If you’re interested in composting but you aren’t able to have a compost heap for any reason, have you considered the dig and drop method of composting? More and more people are looking for ways to dispose of their food waste in their gardens, rather than sending it to landfills.
We are becoming increasingly aware that food in landfills is dangerous and causes massive amounts of methane – a gas that we could really do without increasing given the current climate crisis.
However, you may not have a good space for a compost heap, you might be worried about the smell, or you might even be in an area where traditional composting is not acceptable.
If that’s the case, dig and drop composting could be a great option for you.
Dig and drop is perfect for some people, but you need to know what you’re doing to ensure it works well. Here’s our guide to dig and drop composting (the do’s and the don’ts).
What Is Dig And Drop Composting?
Dig and drop composting is exactly what it sounds like. You dig a hole and drop the compost in.
That simple? Pretty much! As with everything, you need to make sure you’re doing it properly, but this is the basic foundation of the composting method.
Beneath the ground, the food (or garden) waste will be broken down by microorganisms and worms, and the nutrients will be dispersed through the soil, boosting its nutrients and making them available to your plants.
You won’t have to spend time aerating or worrying about your compost heap bothering the neighbors. You can just bury the organic material and let nature do its thing – perfect!
Let’s go into how to make this method work for you, what its advantages are, and what the potential pitfalls are.
How Should I Go About It?
Dig and drop composting should be done in small amounts, certainly to start with.
You don’t want to end up with a whole garden of buried food waste, and you don’t want to be digging up all your plants trying to find a new hole to use.
The simple method for dig and drop composting:
- Dig a small hole, around 10-14 inches deep. This can be as wide as you need it to be, but don’t go crazy; you want the food to break down and disperse into the soil.
- Tip your food waste in.
- Fill the soil back in on top of the waste, put the shovel away, and you’ve finished.
It’s a good idea to do small amounts of compost at once. Of course, you don’t want to be burying every individual eggshell, but adding large quantities of food at once may cause issues under the soil.
Depending on the size of your household, you should probably be doing this every three or four days.
You can do it slightly more or less frequently if that works better for you, but don’t build up piles of food before you bury it.
Tips To Be Successful: Dos And Don’ts!
There are a few things you should make sure you are doing in order to make the most of the dig and drop method.
- First, only bury raw food, and no meat or dairy scraps. Burying the wrong food might result in dogs or rodents trying to dig it up, and could cause damage to your garden, a lot of mess, and even poorly pets. Vegetable peelings and raw food are unlikely to smell strong enough to be worth digging up.
- Make sure you dig a deep hole. It may be helpful to use a ruler the first few times you do this; you’ll soon learn to judge the depth by eye, but this can help you avoid shallow holes that may not work as well. You don’t want your food too close to the surface.
- When you select a spot for burying the food, make sure you aren’t too close to existing plants. You might damage their roots by digging down, and while most plants will recover from some root damage, it’s best to avoid this.
Remember that plants will benefit from the nutrients you are putting back into the soil, so close to plants is good – but not so close that they get harmed by your shovel.
- Fill the hole back in properly. This will minimize the chances of any animal digging the scraps back up, or causing an unpleasant rotting scent in your garden.
- Be methodical and know where you have already buried scraps. You don’t want to be digging random caches all over the place.
- Don’t press your scraps down; you want some air to remain in them so that the right kind of bacteria can work on breaking them down. Similarly, don’t press the earth back down too hard when you refill your hole.
- If it’s large, you can use the same hole for a little while without filling it in (you might wait a week or two, and keep adding to it). However, you should cover it with something to stop animals from dragging the waste back out and making a mess.
What Are The Advantages?
There are quite a few advantages to this sort of composting. Firstly, it reduces your landfill waste and may make your kitchen bin smell pleasanter – because you won’t have rotting food in there as often.
Secondly, it is minimal work. You don’t need to turn or aerate, or gather up and spread finished compost. You are adding the nutrients directly to your garden and letting nature take its course.
Plants and the soil will benefit without you having to do anything further. You just have to dig a hole.
Thirdly, it doesn’t take up a lot of space. If you aren’t keen on the look of compost bins and you haven’t got much room, this is the best method.
It shares some similarities with trench composting, but doesn’t need you to have large, unused areas in your garden.
You can spread it around the garden as you feel like it, burying scraps in an ornamental bed one week and by the vegetable plot another. Everything will stay neat and tidy, and get fed.
Fourthly, it helps with compacted soil. Because you are regularly turning and digging bits of the garden, you will oxygenate your topsoil, rather than just adding compost on top.
This is particularly great if you have heavy clay soil.
What Are The Potential Drawbacks?
As with any composting method, there are a few things that may not work so well, and you might find there’s a bit of a learning curve.
For example, if you do not dig a deep enough hole, your food scraps might resurface with the help of local wildlife, and this can be frustrating and messy.
- You may damage plant roots, or find it difficult to compost close to large plants. The nutrients will spread through the soil, but it can take a while, so if you want to feed a plant directly, you may still need to add compost to the surface of the topsoil.
- You can’t deal with meat, fish, and cooked food. Normal composts cannot either, however, so this is not a significant disadvantage. If you have a lot of cooked food waste and meat, you may find it useful to review your food habits and make an effort to cut back on your waste.
Freeze leftovers for lunches, or decrease your portion sizes to try and ensure food gets eaten promptly. Do smaller and more regular shops, and look at ways to reduce your meat consumption.
You could also look into Bokashi composting, which can deal with cooked waste.
- Some people will find having to dig a hole on a regular basis annoying. You can counteract this a bit by adding a lid and using the same hole for a while, but you will still have to keep digging the waste into the ground. This may feel like more work than adding it to an exposed compost heap (although these need turning frequently) to some people.
- This isn’t a good way to deal with large quantities of waste. If you have a lot of garden cuttings, grass clippings, or food waste, you might find it infeasible. Other composting methods such as trench composting will probably prove better options.
- It is usually slower than regular composting. Because the food is not in a big pile, it won’t get as hot, and that means it won’t decompose as quickly. However, if it’s underground, it will slowly fertilize your plants – so that may not matter to you!
Dig and drop composting is great in certain situations, and while it isn’t for everyone, it provides a great solution for some people who either cannot or don’t want to compost in the traditional fashion, and don’t have the space to try trench composting.
Give it a go on a small scale, and see how it works for you. As long as you get a deep hole, you shouldn’t encounter any major issues, and you may find it’s the perfect solution. If not, simply leave the scraps you’ve buried, and try something else!