Improve Soil Fast with Direct Compost

Improve garden soil faster using the direct compost method for amending.

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Earlier I wrote a popular post referring to Direct Compost, this method was introduced to me from my grandmother when I was a kid.

Many had never heard of it and my goal was to share a simpler way to compost instead of using traditional compost bins.

Since then her awesome idea has been implemented by gardeners everywhere and this style of composting has become a very helpful tool for many.

I even wrote an article for Grit magazine which was published in the summer of 2016.

Worms in the Garden

Direct Composting Welcomes the Worms

Direct Composting is an invitation to welcome worms to the garden and amend your soil quickly.

We do this by digging a hole to bury food waste. How do the worms help?

  • They eat food waste as a meal and when it passes through their system it becomes compost.
  • This turns soil into a beautiful loam with a wonderful easy to work texture.

If you’re working with clay soil this may take 2 or 3 years to experience which makes it even more important to feed soil on a regular basis.

Soil needs to be fed before and during after each planting season.  This is why I love direct composting, apply this method year-round and you will notice a huge improvement and the worms will never leave.

Using additional natural materials to amend soil is also good practice.

Food Waste and Direct Compost

Compost is a combination of all kitchen food waste, including chicken bones.

Let me explain before you think I’ve completely gone mad.

Food waste in our home mainly consists of fruit or vegetable pieces like potato peels, carrot shavings and banana peels.  Waste like tea bags, coffee grounds, and egg shells are also perfect composting materials.

I also incorporate citrus peels because they add a nice scent to the soil and because they take a while to decompose I dig them a little deeper.

Going a step further with  hicken and fish bones is another practice I incorporate because they carry calcium which is very good for the soil.

The only difficulty is they also take longer to decompose so make sure to dig them deeper and cover up.

Dealing with Dogs, Predators and Rodents

A garden fence will keep most the dogs and predators out of your garden.  This is why I incorporated a fence because my dogs love digging up my compost.

I avoided the dog digging with a fence but also use a stone to detour rodents because they can enter by climbing.

During the winter I was presented with some type of rodent digging up waste.  I never figured out what it was but decided to add a heavy stone on top of newly buried compost.

This worked like a charm so I’m guessing it was something small.

Direct compost in my garden decomposes in about 1-2 weeks and because I’m adding compost weekly I just move that stone each time.

Solving Issues and How Long to Decompose?

Using the  covered raised bed was also a great source especially if you don’t want to fence in your garden. This is one of my favorite projects because it solved additional common garden issues.

How long does it take for decomposition really depends on how and when you established the garden.  As I mentioned in my original article it can be days if you already have active worm activity.

Expect anywhere from one – two weeks for common food waste to turn into compost and don’t be surprised when you dig the next hole if you uncover heavy worm activity.

Depending on how deprived the soil may be it could take longer than two weeks.

Once the worms show up they stick around as long as you keep feeding them which is why I direct compost year-round.

You’ll begin to notice the perks of gardening in a simplistic yet natural way quickly and it won’t be long before you say good-bye to bin composting.

If you like this way of composting then you’ll enjoy my Startle Garden system where we garden with less maintainence.


When Do You Compost?

I direct compost year round in all of my beds.  This takes place in raised beds that are resting and growing.

If you grow using tight planting conditions then those areas would be skipped and direct composted during the off season.

In conjunction with composting I also use animal fertilizer from our farm, mainly llama, chicken and sheep droppings.  Natural material like leaves is another favorite.

I’m all about working with nature because it’s just basic common sense for a fantastic garden.

Direct Composting isn’t a complicated system; it’s a matter of digging a hole, dumping your waste and covering it up.  Now doesn’t that sound like a better way to add nutrients to your garden?




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  1. Paula caton says:

    How do I keep deer out of the garden?

    1. Carole says:

      I like to plant deer resistant plants throughout my garden and then a mint border is also a huge help. However to really keep them out, I recommend a fence.

  2. Cindy says:

    I dry all my citrus peels, then use them in my teas & seasonings! After I’m done with the tea, the peels are so soft that they blend very easily into the soil… so, no worries for my direct gardening in this way, either! I just bury all my citrus mush with all my bones in a separate area, not any deeper than normal though, even though they do take longer to decompose… I figure the citrus may help them!

  3. Jen says:

    Two questions… do you bury yard waste as well, like grass and weeds, tree branches?

    I do a lot of container gardening for my vegies, how should I compost for that application?

    1. Carole says:

      For containers it can get a little tricky especially if they’re small. When I use the direct application in containers it’s normally during transplanting or setting up new pots. I just add it to the bottom of the container, drill large holes toss in a few worms and go on with filling and planting. The holes are so the worms can leave once the food is decomposed.

      You could bury yard waste but I use those materials when I establish new raised beds. This year I used leaves for mulch and it worked fantastic.

      1. Angi says:

        I do container gardening. Now…I’m sure that I dont necassarily do this correctly BUT, at the end of the season I take my containers and dump the dirt into a huge outside bin. (Garden storage for like a lawn mower. The front opens and there is a lid on top. I use ratchet straps to sturdy it up and keep the doors closed.) I generally keep a good layer going all year round so mixing in the “used” soil works pretty well. Excellent worm activity but I am having trouble, now that it has been established for a few years, with not harming the worms quen I’m reloading my containers.

        Another, more time consuming option….maybe food process the scraps so that you can do smaller holes to direct compost?

        1. Carole says:

          You could food process scraps but it’s not necessary. With you bin that you dump the soil at the end of the season you could feed those worms with your food waste. Would improve the soil and the worms would love you for it. Maybe just keep some of that dirt in the container over the planting season to keep them occupied. Sounds like a neat system to me.

  4. I had researched online on how to build a compost bin. I took an old large plastic trash bin with an attached lid, drilled a bunch of holes about 3 inches apart through the sides and bottom. I then placed the bin about a third deep in a hole my husband dug for me. I added Sandy soil, emphasis on the Sandy, as that is what I have to work with here. I have now started adding fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and the occasional shredded paper. I added leftover fishing worms. I am buying more worms today to add. Which are better, night crawlers or red worms? What else can I add for the compost to be successful?

    1. Carole says:

      So night crawlers are closely related to red worms. I actually prefer good old fashioned earth worms if you do a little bit of this direct composting they’ll actually show up and you could add some to your bin. There are suggestions in this article on what to compost and I also have a Direct Compost printable you may enjoy. Hope that helps!

  5. Suzanne says:

    I have been doing this for years and the worms arrive almost immediately (I’m in Australia). One thing that I noticed is that you said that you also put citrus into your mix. I’ve always been told not to use citrus. If citrus is OK I would be thrilled. Please let me know if I read correctly.
    Many thanks

    1. Carole says:

      I do add citrus to my soil and I know gardeners everywhere say it’s a huge no no. My grandma always did it so I followed her lead and the results have been amazing, it also makes the soil smell really nice. Some worms though won’t eat them so that’s why it’s a big no no and preferred to just dump in a traditional bin. My thought is, what’s the difference if they decay in a bin or dirt?

      1. Suzanne says:

        Thanks so much for your reply Carole.
        Best wishes,

  6. Great informative post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. TwoPlusCute says:

    Brownthumber here, I like the practicality of this composting method.
    I do need to get a few raised beds to start but I will definitely try it once I do.

    1. I love brown thumbs and so glad you stopped by. Feel welcome to use my blog as a gardening resource and if I can help answer any questions let me know. I have many articles on the Gardening page – I share simplistic tips to help new and established gardeners. Hope you have a great week. -Carole

  8. daisy g says:

    We keep a recycled plastic coffee bin in our freezer with our scraps. When it gets full, we bury it out in the garden. It's an easy way to add nutrients to the garden without having a compost pile. It works great for us!

    1. Hello Daisy – Keeping the scraps in the freezer is a great idea. I might have to give that a whirl during the summer months. Check back tomorrow I'm talking about llama fertilizer and then I think that might be enough about the soil for awhile. 🙂 Hope you enjoyed a nice weekend. -Carole

  9. Karen says:

    This is such a practical and effective way to compost. I don't fully understand why we don't hear more about it in the composting community. I bought a nice stainless steel compost pail (with charcoal filter) last month and it sits on the kitchen counter. No smells, no mess – and my children are getting in the habit of using it. When it's filled, out to the raised bed I go and bury it. Nothing but simple! I'm already seeing more worms – fat, happy ones.
    I doubt I'll ever build/use a traditional compost pile again.

    1. Hello Karen, We don't hear more about it because it's simplistic, it's unfortunate the gardening community in general tends to over verbalize the act of growing. This is why so many new gardener's fail and fear the process. The process is all about feeding the soil and watching it evolve as it matures. It's a slow process much like anything that is great. Happy Composting, glad you moved forward with it. -Carole

      1. Dan says:

        I bought a large blender at a yard sale and when my countertop compost container gets full I run it through that blender with ample water then dump it into freshly dug trenches around my shrubs. In my tight, limited garden spaces this has sped up the composting process

  10. Anonymous says:

    hi – I've been doing this for several years now, since I moved into "town." so far it's been great – definitely see more worms over time. –suz in ohio

    1. That's awesome! I love it for my garden and thankful my grandma took the time to share this tip with me years ago. I shared that story in the original article last year. Hope you have a great weekend. -Carole

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