How to Keep the Critters Off Your Compost

earthwormsI live in a rural area of Connecticut. The woods are at my back door. So, I am constantly battling for the right to eat what is found in my yard and garden – with the other residents of my property, deer, skunks, raccoons… you name it.

I have a vegetable garden that is surrounded by a fence, and I also plant vegetables in pots on my deck. My herbs survive in unprotected boxes because the deer do not bother them.

Despite my best attempts at planning and creating protection for my food, the critters were still a bother for me on a regular basis. Why? Because they found the compost pile.

Stawberry hulls, apple peelings, overripe fruit – what’s not to love? My compost pile was like a small buffet for the woodland creatures, and they were regular visitors to my yard each night.

After my dog was sprayed by a skunk for the second time, I was ready to give up. I covered the pile with a very thick layer of dead leaves, and I stopped adding vegetable scraps. I threw my vegetable scraps out with the garbage for a week or two. Then I recalled a trick I had learned in my childhood from my Aunt Ilma. I had seen her “planting” her vegetable scraps directly in her garden.

When I was a child, I was visiting my Aunt Ilma and my Uncle George. They had a beautiful, weedless garden and they always had lots of fresh vegetables. But they didn’t have a compost pile. I think that Aunt Ilma, whose home was immaculate, would have found a compost pile to be way too messy. But she didn’t waste her vegetable scraps. Instead, she kept a bowl on her kitchen counter where she collected vegetable scraps. When the bowl was full, she took it out to the garden, dug a hole, and buried the food scraps directly in the garden.

So, I started to follow her example. I still pile all of my dead leaves, grass clippings, and other less attractive fodder in the compost pile. But the vegetable scraps go in a covered plastic container on my counter. I keep a trowel stuck in the ground near the garden gate. When the container is full, I bring it out to the garden, clear away the mulch, and dig a hole. I bury the contents of the plastic container directly into the dirt, and the earthworms do the rest.

As far as I can tell, I have the biggest, happiest earthworms on the planet. My garden seems to love the scraps. And my dog has not been sprayed by a skunk for a very long time.

Thanks to Karen Donnelly for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.

We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each

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  • Joyce Ann says:

    They will decompose faster if put through the blender first. Remember bones and meat are not recommended… The blender mush is easier to “cover” and if you add water it just puts the icing on the cake for all the soil-borne decomposers. Remember – smaller particles, no meat, moisture, and cover with a little dirt. Joyce

  • Cookin Mum says:

    This is a wonderful post. I have been placing scraps in the garden for a few years now. I discovered this method by mistake, or necessity, when I was juicing a lot. I looked at the leftovers and thought, better in the garden than the bin. Next garden season I was struck by the worm population and realized the reason. Now I take my scraps from the day and place them in my blender with water and pour the contents into a hole in the garden. Less waste more worms.

  • Dor Thetford says:

    I have been burying my fruit scraps for about a year. However, I utilize empty spaces within my rows for burying. For example, when I remove expired bush bean plants, I fork-till the soil and each day I dig a small hole in that space, pour approx. 2+ cups of fruit peelings etc. into the hole, cover it, and then chop with a sharpshooter to blend everything into the soil. I push a short stick in that location to remind me not to dig there for awhile. I bury the daily scraps about 8 inches apart, filling in wherever there is open space within my rows, and then I water those stick markers as I water my vegetables. Yep, I often get new seedlings popping up in those burial plots as my reward, and identifying those primary leaves is the fun part! Dor

  • Grampa says:

    Am I missing something or are the people who work with dirt healthier and living longer? Having the opportunity to spend summer vacations on my cousin’s farm in Canada – working in the fields there, swimming in the pond where the cattle drank, eating the food grown on the land – I at seventy-five need only the pain medication for a damaged back. All of my older cousins, with exception of a few who smoked and drank heavily, are still around. It is the same for my relatives in Ireland. I think we have too much sanitation in our lives and have no resistance for anything that comes our way. Are there any organizations that promote lifestyles closer to the earth? I look at many survival sites but most deal with crisis events not living everyday. Please reply if you know of a website where I can find more information. Thanks in advance! Grampa

    1. Jennifer says:

      I like the free videos at http://www.geofflawton.com. Geoff talks about food forests, permaculture, etc. Also, the popular Back to Eden film http://www.backtoedenfilm.com (viewed free online).

    2. Mama Bear says:

      Hey, Grampa! Let me know if you find one, would you????

  • CaptTurbo says:

    I bury the critters instead. 😉

  • Qberry Farm says:

    My plastic compost bin has rat holes in it. I think I will go back to my mother’s system we used in the 1940s – a compost pit. I will dig a hole in sandy soil about 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide and each time I dump my kitchen canister I will cover it with dirt. When it is full I will transplant a pumpkin plant on top.

  • Nessa says:

    Thank you for reminding me of this simple way of using my eatable garbage. I had a skunk issue with my dog and out of fear of another have been taking my wonderful compost to the dump. I will bury it instead. Thank you so much!

  • Michael Ford says:

    Hi Amanda – I assume you’re talking about squash bugs like this – http://www.almanac.com/content/squash-bug. I’ve had success using soapy water to kill the adults – but it doesn’t get the eggs, so you really have to keep after them for a while to control an infestation. If it’s really bad, there are some ‘organic pesticides’ like neem and spinosad that will kill the adults and the eggs.

    If what you have is the squash vine borer moth – read this: The Borer Wars – How to Outsmart the Squash Vine Borer

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