Composting For Dummies
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Many people think that composting is complicated, but you don't need containers of fancy equipment to turn you kitchen waste into rich organic compost to enhance your garden. Composting without the confines of a container takes place in two basic ways: aboveground in a freestanding pile or below ground in a hole. Freestanding piles are just that: heaps of organic matter piled up without an enclosure to corral them. Underground composting, better known as pit or trench composting, involves digging a hole, throwing in your stuff, and covering it up with soil.

No-bin composting is particularly advantageous under the following circumstances:

  • If you want to try your hand at composting with as little expense as possible, it doesn't get much cheaper than a pile of leaves and grass clippings or a hole in the ground loaded with kitchen scraps! You can gain experience with these methods, and then decide whether you want to "upgrade" to a container.

  • If you have lots of yard space and elbow room, freestanding piles are fine. (It also helps if you don't have looky-loo neighbors to peer with dismay upon your mounds of organic matter.)

  • If you have lots and lots and lots and lots of organic matter, larger freestanding piles called windrows may suit you.

  • If your ground is easy to dig, trench composting is a viable option.

  • If you want to dispose of kitchen scraps without attracting pests, trench composting does the trick.

  • If you want to compost at the site of future planting areas, either method is good, and you don't have to move containers around from year to year.

Of course, no-bin composting has its downsides, too. They include the following:

  • Sprawling piles of organic matter may appear messy, unless, of course, you like to observe big piles of leaves, grass, and plant trimmings shrink into smaller piles of chocolate-brown compost. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)

  • Although you may do your best to maintain a tidy area, there's no reliable way to keep pests out of freestanding piles. Rodents, raccoons, dogs, foxes, badgers, and others may gladly root around in search of something tasty to eat.

  • If your ground is hard, rocky, and difficult to dig, you'd have to be crazy to choose trench composting on a regular basis. Crazy!

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Cathy Cromell is a writer and editor who's written extensively about gardening and landscaping. She is a certified master gardener, master composter, and master entomologist. The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit organization in the United States, providing resources at and

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