How to Compost Without Worms or Bins

How to Compost Without Worms or Bins

How to Compost Without Worms or Bins

Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Many people think you need worms or a compost bin to compost, but there are effective methods to compost without either!

Gather Your Compost Materials

The starting point for any compost pile is gathering the right materials. Good compost materials include:

  • Yard trimmings – Grass clippings, leaves, small branches, weeds (avoid weeds with seeds)
  • Kitchen scraps – Fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags
  • Paper/cardboard – Shredded paper, cardboard, paper towels, napkins
  • Manure (optional) – Chicken, cow, horse, rabbit, etc.

Avoid materials like meat, oils, dairy, pet waste, and diseased plants. I also avoid glossy/coated paper as it takes longer to break down.

Choose a Composting Method

There are a few different methods to compost without worms or bins:

Compost Pile

This involves building a simple pile of compost materials directly on the ground.

  • Find a dry, shady spot in your yard. Sunny spots tend to dry out the pile.
  • Layer organic materials as they become available, such as food scraps, yard waste, manure, and paper.
  • Mix or turn the pile periodically with a shovel or pitchfork to introduce oxygen. This aids the decomposition process.
  • Optional: Cover with a tarp to retain heat and moisture.

In about 2-3 months, you should have finished compost!

Trench Composting

This involves digging trenches and burying compostable materials:

  • Dig narrow 1-2 foot deep trenches in your garden beds or areas you plan to plant.
  • As materials become available, fill the trenches with compostables and cover with dirt.
  • The materials will compost underground over the fall/winter.
  • Come spring, the trenches are filled with finished compost, ready to plant!

Sheet Composting

Also called “lasagna composting”, this involves layering materials directly in your garden:

  • Choose a garden bed that will not be planted for several months.
  • Layer compost materials like manure, food scraps, paper, and yard waste directly on the bed as they become available.
  • Top with a thick layer of straw or leaves.
  • Over time, the layers will compost down into rich soil. Plant your garden into the finished compost.

Sheet composting builds great soil structure!

Maintain Your Pile

To create fast, healthy compost without worms or bins:

  • Aerate the pile by turning it or stabbing it with an aerator bar frequently. This introduces oxygen.
  • Monitor moisture. Compost should feel damp but not soggy. Add water if it becomes dry.
  • Check temperature. Piles heat up to about 140-160°F as microbes break down materials. Heat means it’s working!
  • Particle size – Break up or shred larger pieces to speed decomposition.

In general, smaller particle sizes and frequent aeration accelerates composting.

Troubleshooting

Slow or cold compost? The pile likely needs more nitrogen (greens), air, or moisture. Mix in nitrogen sources like grass clippings, coffee grounds, or chicken manure. Turn the pile. Add water if dry.

Bad smell? The pile may be too wet and compacted. Add coarse materials like straw to improve aeration. Turn the pile. Do not add food scraps until improved.

With some trial and error, you can learn how to compost successfully without worms or bins! It’s a simple, earth-friendly way to reduce waste and improve your soil.