How to Direct Compost

2 Materials
30 Minutes

Also known as trench composting, direct composting takes the pile or bin out of the composting process and allows you to simply put your kitchen scraps directly into the ground.
If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the composting train, then I may have an easy solution for you. Direct compost was introduced to me over a year ago by a fellow blogger, and I was amazed at how easy it was. I had been a fairly  traditional tumbler-owning composter for a few years when she mentioned direct composting to me. While I do enjoy bin or pile composting, this more direct method did sound appealing. Less work and no pile? I was definitely interested in learning more!
What is Direct Composting?
Much like the name implies, direct composting involves putting your composting materials directly into the flower bed or garden area. Instead of having a separate pile where your brown and green matter breaks down. The compost breaks down in the actual bed. This saves time, since you won’t have to transfer your compost from bin to garden. And it may also save your back from turning the pile and using the shovel and wheelbarrow!
How to Direct Compost:
  1. Collect the organic matter you would like to compost. (We use a pail like  this.) This can be kitchen scraps (no meat or oil), dead leaves, grass clippings, etc. For a full list of what you can compost, see my post  here.
  2. Dig a small trench in the flower bed or garden area you’ve chosen. Aim for at least six inches deep, especially if you have dogs, who like to dig for treasure!
  3. Dump your compostable materials in the trench and cover with dirt.
  4. Tamp down the dirt gently with your foot and voila! Your organic matter will break down under the surface and you’ll never have to think about it again. It’s really an easy way to compost especially if you’re just getting started. 
  5. If using this method in a garden bed, give it several months to break down before planting on the spot with the buried compost. This makes direct composting a great choice for the fall/winter when your beds may be dormant.

Direct Composting vs. Compost PIle
  • Direct composting isn’t ideal for large amounts of organic matter. If you are making daily trips to the composter, then you may not want to use the direct method. (The exception is if you dig a good sized trench and gradually fill it up. But you’ll need to be careful for animals getting into your open trench.)
  • In flower beds, be careful not to dig too close to plants whose roots may be damaged by your shovel or spade.
  • It does seem faster and easier to have a pile or bin so you’re not having to dig holes each time you want to dump your compostables. If you don't have pets, you could leave a trench open for a week or so while you add compostables to it.

The direct composting in this raised garden bed led to a great crop of peanuts in the months that followed! So, if you don't want the hassle of making a compost pile or purchasing a tumbler, but still want the benefit of composting, then consider direct composting!

Resources for this project:

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

2 questions
  • Kathleen
    on Feb 21, 2020

    Do compost piles need to be in a sunny location

    • Edi Ramos Donelson
      on Feb 22, 2020

      Kathleen I think once the weather warms up, it won’t really matter since the worms will be around. But things like warms prefer the sunny locations

  • Rosa Chang
    on Feb 25, 2020

    How to prevent the animals dig it up? I don’t want to put fancy around the raise bed. I sprinkle pepper on top, that doesn’t work either.

Join the conversation

4 of 13 comments
  • Na
    on Feb 17, 2020

    This helps, I'm planing a keyhole garden this spring for my compost. Right now my bin is full and my worms seem to be taking the winter off. I can dig a hole.

  • Ruth
    on Feb 25, 2020

    I use this method too. Earthworms do not care for onions or citrus so I do not add these to the hole.

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