If you’ve read my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting or watched my presentations during multiple Home Grown Food Summit events, you know that I recommend building compost piles right where you plan to garden in the future.
Go ahead — build ’em right on your garden beds!
After following my advice, long-time reader W. R. sent me a composting field report:
“It is good to see you all are having fun in the tropics. I watch your videos weekly.
I haven’t been doing a whole lot of active gardening, but I wanted to give you a little update in photos.
I have two to 4’x 8′ raised beds next to each other that were left fallow since last fall. They were both recently cleared of weeds and grass, and here you can see the difference between them:
The left one is a native soil I started adding kitchen scraps to, but not for very long. It also was more exposed to the sun. The right one was a compost pile I threw kitchen scraps and coffee grounds in.
This bed had more growing in it, and the soil was more protected by the sun. The right one looks more like good soil, eh?”
This is a great illustration of what in-bed composting accomplishes. It just makes sense to build compost piles on top of garden beds.
Why Compost on a Garden Bed?
Less Materials Handling
When you compost directly on top of a garden bed, you don’t have to worry about moving as many materials.
You throw your kitchen scraps, leaves, rabbit manure, etc., right onto a bed. Don’t worry about it getting hot — it will rot down over time.
If you want it to compost hot and fast, build up a compost pile higher over the bed like I do in this video:
But really, nature will handle it.
Throw everything down on a garden bed and then some months later when you’re ready to plant, fork off the rougher stuff onto the next closest bed and get planting.
More Good Stuff Stays Where You Want It
Second, all the good leachates that would normally run into ground beneath a compost bin are instead transferred right into the ground where you will be growing.
If you’re ever moved a compost pile and seen the right worm-filled soil beneath it, you know what I mean. If you’re not planting that area, it’s a waste!
W. R. has also been composting meat and bones like a good extreme composter should:
As bones break down in the soil, they will feed your garden long-term. Yes, I know you’re “not supposed to compost meat” and all that. Heck with those rules — if you throw those materials away, you’re throwing away nutrition for your garden. There are plenty of ways to compost meat safely, though that’s fodder for another article.
For now, I just urge you to quit working so hard and start composting right where it will make the biggest difference.
Wherever you compost, good fungi and bacteria populations explode, worms arrive and till the soil, plus you don’t have to move your compost all over the place.
Though I do still have a bin, I also keep a compost pile going on one of my garden beds at any given time. It works.
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