim step, even if I were to dig up the piles and feed them to the composter.

  6. RV – so how do you get the family involved? Somehow I&#39;m missing that. Anyway, I may tire of this sometime as well but for now it is nice not having that ugly bin up-front-and-center. <br /><br />Hey James. So far, so good. Not sure I&#39;d have the energy to dig up the piles. They should disappear like magic.

  7. RV

    I have a family of four. My son rakes the dry leaves and puts them on top of the compost pile (CP), my daughter cleans out her chickens and puts the manure and newspaper bedding into the CP and waters it down, my husband puts the dog&#39;s fur into the CP and turns it over, I put my garden waste into the CP, and everybody saves the kitchen scraps and takes it out to the CP. I also monitor it to

  8. Wow, RV. Sounds like a big family activity. We all participate in the whole cooking thing here but the garden and outdoors is mostly mine. I guess I don&#39;t really mind since I&#39;d rather be outside than cooking or cleaning indoors.

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