Composting for Anarchists

Reader Contribution by David Goodman
article image

Tired of tumblers, piles and turning? Composting doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t require any infrastructure. It’s a simple, natural recycling method. If you hate rules and ratios… this post is for you.Easy composting only has two steps.

Ready? Let’s compost!

Step 1: Find Some Organic Matter

An avocado skin? Great. Moldy baked beans? Wonderful. Old bills and non-glossy junk mail? Sure. Eggshells, tea bags, cardboard, citrus peels? Yep. It makes sense to keep a small trash can with a tight lid in my kitchen. Anything compostable goes in there. But kitchen scraps aren’t everything: there’s a pile of ways you can grab more materials to compost. For instance, when you’re pruning trees or dealing with fallen oak limbs in the yard, don’t drag them to the side of the road for disposal or burn them in a pile.

If you have a picnic in the yard with the children, use uncoated paper plates. Then save them… along with whatever uneaten food the toddler leaves behind. If you feel like working a little harder to gather organic matter, you’ll find opportunities everywhere. When you have a potluck dinner at church, help clean up at the end and throw all the napkins and food scraps into one container you can then take home. Check with your local coffee shop and see if you can pick up grounds from them. See if you can get boxes of expired produce from your local grocery store or farm stand. Gather cardboard from alleyways.

Ask your local feed store if you can sweep up the straw and alfalfa that falls to the ground from their bales. (I’ve gathered a lot of material this way.) Ask your neighbors to dump their yard waste at your place. Collect shredded documents from work. Pick up bags of leaves by the side of the road in fall. Ask local tree companies if they’ll drop their fresh-chipped “waste” in your yard.

If you want maximum fertility on your little piece of the earth, collect everything organic you can find. All the time. And then, my anarchist friend, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Throw It On The Ground

Once a week or more, take your kitchen-scrap trash can to a place that needs fertility, then dump it. Do the same with your yard waste, dragging it to wherever the soil looks a bit sad and throwing it on the ground.

What’s this look like in practice?

Well, fruit trees and shrubs need fertilizing, right? Normally you’d give them a hit of chemical fertilizer now and again through the year. Instead of doing that, just drop organic matter on the ground around them. Pretend the tree’s root zone is a big, rough compost pile. Chop up some sticks, throw down some paper plates, spatter rotten salad greens, throw some spoiled fruit… it’s easy and fun. You can also put hunks of logs near the bases of your trees and along the edge of pathways and gardens to act as bunkers for fungi and other beneficial organisms.

Don’t worry about making everything neat and tidy – nature doesn’t! If it really bothers you to have things looking a bit rough for a while, keep a little pile of mulch on hand. When you dump coffee filters or office papers and other ugly debris, cover it with mulch so it can decompose without offending your eyes (or the eyes of the fascists at Code Enforcement.)

If you’d like compost to end up in your vegetable garden, just dig a trench and bury it or throw organic matter on a bed you’ll be using next year. I did that with a couple of my beds and it worked great. The next year you just rake the non-decomposed material off the top and plant. 

Organic matter and the soil: that’s all it takes to make easy compost. Sure… it’s messy. But so is dear Mother Nature.

Where was I? Ah yes. Easy composting. The anarchist “method” of composting works, it’s simple, and it’s natural. Now get out there and start chucking stuff on the ground!

David Goodman is an avid naturalist, gardener, writer and teacher as well as being the creator of, a daily gardening site. Want the most food for the least work? Then click the link and start reading – and for more seriously crazy composting and off-grid gardening tips, grab a copy David’s survival gardening audiobook, Survival Gardening Secrets.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.