If I’m being completely honest, I’m a little lazy when it comes to composting. Yes, I know I should be doing it, I can create some really nutrient-rich soil, it’s good for the environment. I get it. But sometimes the idea of turning compost and emptying and refilling bins just feels like, well, work.
So I’ve been researching ideas for composting that, for me at least, seem a little less like an ongoing maintenance issue. What I’ve come across is a do-it-once-and-forget-it approach called Dig and Drop Composting.
What is Dig And Drop Composting? As the name implies, dig and drop composting involves filling holes in the ground with organic material such as leaves, left-over veggies, etc. and covering it up and forgetting about it. Instead of actively turning and working to heat up the organic material, you just let nature do its thing and break everything down on its own.
Yes, it will take longer to decompose but this approach is not meant to produce large volumes of compost in a short period of time. The intent with dig and drop composting is to gradually improve the quality of your soil over time by continuously incorporating organic material.
What Are The Advantages To Dig And Drop Composting?
Dig and Drop composting offers several advantages over traditional composting methods. These include:
- Bury it and forget it recycling – no turning required
- Improves aeration and drainage
- Encourages worms in the soil
- Improves conditions of surrounding soil over time
Granted, this approach only works in certain situations. You need to have a place in your yard where you are okay with digging holes. Unused garden space or parts of a yard where you have not yet begun growing grass are great candidates for dig and drop composting.
Isn’t Dig And Drop Composting The Same As Trench Composting?
The phrase “Dig and Drop composting” is often used interchangeably with “trench composting”. It’s the same principle – dig a hole and bury your organic material. While trench composting is certainly a viable option, I’m referring to simply digging a single use hole.
The biggest advantage to this that I see is that you are quickly done and can move on. Trench composting is more suited to a larger area where the dig and drop technique can be incorporated into small yard spaces.
Best of all, you can alter and rotate locations throughout the yard. Over time, you are increasing the organic material in your soil.
Understanding The Nitrogen-Carbon Mix When Composting
Mixing green and brown material is an important component of the decomposition process. There are certain ratios that are proven to accelerate the process but when it comes to dig and drop I generally just make sure that I have a hefty amount of each.
The material will break down over time so long as you have a reasonable mixture of nitrogens and carbons present. Nature will do its thing.
If you are striving for faster decomposition, experts recommend a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio (source). This will ensure plenty of carbon is present and is more in line with what is considered appropriate for composting.
You can really geek out on nitrogen-carbon ratios but the general rule of thumb is this – too many browns and the decomposition slows, too many greens and you end up with foul odors.
This type of composting doesn’t require precise ratios since we are not striving for speedy decomposition. Instead, we are relying on nature to ensure eventual decomposition.
Remember that we are playing the long game. Over time, we will significantly improve the quality of soil in our yard or garden. In the meantime, we are returning organic leftovers to the soil instead of sending them to a landfill.
How To Dig And Drop Compost The Easy Way
I’m sure there is a better way but here’s my completely “Non-Scientific, Haphazard Approach To Dig And Drop Composting”.
After selecting an area in my yard, I dig a hole that’s roughly double the size of the organic material that I’m dropping in. The reason for this is that I intend to cover it with at least two inches of soil, usually a little more. This can help reduce attracting rodents and other critters that are generally common challenges with composting piles.
Next, I drop in a layer of browns for my carbon and then any organic material that I have on hand from the kitchen. This can be coffee grounds, eggshells, vegetable leftovers, banana or avocado peels. Really any non-animal biodegradable food products are game for this. And yes, I even throw in citrus peels if I have them.
As I fill the hole, I mix in some browns. Leaves, pine straw, small sticks or twigs, whatever I have available. I aim for a half and half mixture of greens and browns. Sometimes I’m pretty close to that. Sometimes I’m off. I don’t stress about it. I just make sure that I have a decent amount of both.
I fill the last two to three inches of the hole with soil. I try to use good quality soil instead of the clay soil that I pulled out.
I prefer to dig down a good 8-10 inches if I can but some of the soil in my yard is so hard that it’s virtually impossible to do with a shovel, even when I wet the area a little.
When Does Dig And Drop Composting Make Sense?
Dig and drop composting is best suited for areas where you are not actively growing a lawn or garden. If you have an area where you are struggling with growing grass due to poor nutrients in the soil or that wonderful clay soil that I struggle with, then this is an excellent passive way to slowly improve the condition of that soil over time.
Another great use and one that I’m getting ready to embark on is preparing an area for a future garden or flowerbed. I’m planning to build a small raised bed for plants and while I could just build over the existing clay soil and rely on the soil in the raised area for my plants’ growth, I want to fist dig down and start improving the soil beneath.
My plan is to dig and drop throughout the area where the raised bed will be. I’ll then build on top of it. Since the roots of my plants will be shallow for a while, the decomposition can take place deep in the ground without causing issues.
But, as those plants grow over time and begin to look for deeper rooting opportunities, they’ll have nutrient-rich soil to dig their roots into.
Dig and drop composting is not for everyone and it certainly isn’t for every situation. If you have space, time, and interest in actively composting you will be well served to build and maintain a compost bin.
If, on the other hand, you are short on time and just want to put those kitchen leftovers to use without having to think about it, (improving your soil over time in a passive way), then dig and drop composting may be the solution for you.
Recommended Reading: Active Composting Vs. Passive Composting.