Composting for Small Gardens

Mak Tully
Friday, 17th April 2020

How to compost your food scraps and garden waste in a small garden.

For a lot of people, space can be a problem. Having acres of land is often only a dream. The reality is, for a lot of people, they just don't have land but want to follow the permaculture principles.

Rather than have one big compost bin, sited in the garden, taking up valuable space, instead create lots of smaller ones. Bins you don't have to empty. No more turning of compost heaps or wheelbarrowing the contents elsewhere. So this is what you can do instead.

Prepare an area of the garden, that you think will make a great spot for a particular type of crop, fruit or vegetable. Dig a hole big enough to fit a cardboard box in. I mainly use fruit boxes, as these are very easy to come by.

Place the box into the freshly dug hole and using a garden fork, make lots of holes in the base of the box.

Remove the soil that came out of the hole, and place in a tub or bag for using later.

After a few days, your kitchen scrap collector bin (I use a 5 litre tub with a lid), is full of vegetable and fruit waste. Take this bin of waste and add it to the box that has been sunk into the ground. Then add some carbon to the green waste, in the form of straw, shredded leaves, paper (non-glossy, not chemically enhanced).

Mix this all together in the bottom of the box. Retrieve the soil that was removed from the hole (it had been set aside in a tub for later use). Pour a layer of the earth over the waste material until it is covered completely.

Once the layer of waste has been covered with soil, water it well. Over the coming days and weeks, keep adding layers of waste materials, soil and watering them well, until the layers reach the top of the box. 

In 2-4 weeks from the start of the whole process, your box will be ready for planting up. I sowed some pumpkin seeds just before I created the box, and once the waste had been turned into compost, they were ready to be planted out (see lead photo). It works really well for greedy feeders, such as squash.

Mak Tully

Useful links

Book: Compost Teas for the Organic Grower

How to make hot compost

Watch: Compost teas and biofertilisers