Composting Directly On The Ground (Goodbye to Compost Bins!)

composting directly on the ground

All you need to start composting are space, organic wastes, water, a shovel or garden fork, and eagerness! 

You don’t even need a bin. 

In this article I’ll give you guidelines and tips for composting straight on the ground. The best part: you can start today!

So what are you waiting for? Let’s go! 

Can I Make A Compost Pile Right On The Ground?

Building a compost pile right on the ground is the easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to get started. 

Although an open compost pile is fuss-free, following a few rules will boost your composting success. 

Let’s look at how to find the best spot for your compost pile and then build it like a pro!

Can You Just Put Compost Materials On The Ground 

Simply dumping organic wastes onto the ground won’t work well. The wastes will eventually break down, but they won’t quickly transform into nourishing compost for your garden. 

If you want your organic wastes to decompose smoothly, you must give them a head start by carefully choosing where to put your pile and how to build it. 

Tip: One of the best ways to quickly transform organic waste into compost is to shred it into small pieces. This provides a bigger surface area for composting microbes to act on.

How To Find The Best Place To Compost Directly On The Ground

Here’s what to look for when scouting out the perfect spot to start: 

  • Space (a good size for compost piles is 3x3x3 feet)
  • Bare, level ground (start your pile on a pallet if you only have paving or concrete free for your compost)
  • Good drainage
  • Partial sun
  • Away from pets’ living spaces
  • Easy for you to access
  • Secluded 

Tip: Starting your pile against a wall or other solid structure will help you build volume without everything tumbling over. 

How To Start Composting Directly On The Ground

These 5 steps will give your compost pile a strong start:

  1. Layer about 8 inches of bulky materials like small branches, twigs, and corn cobs on the ground. This layer will encourage good airflow and drainage. 
  2. Add your greens (nitrogen-rich organic wastes like fruit and veggie scraps) and browns (carbon-rich organic wastes like dry leaves and shredded paper). Try to throw in 2 parts browns for every 1 part greens. Make sure you have a layer of browns on top. 
  3. Add a few shovelfuls of soil onto your pile. The soil is packed with microorganisms to break down the wastes. 
  4. Monitor your pile in the coming weeks to keep the water levels about as damp as a wrung-out sponge (lightly water your compost if it gets too dry and mix in absorbent browns like sawdust if it gets too wet). 
  5. Turn your compost every week or 2 to keep it aerated. 

When your compost is dark-brown, has no recognizable bits and pieces, smells earthy, and feels crumbly, it’s ready!

Tips: Bury food wastes in the pile’s center to keep pests away (you could also build a fence around the pile to protect it from 4-legged troublemakers). Plus, cover the pile with a loose tarp when it rains a lot. 

Can Organic Compost Be Spread On Ground Around Plants 

It’s okay to toss a fruit or veg peel (ideally chopped up) among your plants now and then. But don’t make your garden your compost bin. 

Spreading fresh or partially rotted organic wastes on the ground around plants can cause problems.

Organic wastes still breaking down can take nitrogen from the soil (away from plants), introduce plant-harming compounds into the soil, or stink up your garden and attract pests. Plus, half-decomposed organic wastes aren’t a good look for garden beds! 

There’s an exception. Your garden will welcome a layer of organic wastes on the ground around plants if they’re acting as mulch. 

The best organic wastes to use as mulch are browns like wood chips (great around trees, shrubs, and in garden beds you won’t be digging around in often), newspaper (moisten the sheets to make them stay put), shredded dry leaves (a versatile mulch with uses all over your garden), and straw (a super pick for veggie gardens). 

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  1. I’ve collected vegetables and fruit in a compost bag. I thought I could just dig a hole in the woods and put it there? If not what do I do with it?

    1. Hi Robin
      If you don’t have a backyard, you can still compost! Consider using a small compost bin on your balcony or even indoor composting options like worm composting. This gives great compost for indoor plants.
      another option is to check if your local community has composting facilities or programs. Some cities offer composting services where they collect organic waste from residents.
      Hope that helps 🙂

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