amending soil with kitchen food scraps

laila_2009October 9, 2010

I have started keeping food scraps in a coffee can on the counter in hopes of working it into my sandy soil, to make it more organic. I am thinking of digging the scraps deep, so animals do not get it, then it will rot underground and not attract wildlife. Is this a terrible idea? Are there more/less beneficial scraps? Are there better things to keep the scraps in so my DP does not go nuts

This is my devised quick fix to balance kids, and gardening, then I will try putting some hardy seeds in that soil. I purchased fragrant sweet pea, Mexican marigold, and petunias

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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Sure, you can do that. Pat Welsh advocates that technique in her So Cal gardening book. Don't put any fats or animal products in your scrap can. Avocado doesn't seem to degrade well either. The smaller the scraps, the faster they will decompose.

Have you considered starting a compost pile with your grass clippings and fallen leaves? If you have a spot about 4x4 feet, you just pile the stuff up and let it sit. You could throw your kitchen scraps there- or bury them in the pile.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 1:37AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

If all you have to compost is kitchen scraps, a worm box would be a natural for you. Nothing can beat worm castings for a fertilizer. If you have leaves or plant prunings or garden feedings that would allow you to start a compost pile of at least a cubic yard, it would be better to compost your waste before adding it to your soil. Al

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 9:39AM
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Absolutely you can have a little worm box just for that reason. California EPA headquarters even had employees keep worm composters in their offices for their scraps!

Carla in Sac

Here is a link that might be useful: Worms at wrok

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 11:03PM
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Compost pile and worm bin are great. But what you are contemplating also will work, in a very simple and easy way.
I have been burying my kitchen scrap (no animal products except for egg shells) in ground for a long time. To make it decompose faster I throw a coffee jute bag or a piece of cardboard over. When there is moisture, scrap decomposes very fast. I usually dig a hole about 10 inches deep for a 5 lb container of scrap. Cover it with dirt and cardboard. Two weeks later all you'll see is better soil with lots of earth worms.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 11:20PM
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Thanks everyone. I burried my first load yesterday

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 12:06PM
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I used to live at 22nd and Noriega and the soil was pure sand so adding the scraps should be great, but the raccoons might like to dig it up.
I now live elsewhere, but your plan should work fine. I do almost the same thing, but I put the scraps (no meat) in an old garbage can with a latched lid so raccoons can't get in and after a week or more the scraps get bad tasting for the raccoons. Then I put the stuff out in the soil or on top. I also drilled a few holes in the bottom and sides for air circulation and drainage and I found out that worms have no trouble getting in through the bottom if the garbage can is resting on soil. I feel that egg shells are a good thing to add. If you leave the stuff longer, you get compost. I add leaves and any other vegetable matter like coffee grounds and paper filters. The lid being raccoon proof is the only critical thing.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 6:02PM
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Well it did not make much difference in my soil. Note to self, do not do this with pumpkins. Something did go digging up the pumpkin. Too much work for not a noticable difference.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 12:50AM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

You have to remember that most kitchen scraps are 99% water. Fill up a 32-gallon garbage can with food scraps and the final composted product a year later will fit in a half-gallon milk container. This is one of the great things about composting. The mass reduction ratio is huge (often more than 100:1). But it also makes it difficult to produce enough compost to condition your soil all by yourself. The satisfaction in such a case has to come more from the waste conversion goal than production hopes.

The other problem is that if you dig the scraps deep enough that animals will not excavate them (and that's VERY deep if there are skunks around), you'll be below the aerobic horizon of the soil and they won't decompose well because the necessary fungi and bacteria need oxygen to complete the reduction process. A worm bin makes much more sense, is faster and is less work.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 2:28AM
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I've buried scraps for years--even coffee grounds and filters--but never meat or salty items. Carrots and corn cobs are very slow to break down, but that's ok. It saves using water to run the garbage disposal too. Occasionally animals root through it, but not too often and it's easy to cover back up. If you chop up with a shovel a bit when putting it in, it's less appealing to animals because it is caked with dirt. I kept a worm bin for years in a large Rubbermaid, which is really interesting and fun to do, but it's easier to just bury the scraps in the garden. Sometimes if I don't have time, I stick the scraps in the freezer to wait. I think they break down faster when they've been frozen (just a theory).

Y'all have me thinking of starting up my worm bin again.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:34AM
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I think you've already got a very positive response, but I wanted to chime in. I've been using my backyard strip towards the far end of my fence for this purpose for a few years now. The stuff decomposes very very very quickly (like in good conditions, in 3-4 days) - and I've grown vegetables in this patch that produce abundant crop without any additional fertilizers.

For me, squirrels routinely dig over the buried items and I have to keep the soil leveled each day but it has reduced my trash to almost ZERO and that's a big big big plus for me!

If you either bake the scraps in the oven OR grind them in the grinder, they will decompose even faster. (I have done none; just read about the experiences of folks who do). For example, banana skins are best baked to ashes and these ashes when spread around roses will give phenomenal blooms.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 4:39PM
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What about a worm tower? Less work than worm bin, scraps go straight to garden bed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Worm Tower

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 1:37AM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

We shred tons of stuff on our property for mulch, but I usually don't have enough in the way of kitchen scraps to bother with doing this. Lettuce, potato peelings, carrot scrapings, that's about it. I will have to make myself start doing this. However, no banana or banana peel ever gets thrown in the trash, they always go in the soil for my roses.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 8:00AM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

The worm tower is an interesting idea, but I am dubious that the worms share the writer's enthusiasm for the opportunity for "the worms and their nutrients to interact directly with the surrounding garden bed."

Many people do not seem to realize that compost worms -- red wrigglers (Eisenia fetida) -- are a different animal than the common earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris). The gut of a compost worm is not adapted to working through mineral soil. For that reason they are rarely found in soil and generally stay at or slightly above grade level, working through manure piles and other nutrient-rich humus sources. Both species of worms do good work for the gardener, but it's different work that they each do.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:32PM
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