Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >
Jan 31, 2010 04:16 AM

Can I bury my kitchen waste in the garden rather than composting in a bin?

It's difficult to keep the compost pile wet enough to produce good hot compost - the heat and the sun in Florida dries it out too quickly. And the raised beds provide too much square footage to plant out entirely every season - I'd have way more veggies than our household can handle. So my question is, rather than putting the kitchen waste - vegetable and fruit trimmings and coffee grounds with filter - on the compost heap and hoping for the best, could I just bury the waste in an unused bed that would remain fallow until the next season, and rotating the beds used for composting in this way each season? Is there any reason why I shouldn't do this?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't see why you couldn't try it. My only concern would be that the rotting waste would be wet and could harbor some kind of disease. But I guess if you mix it with dirt or maybe dry materials such as leaves or even newspaper it would be okay. If I remember correctly, your rotten food scraps have a lot of nitrogen and dry materials have carbon (?), so you'd want to make sure your beds have a good balance of nutrients. Hmm, now I'm thinking that if your scraps don't get any air, they might not rot properly and when you try to dig the beds you'll get a nasty surprise of a moldy half-rotted apple core or something. Maybe a better idea would be to get a worm composter and feed the worms your scraps and then put the castings in your garden.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Glencora

      So you feel it is necessary to add in some dry materials? BTW, the food scraps won't be rotten yet when I put them in the beds - I accumulate in a small paint bucket and take that down to the garden every other day - some wilting occurs, but decay hasn't really set in yet - the waste isnt slimy or smelly or gross (yet!).

      1. re: Glencora

        I have done the following: 1) Divided the vegetable bed in half, using one side to trench in kitchen scraps with coffee grounds and filters from a nearby convenience store. My goal was to divert at least some of what would otherwise go to a landfill. In the spring, I would plant vegetables on the side that had lain fallow the previous year, and used the other side to receive the kitchen wastes.

        Since some waste will take more than one season to break down (corn cobs, for example), I dig a trench elsewhere in the garden to receive it. This I will dig two feet deep, and fill it up to within six inches of the surface. However you do it, try not to make it a real chore as then you won't stick with it.

      2. You can bury vegetable and fruit waste, egg shells, coffee, and the filters. Bury about 8-10 inches and leave a bit of space for your next deposit. Slice through the material you're composting with a spade to break it up and mix with the surrounding soil.
        The organisms in the soil will break everything down. Since you're using a fallow bed and not your current planting beds your plants won't be in danger of getting more of one nutrient than another. Ideally the bed will be covered with salt marsh hay as you move along. When you plan to use the bed for planting, the hay will have broken down somewhat and can then be incorporated into the soil.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Gio

          Thanks for the advice. When you say leave a bit of space for the next deposit, do you mean between deposits moving across the bed? And as for egg shells, I had been adding them to the pile but stopped because they're difficult to break up into tiny pieces and I can't abide the smell that results when I grind them with a mortar and pestle. Is it necessary to really break up the egg shells, or is it enough to just give them a good rinsing?

          And will any hay work instead of salt marsh hay? What about seeds - how can I insure that the hay I use isn't loaded with seeds?

          1. re: janniecooks

            Just leave a few inches between holes in the compost bed as you bury your successive kitchen waste. Or as Sam said, dig a trench and when you add to the trench you'll slice through the waste then pull the soil over that portion leaving the remainder of the trench open for the next deposit.

            Salt marsh hay has fewer seeds than straw. But straw can be used to good effect also. If you know where your hay comes from you can ask for the second cutting. That seems to have fewer seeds. Packaged chopped straw is on the market in some areas of the country but I haven't seen it either in Massachusetts or Vermont. Look in suburban/rural hardware stores or big box suppliers. There's really no insurance against weed seeds. Some seeds are air borne or carried by birds and little kritters.
            When you begin to use this bed for vegetable planting you'll mulch between the rows and that will keep the weeds down.

        2. You could probably convert one of your beds into a trench, lay the kitchen waste in, and cover with broken up friable soil. You would have a large extensive rather than intensive compost pit. You would increase soil carbon (organic matter) and improve soil texture. Kitchen waste usually doesn’t have much in the way of nitrogen; and most of that is lost to volatilization anyway.

          1. Thats one way to do it, but its better just to do a compost pile. Composting is a bacterial process. You want the aerobic kind, so turning it or otherwise agitating it expose it to air once in a while is good. This keeps the reaction going, and the fire burning. Literally burning. With all my leaves,the nieghbors leaves, and 100+ lbs per week of Starbucks grounds, kitchen scraps, newspapers and shredded paper... I have a compost tumbler and a decent windrow. It was rocking 140F with an ambient outside overnight temps near zero. I was away from home for a week, it didnt get turned, the fire went out. I suspect that it got too hot, and burnt off the bacteria.

            So anyway.. The trench method was mentioned. You can also use a composter, home-built or purchased. I recommend a windrow. Its a row about 2-3ft wide, 1 -2 ft tall and however long you want to make it. You then get in there every week or two and turn it over. It should steam, and some of that is actually smoke.

            Compost Starter. Jump starting is recommended. You can apply a special Urea Nitrogen solution "of your own making"..... OR buy a Compost Starter at the garden store. The one in the 5lb bag is urea nitrogen based, and should say so. The one in the cute jar is kelp based. This provides the necessary bacteria to get the party started.

            Coffee Grounds attract worms to your party, and possibly make it a party. Then you have vermacomposting, having a worm reactor is slightly more advanced. The worms do not actually eat the garbage, they eat the bacteria / byproduct from the composting process.

            1. I throw out my scraps straight onto the garden between the rows (after the seeds have come up, before that I throw it in the fields nearby). This can be a problem if you have these beds very close to your house, if you throw out enough waste to buildup in your beds, or if you have problems with pests. The only thing I do is to boil the eggshells before I throw them (and the calcium rich water) out near growing vegetables just to be safe against samonella (but I'm not sure if it's necessary, just being safe).

              Now I only do this because I garden on a large scale and therefore have no problems with the buildup of vegetable matter, or pests. It's just less time consuming for me and I probably do lose some vegetable matter to birds, mice, and insects by doing it this way. One thing that you do have to be careful about when throwing out vegetable matter into a bed is that it can harbor flea beetles overwinter (those are the small black jumping bugs that eat mustards, eggplants, and such into lace). You may have a problem with this even if you bury your compost if you do not break it down manually (tilling for example) before winter comes. You might also have a problem with grubs eating the vegetable matter and overwintering in it to attack your vegetables in the bed next year if you do not agitate if before and after winter.
              Personally, I think digging a hole or trench in the unused bed might be best and either covering it with dry matter (leaves, grass clippings, straw, animal bedding, ect) rather than covering it up so that it will continue to compost. Also, even if you do not want to throw any other vegetable waste in the garden you may want to think about applying tea leaves, coffee grounds, and egg shells to the garden directly. These give your plants an almost immediate nitrogen or calcium boost and they decompose quickly.

              2 Replies
              1. re: deep

                A light covering of soil is optimal, allowing decompossition to take place at the boundary between anerobic and aerobic. Again, kitchen waste usually has little nitrogen, and any N from placing scaps on the open ground will be lost to volatilization. I'm not fully certina, but I doubt that flea beetles food on kitchen waste. They are quite specific feeders.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Well it's not that they feed on the scraps. They just stay in vegetable matter to keep from freezing in the winter. If you don't till your plants under then you'll have the same problem anyway.