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Soil Incorporation

If you are looking for a simple and maintenance-free method of composting food waste, soil incorporation may be right for you! Because Baltimore County regulations prohibit composting of food waste in compost piles or bins, soil incorporation is a simple and easy alternative. This practice also reduces the waste you generate and extends the life of the County’s landfill.

Soil Incorporation is the process of burying food scraps in the ground to promote the natural composting process without attracting pests. It is a great way to enrich your soil with valuable nutrients.

Four Easy Steps to Nutrient-Rich Soil

  1. Gather Food Scraps
  2. Combine Food Scraps With Soil
  3. Relax And Wait
  4. Enjoy the Benefits

Step 1: Gather Food Scraps

Soil incorporation can be used with most organic material such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, grains, breads, tea bags and coffee grinds. However, soil incorporation is not the best method for composting large amounts of food scraps. Residents who wish to compost larger amounts of food scraps should consider vermicomposting.

Do not attempt to compost meat, bones, grease, fats, oils and dairy products, as this material is likely to attract animals.

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Diagram of trench for soil incorporation.

Step 2: Combine Food Scraps With Soil

Now that you have your ingredients, it’s time to mix them together!

Dig a 12 to 15 inch deep hole or trench in the ground around trees, gardens, or shrubs. If around trees, take caution not to disturb the roots. The food waste should be chopped up and mixed in with some of the soil (to help it decompose faster), and then placed into the hole. Once you have a 3 to 4 inch layer of food waste in the hole or trench, cover the food scraps with at least eight inches of soil (generally the soil dug from the hole or trench).

If your food scraps are buried at least eight inches beneath the surface, the risk of attracting animals is greatly reduced. This will help keep your hard work intact.

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Step 3: Relax and Wait

Food scraps take anywhere from one month to one year to break down, depending on soil type and conditions such as temperature and amount of microorganisms in the soil. During this time, the food is decomposing into nutrients that will help your plants.

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Step 4: Enjoy the Benefits

All of your work pays off here! After waiting, the decomposed food scraps have turned into valuable nutrients for your soil.

This nutrient-rich soil helps feed and nurture the plants already in your garden and those you will plant in the future. If you buried your food scraps in a single hole, consider spreading your new enriched soil out over a flowerbed or garden to help distribute the nutrients. Alternatively, if you buried your food scraps in a trench in your garden or around trees or shrubs, you can sit back and watch your garden and yard flourish. Either way, the result is a beneficial and healthy product for you and the environment. 

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Revised August 15, 2014

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