Can You Bury Vegetable Scraps in the Garden?

Burying your vegetable scraps from the kitchen straight into the garden is one of the easiest ways to recycle organic waste. It’s an old method that is tried and true; many of us had grandparents who buried their vegetable scraps. Popular around 40 years ago, it is now coming back into fashion as we continue to strive towards a more eco-friendly existence. Burying kitchen scraps is practical, saves space in the bin and is a no-cost way to enrich your soil for better crops.

Direct burying kitchen scraps

There are lots of ways to recycle your kitchen waste, including compost piles, worm farms, feeding to chickens, or worm towers- but direct burial circumvents them all. It’s sort of like a shortcut to fertiliser, turning your whole garden into a recycling area. Burying your vegetable scraps is very quick and easy to do, and is ideally done while resting your beds.

How Does the Process Work, Exactly?

Think of a garden bed as a huge worm farm with plants on top. By burying scraps straight into the soil, you are adding food in for the worms, then keeping them cool and moist by covering them with soil. Once the food starts breaking down & the worms feed on the associated bacteria, the soil is enriched by the excreta of the worms. Just like every living creature, earthworms and compost worms produce their own waste matter. This is known as juice (the liquid) and castings (the solids). The juice and castings are the ‘final products’, so are easily accessed by the plants on top as fertiliser. Gradually, an ideal soil structure is created, and this is an environment in which plants can thrive.

Burying kitchen scraps directly into the vegetable garden

What Can I Bury?

All your vegetable peelings and offcuts can be buried in the garden. This includes things like skins, the ‘tops and tails’ you cut off all veggies, egg shells (tomatoes love the calcium!), seeds, corn cobs, and pith. Don’t add too much at once, or layer the scraps too thickly: as with most things in gardening, it’s all about balance. The amount shown in the photo above is ideal. Scroll down to see the video demonstration below.

Dairy, grains, cooking oils and bread products are best avoided, as they can attract vermin and upset the soil balance. While meat and meat products are generally a no-no in composting, they can be buried directly in small amounts if you have the right conditions. You’ll need to spread them very thinly over a large area, and bury them deep enough that they won’t be sniffed out and dug up by your pets. This may suit hot climates/summer and warm soils best, as this type of matter is best broken down quickly.

All sorts of small dead animals can be buried under your vegetables too. While the benefits have yet to be scientifically proven, anecdotal evidence suggests that any very small mammal, fish or bird bodies will benefit plants once they have broken down.

Poor pigeon-but lucky me!

To test this theory, I buried a dead pigeon in a small garden bed. I had found the pigeon lying dead in the middle of the yard; all quite mysterious, but I had to dispose of it somehow. I buried it whole into a small raised garden bed, and planted a crop of onions on top of it. When I dug back down 18 months later, I couldn’t find a single trace of the pigeon…and the onion crop was fantastic!

Old-timey wisdom says that burying a fish head directly under a tomato plant will increase your crop yield. I did exactly that, and found that the plants grew stronger, for longer, and were much more productive. A second experiment saw me burying a pile of fish scraps under a single tomato plant in a pot with worms, and again the results were fantastic. The photos below show my results with the F1 hybrid variety ‘gladiator’.

L: the fish scraps, centre: the resulting tomatoes, R: the tomato plant after 16 weeks growth.

Vegetable scraps under the soil can be used to kick-start a new garden bed too. They add bulk, enrich the soil and will slowly improve soil structure if you add a few worms at the same time. It’s rather like creating a miniature worm farm underneath your veggies!

Using kitchen scraps as extra fill in the garden gets the soil biota off to a great start by encouraging worm and microbe activity. You can recycle your organic waste quickly and easily and create your own fertiliser for free. The best and healthiest garden soil is alive and teeming with activity…and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you bury kitchen scraps directly into your garden!

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