How to Get Started with In-Ground Composting

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When you get down to it, composting is simply a controlled method of leaving food in/on the ground until it returns to earth. Mother nature has been doing it for millions of years and the new-fangled methods people use are just an effort to speed things up.

This has led many people to think they need to have complicated bins and set-ups the size of sheds to have the best possible experience with composting. However, those who believe with everything have the in-ground composting is the best possible way to compost, but how do you get started with it?

To start in-ground composting, you will need to dig a hole several inches deep, preferably 12 to 14 inches. Once you have dug the spot, you will need to start filling it with food waste that you have saved up from your kitchen, preferably sticking to fruits and vegetables as these won’t rot and start smelling like other waste will. Once you have the hole filled with the waste, you can either cover it with a lid or cover it back up with dirt; either way, the composting will start automatically as worms and bacteria begin to eat the waste.

However, it is not always so easy, and there are many different types of in-ground composting that you need to be aware of. You will need to know many other things, with many people not constantly aware why in-ground composting is preferred over bins. Understanding the ins and outs of in-ground composting is an excellent way to ensure that you always choose the best possible composting methods for your home.

What is in-ground composting?

Putting it simply in-ground composting is the work of amending the soil in your garden directly by digging a hole a certain amount into the ground and having kitchen scraps decomposing. This creates nutrient-rich soil that easily and happily allows almost any plants to grow and thrive without planting or making more compost outside the earth. You must ensure that the location you choose for the composting to take place needs a boost.

However, it should be noted there are several different types of in-ground composting that each requires additional preparation; just like bin composting, the processes are all closely related but have different speeds and times that they work on. We recommend that you think about how you will be using the compost before deciding to go with a specific type, as many of the techniques are leave and forget.

Hole Composting

This is the easiest and most preferable method of in-ground composting as it allows you to create the hole and completely forget about the compost location. Many people will dig one or two spots in which they put all their food waste, cover the hole, and forget about it until they might dig the location up several weeks later. This is why you will most commonly find that people make hole composting when they want to do in-ground composting.

As this is the least intensive and intrusive way of doing it, the only tool you will need to do this is a good shovel, which further means that you can relax a lot more while doing it, with the only setback being that you cannot do it in a yard that is too small. You will need to give the ground space and time to compost the waste; further, the more plants you have, the less likely it is to do this composting at a sustainable level.

Trench Composting

In-ground composting done in a trench style is best used when you have a small vegetable garden in your garden. These trenches work almost the same as hole composting with you digging the trench however large you may need them, filling with food scraps and waste, and closing the trench back up with the dirt you had removed. As a point of interest, you will have to either save up several weeks’ worth of waste or spend a few weeks filling the trench with garbage before you can close it.

This is the part that catches many people who move from hole composting to trench composting; as the trenches are naturally longer, larger, and sometimes deeper, the amount of waste it takes to fill is a lot more. You will need to ensure that you constantly check and add more waste to the trench before you mix in soil and then close it up entirely. This way, you can easily ensure that the trenches will yield the desired amount of nutrient-rich soil.

Pit Composting

in ground pit composting of leaves

This is the oldest type of composting that people can use at their homes today and is most likely something that your grandparents may remember from when they were growing up. Pit composting consists of digging a large hole several inches deep then slowly filling the hole with waste from the kitchen. These pits are never mixed or disturbed like the other types of holes and usually have sizeable wooden lids on top.

These are the most effective and long-term solutions as they provide a central location for all the compost to gather, with many people adding soil now and then to mix the compost up. Pit composts are perfect for those looking to have low maintenance, low-cost ways of creating compost using the natural processes around them. However, we recommend doing this only if you have a corner of the yard to easily have it out of the way but with easy access.

What makes in-ground composting different?

Bin composting or all other composting methods require that you constantly take care of the composting process, ensuring that the bacteria is safe and ready to break down anything you may be adding. This is in complete contrast with in-ground composting, where you will be allowing the natural processes of nature to break down and destroy all the waste foods you have placed in the ground.

This is important as you will usually be leaving the composting to happen without any supervision and can rely on the worms already in your garden to do the work needed. Many people have taken to in-ground composting after discovering that bin composting requires too much work to keep up constantly. You must understand this as you may want to consider in-ground composting instead of traditional bin-based composting for your needs.

A great way to decrease the overall waste you have in your home is with in-ground composting, which almost literally buries your waste problems. As the in-ground composting already takes place in the ground around your house, you do not need to separate the compost. Once you are sure the waste has started to degrade appropriately, you can plant things in and around the area of the in-ground composting locations.

How do you create the basic structure of in-ground composting?

This is where everything starts and where you, too, will begin physically creating the compost location of your dreams. Many people think that creating in-ground composting is simple and will never be a problem when they want to start. However, choosing the wrong location will usually lead to holes in the ground with compost that is not fully composting, leaving unfortunate surprises when you want to plant something in the future.

We have a list of things that you will need to learn and understand to create the perfect compost areas easily and comfortably for your garden. You will need to know how to and when to create compost holes throughout your garden to work correctly. Many people have made the mistake of not ensuring that the compost holes they have placed are proper, ending up with holes of rotten food instead of compost.

Choosing a Location

It may seem tempting, but you cannot create compost holes, pits, or trenches in an area of the garden that is extremely dry. These would be the spots where you walk on the ground, and it feels like cement blocks. These locations are challenging to dig in; the worms required to do a large part of the processing will not be present. Instead, the only thing that will be composting the waste will be the bacteria, which naturally takes longer.

We recommend either just choosing the softer ground around the garden where you want to be planting everything or slowly and surely moving towards the more challenging environments. This is most likely where the worms will be the most active, while you can make the harder ground more nutritious by slowly pushing the worm to start moving in them. Digging a hole in the middle of what the worms see as a desert won’t entice them at all to begin eating your waste products.

Choosing a Pit/Trench Size

Suppose you live alone and are slow to create organic waste; we recommend storing a lot of your waste before filling a hole with them. Further, depending on the size of your garden, what you want to plant, and just how sustainable you want the in-ground composting to be, you need to have the holes just perfectly sized. When you choose a size, we recommend that you consider each of these when digging the hole.

Usually, the best size for an in-ground compost hole is 2 to 6 inches deep, with a diameter of around 10 to 15 inches. This ensures that the holes are deep enough that the worms can quickly gain access to the waste while the moisture levels are enough to keep everything wet. As you fill the hole, you should ensure that the last inch is filled with the soil you removed from the hole. You are creating the perfect pocket of compost for the future growth of plants or greens.

Collecting Waste

As mentioned earlier, if you live alone, you won’t be able to fill a hole with the waste you produce each day; even for most families, the waste products may be too low to fill a hole. We recommend that you gather and freeze waste over a week or more and then create the in-ground compost holes. This will create the opportunity to quickly and comfortably have the compost creation be automatic and smooth.

Get Digging

While thinking about what you want to do and doing it is all nice and healthy, you will need to start digging the holes. A normal digging spade will work perfectly for this; these are the spades with the sharp ends. If you have a normal-sized spade, you can also use it to guide how deep the hole should be, as the spade length is the perfect depth. We further recommend that you don’t try to dig a hole ideally in a circle either; this would be too challenging for inexperienced diggers.

Creating a square hole should be extremely easy and less time-consuming than trying to dig a round hole, and the shape of the hole does not affect the composting process. If you are digging a pit or trench, then you will need to dig the same depth but have it a lot longer, which requires more work than you might think. Digging a hole is simple; digging a trench that can be more than 2 feet long can be quite arduous.

Mixing the Waste

It is only when you are using a pit that has its lid that you will be allowed to throw the waste into the hole and leave it. Many first-time users of in-ground composting think that it is perfect because they can leave the holes entirely; however, you will need to ensure that the waste is mixed with the dirt before closing the hole. The worms in your garden won’t start breaking down the waste as fast when the food is completely separated from the ground.

This is why you need to mix in the dirt and the waste together, using your shovel to shake everything up a little bit. Creating an environment that ideally allows the bacteria and worms to process the food means that there are little to no air pockets that will enable rot to grow on the waste. Having the dirt mixed with the waste ensures that there is little oxygen and that the worms and bacteria can freely do everything they want.

Closing the Holes

As mentioned earlier, in-ground composting does not have a hole, trench, or pit that always stays open. You will have to close the hole with dirt once you have filled it with waste products, either with dirt or even compost that you have prepared for the situation. Many growers love to plant flowers over or near the holes and grow their gardens as they create nutrient-rich ground.

The holes should never be closed just because you have run out of waste, preferably closed when the waste level has reached close to one inch from the top. It will easily and comfortably allow you to have the composting process go smoothly, with a great deal many people growing vegetable gardens with their compost holes. If you have a hole that only has one or two pieces of waste, you should consider gathering a bit more to ensure that you are not wasting your time.

Why isn’t in-ground composting more popular?

Taking a look at in-ground composting and wondering why people are not implementing it all over the place may be a good way of thinking. There are so many benefits to doing in-ground composting that it could be hard to see the disadvantages, with many people not always thinking about the limitations. It can be easy to be swept up by the great opportunity and chances that in-ground composting gives you while forgetting many reasons many have forgotten about it.

We have taken a look at why many people are no longer doing in-ground composting and the reasons why it may not work for you. While this technique is powerful in creating nutrient-rich ground, you will need to consider quite a few things before going around and making holes all over the place. There are three main reasons you should not be telling people to consider in-ground composting, each one just as valid as the next.

Apartment Problems

If you live in a city, I’m betting you don’t have a garden. At least, you don’t unless you’re super dedicated to the cause. You might, however, still be interested in composting. Composting in an apartment is a complex situation that requires some additional skill and know-how.

It is not possible to do in-ground composting when you are living in an apartment, even if you have a location where you may have a small garden. The space needed to do the composting properly would not be enough; the food would not be nearly done composting when you dug the hole up again.

Further, many apartment gardens are in pots or closed gardens, which means that there are no natural worms to be found. Usually, you need to get compost for the garden to ensure things are growing correctly and happily. It is simply not feasible to try in-ground composting of any type while living in an apartment. However, you may save the waste and help a friend who has his own garden space create proper composting locations.

Home Limitations

If you live in an ordinary house with lovely white picketed fences and a pristine green lawn, you may think it is perfect to have in-ground composting. However, the truth is you may still not have enough space for the process to happen completely, or you may have too many things happening in your garden to have enough space. This is because you cannot have the in-ground compost locations be in the middle of your grassy lawn.

Instead, you would have to use the areas around the grass, where flowers and trees are growing to have your compost holes. This quickly limits the places you can effectively make in-ground composting holes, meaning you will likely run out of locations to compost once you have all of your new plants in. It might be possible to do pit-based in-ground composting, but you need to have a far-off corner to hide the pit and its lid from visitors.

Issues With Animals and Pests

It may seem odd, but bug pests and wild animals (even bears) can be an issue even if you have a large house in the middle of a city with apartments. The animals attracted to the waste that you are composting will not be nearly the same as those you would be used to. Anything from squirrels, birds, all the way to raccoons, dogs, or deer might want to visit your pit or open hole. The smell of the decaying fruits naturally attracts these animals as they live closer and closer to humans.

We know that it can be hard to imagine, but a deer can easily sneak into your pit by removing the lid, while raccoons will dig holes to find what they are smelling. Most of these animals are dangerous when provoked and may even have rabies that could infect you or your animals. While it is unlikely to be a problem if you have regular waste to put in your in-ground compost holes, it should be remembered when choosing their locations.

Why should you be considering in-ground composting?

Unlike other composting, the simple answer is that in-ground composting is make it and forget, with much better overall results than bin composting. While you need to monitor your compost process constantly when doing it in a bin, the ground will always make old food scraps disappear. As you learn how long it takes for your garden to process the waste, you will know which scraps decompose the fastest.

Because of this, in-ground composting should be the first type of composting you consider when you are starting the life of composting. Many people forget that they would need to spend at least one to two hours each week taking care of their bins. Even skipping one day of just checking on the moisture levels could mean disaster for the bacteria growth and the worms in the bin.

Whereas in-ground compost leaves and forgets, making it perfect for those who do not wish to spend time taking care of their composting processes. The ground and the worms in the ground will make short work of any waste that you provide to them. Just be sure that you are making sure the area is wet enough, as too little moisture will mean the worms are digging deeper to live.


In-ground composting is the simplest way of composting the waste from your kitchen, and it will be the one you are most likely to use. Many people think composting requires massive bins and processes, but it can be as easy as covering the waste with some dirt and leaving it for nature to process. It should be noted that you can make too much waste for your garden to process, especially if you live in a suburb.

Please make sure that you are not putting any meat in to be composted; neither earthworms nor the ground likes to absorb rotting flesh!