- How To Draw A 3D Hole Optical Illusion
- Digging Hole Illustrations & Vectors
- 1. In-Ground DIY Fire Pit
- 2. Overlaid Stone DIY Fire Pit
- 3. Tin DIY Fire Pit
- 4. Gravel DIY Fire Pit
- 5. Raised DIY Fire Pit with Fire Bowl
- 6. Grate Drum DIY Fire Pit
- How to Dig a Hole Overview: Dig accurately and use the proper tools
- Step 1: String your line and pound the stakes
- Step 2: Carve out a soil divot with a spade
- Step 3: Loosen earth with a tile shovel
- Step 4: Use your clamshell digger
- Step 5: Use a reciprocating saw on large roots
- Step 6: Dislodge rocks with a digging bar
- Step 7: Tamp the soil with the other end
- Step 8: Mark the post edge locations
- Step 9: Cover holes with plywood
- Step 10: Set the posts
- Tip 1: Dig by hand unless…
- Tip 2: Use water and the back of your shovel
- Tip 3: Small is beautiful
- Required Tools for this How to Dig a Hole Project
- Required Materials for this How to Dig a Hole Project
- Easy Diggin’
- In-Ground Composter Comparison Guide
- Buried Compost Pit
- Your Pit is a Digester
- Some Limitations
- The Basics of Pit (or Trench) Composting
- Why I don’t need a compost unit
- How to dig and drop compost
- The benefits of dig and drop composting
- Traditional: Layers
- Laissez Faire:
- Mixing it Up: Hot, Hot, Hot
- In-Situ Garden Piles
- Sheet Composting
- Trench Composting
- Underground Bins & Holes
- Exact Calculations
- Related Questions
How To Draw A 3D Hole Optical Illusion
If you wanna learn more about portrait drawing, check out my “Portrait Fundamentals Made Simple” course.
It’s a very beginner-friendly course that walks you through all the basics of portraiture, from constructing a basic head, facial proportions, drawing the features, and finally drawing a realistic portrait step-by-step.
Hi, this is Ethan Nguyen for My Drawing Tutorials.com and in this video, I’m going to show you how to draw a 3D hole optical illusion. Here’s what the illusion will look like.
Now let me show you how I did it.
Step 1 – Drawing the Ellipses
The first step is to draw a big ellipse. The rest of the drawing will be done in ink, but I will draw this first ellipse in pencil because we will be erasing it later.
Next, draw a smaller ellipse inside the first one using ink. You’ll want to make this one slightly shorter and more rounded. And instead of placing it right in the center, move it down slightly.
By the way, I made a light pencil sketching of the entire drawing before hand and is now simply going over it with ink. That way, the drawing process will be a lot smoother and you won’t have to see me erasing and re-drawing a bunch of times.
But when you’re drawing this yourself, don’t be afraid to change things around a bunch of times to get the curves just right.
Then draw another smaller ellipse inside this one. Again, you’ll want to make it more rounded and place it closer towards the bottom.
Repeat this process three more times.
You can see the pattern very clearly here. Each ellipse is a little more like a circle and they group together at a single point.
Step 2 – Drawing the Tiles
Next, we’re going to draw some straight lines from the center outward.
The gaps between these lines will be widest at the bottom and gradually narrow as they move upwards.
To help planing out the spacing and make them more consistent, I like to start at both ends at the same time. That way I’ll have a good idea of how wide the stripes at the top will be and plan accordingly.
One important detail is to make sure you end up with an even number of stripes. You’ll see why this is important in a minute.
Once we have all the stripes drawing in, let’s erase the outer most circle.
Step 3 – Inking and Shading
Now, we’ll use a sharpie marker to fill in the outer circle using an alternating pattern. This is why it’s important to have a even number of stripes. If the stripes were odd, it would throw the pattern out of sync.
The large sharpie marker won’t be able to color in the squares all the way to the edge, so we’ll just go as close to the edge as we can for now.
Continue doing this for all the circles.
Now, let’s take a smaller pen and fill in the small gaps that we couldn’t get with the larger marker.
The last step is to create a dark gradation at the center hole. I’ll use a 9xxb graphite pencil to put in a base tone. You also can use a 4B or 6B pencil for this.
And I’ll use a blending stump to smooth out the tone.
And now I’ll use a charcoal pencil to put in a really dark layer for the hole.
And that’s it! Now all we have to do is look at this drawing at an angle to see the 3D optical illusion.
Digging Hole Illustrations & Vectors
Digging hole. On a white background vectorDigging a hole. Funny illustration of digging a holeTwo boys digging hole in garden. IllustrationMan digging hole in the park. IllustrationCartoon of Gardener Digging a Hole for Plant. Cartoon stick man drawing illustration of gardener on garden digging a hole for plant with small shovelBrown cartoon dirty dog digging hole isolated on white background. Puppy making mess. Animal emotion doggy cartoon. Normal everyday pet activities conceptCartoon of Gardener Woman Digging a Hole for Plant. Cartoon stick man drawing illustration of gardener on garden digging a hole for plant with shovel or spadeBackhoe tractor digging a deep hole. Ad frame with a cartoon yellow backhoe tractor digging a deep hole Vector flat boy digging hole for a plant. Vetor flat cartoon teen boy in worksuit digging the hole by shovel to plant a plant or bush. Isolated illustration on a Vector flat boy digging hole for a plant. Vetor flat cartoon teen boy in worksuit digging the hole by shovel to plant a plant or bush. Isolated illustration on a Worker digging a hole outline vector icon. Thin line black worker digging a hole icon, flat vector simple element illustration. From editable business concept Worker digging a hole vector icon on white background. Flat vector worker digging a hole icon symbol sign from modern business. Collection for mobile concept Worker digging a hole icon in different style vector illustration. two colored and black worker digging a hole vector icons. Designed in filled, outline, line Excavator Digging Hole in Ground, Bagger Excavating Work on Foundation or Road Repair, Construction Machinery in Building Action. Website Landing Page, Web Page Rabbits Digging a Hole. Illustration Two color worker digging a hole vector icon from business concept. isolated blue worker digging a hole vector sign symbol can be. Use for web, mobile and logo Outline worker digging a hole vector icon. isolated black simple line element illustration from business concept. editable vector. Stroke worker digging a hole Linear worker digging a hole icon from Business outline collection. Thin line worker digging a hole icon isolated on white. Background. worker digging a hole Worker digging a hole icon on white background. Simple element illustration from Business concept. Worker digging a hole sign icon symbol design Worker digging a hole icon in trendy design style. worker digging a hole icon isolated on white background. worker digging a hole. Vector icon simple and modern Cartoon of Gardener Woman Digging a Hole for Plant. Cartoon stick man drawing illustration of gardener on garden digging a hole for plant with small shovel Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Empty Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole with small shovel Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Empty Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole to plant a tree Cartoon of Gardener Digging a Hole for Plant. Cartoon stick man drawing illustration of gardener on garden digging a hole for plant with shovel or spade Two boys digging hole with shovels. Illustration Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Business Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole with small Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Future Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole to plant a tree Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Success Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole with small Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Career Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole with small shovel Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Business Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole to plant a tree Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Career Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole to plant a tree Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Success Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole to plant a tree Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole to plant a tree. Business concept A rabbit digging a hole next to farm. Illustration Couple hole digging. Man and woman digging a hole Hole digger. Man digging a hole with dog watching Digging Man. A cartoon man digging a hole with a shovel Rabbit digging the hole. Illustration Dog digging for bone. An illustration featuring a dog digging a hole for a bone Rabbit digging a hole. Scalable vectorial image representing a rabbit digging a hole, isolated on white Little boy digging hole with garden spoon. Illustration Builder Digging Soil with Shovel near Excavator Bagger Machine. Excavating Work on Foundation, Road Repair. Man Worker Dig Hole in Ground, Construction Under construction- worker digging a hole. Over white Under construction digging hole. Image of man under construction digging hole Mole Digging Hole in Nature. Illustration Digging. Silhouette-man digging a hole with a spade Boys digging hole in the farm. Illustration Business man digging a hole in the ground to search for useful information. Concept for data mining and business intelligence 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. 3D CG rendering of Hole digging machine. Tractor with drill for digging hole. Illustration A Rabbit Digging a Hole. Illustration Cute little boy character digging the hole by shovel to plant seedling vector Illustration on a white background. Cute little boy character digging the hole by Mole. Little mole digging a hole, vector clip-art on a white background Yellow big digger builds roads gigging of hole. Ground works digging of sand coal waste rock and gravel illustration for internet banner poster or icon flatten Yellow big digger builds roads gigging of hole. Ground works digging of sand coal waste rock and gravel illustration for internet banner poster or icon flatten Small mole in a burrow. Funny little mole digging its hole in a green garden on a sunny summer day, vector illustration in a cartoon style Small mole in a burrow. Funny little mole digging its hole in a garden on a sunny summer day, black and white vector illustration in a cartoon style for a Mother with Children Planting in Garden Cartoon. Mom Holding Green Sprout. Son Digging Hole with Shovel and Daughter Pouring Water from Water Can. Care of Boy with garden spoon digging hole. Illustration Vector flat children in garden scenes set isolated. Vector flat children at garden scene set. teen boy in worksuit digging the hole by shovel for a plant Cartoon of Businessman Digging a Hole for Plant with Future Sign. Cartoon stick man drawing conceptual illustration of businessman digging hole with small shovel Silhouette of man with a spade. Silhouette-man digging a hole with a spade Blue big digger builds roads gigging of hole ground works on white. Digging of sand coal waste rock and gravel illustration for internet banner poster or icon Under construction excavator machine. Construction excavator machine digging hole, urban scenery round icon vector illustration graphic design Under construction excavator machine. Construction excavator machine digging hole, urban scenery round icon vector illustration graphic design Dog digs a hole. Cartoon dog digs a hole vector Rabbit in the deep hole. Rabbit and chess in deep hole toward the sunlight. creative concept
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Adding a DIY fire pit to your backyard is an excellent way to keep the fun going long after dark.
Instead of an unsightly dirt fire pit, spend a day making a new statement piece for your yard. If you’re wondering how to build a fire pit — we’ll show you how!
When selecting and building your DIY fire pit, make sure you avoid using wet stones. If you are using river rocks, be sure to give them several days of direct sunlight to properly dry.
1. In-Ground DIY Fire Pit
Photo by Tom Hodgkinson
The in-ground fire pit is becoming increasingly popular among DIY fire pit builders. Before digging into the ground, make sure you call 811, the federally mandated “Call Before You Dig Number.” Someone will come to mark the approximate location of any underground lines, pipes, and cables so you can dig safely. Once you dig your fire pit to the desired size, line the dirt walls with stones or brick. Follow these additional steps to get started:
- First, want to create a bottom layer of gravel, then cover it with the “bottom” of your fire pit — larger stones or bricks or an even covering such as quick drying cement.
- Be sure to have drainage or it will turn into a mosquito pond.
- Create your top rim by making small cutouts in the dirt for your bricks or stones.
- Finally, dry stack your desired additional layers, or create a small wall using fire resistant adhesives or quick drying cement.
2. Overlaid Stone DIY Fire Pit
Photo byOur Fairfield Home
For an artistic-looking fire pit, instead of evenly shaped bricks, grab several unique rough rocks, and construct an overlaid stone fire pit. If your pieces are hearty enough (pictured is Pennsylvania Blue Stone) you won’t need any cement for this pit either — but use common sense when building up your walls. Here are some additional tips to secure your structure:
- If the stones do not feel secure, add in some non-flammable masonry adhesive, landscape adhesive or Liquid Nails.
- For the center, line the bottom of your fire pit with one or two inches of sand.
- The outside of your fire pit should be lined as well, and no grass or other yard matter should be within two feet of your pit.
3. Tin DIY Fire Pit
Using whatever barrel-shaped scraps you can find, you can create this all-in-one tin fire pit. Tin fire pits are extra safe as they ensure your fire is adequately contained, and are much preferred in areas with wide open plains and active winds such as El Paso.
You can spruce up your repurposed tin barrel nicely with some high-heat paint (like Rust-Oleum) and stencils.
4. Gravel DIY Fire Pit
There is no digging required for this DIY fire pit design! Select some handsome gravel for your foundation, spread it out to create your overall fire pit space, then stack your fire pit stones. The fire pit pictured was built with crushed concrete rock with some additional aesthetic details.
The pit’s stones ought to be more than heavy enough to be dry stacked — no need for adhesive or cement. Hang some outdoor lights above your fire pit to finish off your welcoming ambiance for backyard guests.
5. Raised DIY Fire Pit with Fire Bowl
If you want an elevated fire, this is an ideal design for you. You can build up your fire pit walls to the desired height (only use even bricks for this design, not the rough stones mentioned above) and then top off with a fire bowl.
Ensure that your fire pit is the proper size for the bowl by building the first layer of the wall around the screen top of your fire bowl. When purchasing a fire bowl, make sure it has holes for drainage in the center (dumping out fire bowls filled with water is a hassle).
6. Grate Drum DIY Fire Pit
For a less formal, down-home fire pit look, simply add a smoker fire basket (sometimes also called a vertical drum) to the mix. You can either buy one pre-made, or you can craft one yourself using flexible metal grating from the hardware store and a few bolts to fasten it into a circle. Quite a few Hometalk DIYers like to use old washing machine drums, which cost about $10 from used appliance stores. Then insert your drum into the center of your fire pit. If you choose to build a solid wall design like the fire pit pictures, make sure you leave a drainage route for rainwater.
Whichever style you choose, just make sure you enjoy responsibly. Hometalk breaks down all the necessary safety precautions before, during, and after building your fire pit in “Stop! Your Must Have Handbook for Building DIY Fire Pits.”
How to Dig a Hole Overview: Dig accurately and use the proper tools
The big 4 posthole tools
If you have more than a couple of postholes to dig, don’t stop at a shovel and a clamshell digger. You’ll treasure two more tools just as much. Pick up a tile spade. The long, narrow blade will get you places no other shovel can. Also get a tamper-end digging bar.
So, big shot, you think you know how to dig postholes, eh? Sure you do—anyone can dig a hole. But how hard do you want to work, and how often do the holes end up in the wrong spot and you have to start over? Here are a few tips to get perfectly placed holes—with a little less sweat on your part.
Step 1: String your line and pound the stakes
Drive stakes to mark the center of each posthole, using a 2-lb. hammer.
Push a small nail through your string line to mark post centers.
String a line marking the outside edges of the posts. Mark the post centers on the line by untwisting the string and pushing a nail through the strands. You can fine-tune the nail position just by sliding it to the exact location. Then pound stakes to mark the center of the holes. If you’re using 4×4 posts, that will be just under 2 in. from the string.
Step 2: Carve out a soil divot with a spade
Center the hole
Dig around the stake to center the hole.
Set the string aside so you don’t wreck it while digging. And don’t just start digging away; drill yourself a pilot hole first. Carve out a round plug to outline the posthole. That’ll get you started in exactly the right spot. Throw the dirt onto a tarp to protect your lawn.
Step 3: Loosen earth with a tile shovel
Slice through the topsoil
A special tile shovel slices through roots and turf and gets the hole started more easily.
Unless you have very soft soil, you’ll work way too hard digging with just a clamshell digger. Loosen the soil and carve away at the sides with the tile spade. It’ll easily slice through small roots.
Step 4: Use your clamshell digger
A clamshell digger removes loose soil quickly.
Here’s how to use a post hole digger: Plunge the open clamshell digger blades into the loosened soil and grab a load of fill.
Step 5: Use a reciprocating saw on large roots
Saw through large roots with power digging tools
A recip saw will reach down the hole and cut those tough roots, especially with a long blade.
Don’t kill yourself chiseling out roots. Just use a recip saw with a long, coarse blade and poke it right into the soil at the ends of the root and cut it off.
Step 6: Dislodge rocks with a digging bar
Use a steel bar for rocks
Knock rocks loose with a steel bar and lift them out with the clamshell digger.
Pick out rocks from the hole sides with your digging bar. Let them fall into the hole and pluck them out with your clamshell digger.
Step 7: Tamp the soil with the other end
Pack the bottom of the hole to compress any loose soil.
Use the tamper end of the digging bar to compact the soil before setting posts or pouring concrete. That prevents any settling.
Step 8: Mark the post edge locations
Center the post
Measure the post spacing again and mark the stringline.
Restring the line, pull the nails and mark the exact post edge locations on the line with a permanent marker.
Step 9: Cover holes with plywood
If leaving the site, cover the holes for safety.
If you’re walking away from the postholes for a while, cover them with plywood. It just might save a broken leg and/or keep the sides from caving in during a storm.
Step 10: Set the posts
Position the posts
Position and plumb the posts carefully before backfilling or adding concrete.
Place the posts with one side brushing against the string and the edge even with your mark. Then hold the post plumb while you fill the hole. Pack the soil with the tamper end of the digging bar every foot or so.
Tip 1: Dig by hand unless…
Power Digging Tools: Rent a power auger
Power augers can speed up digging in rock- and root-free soils.
Power augers require a trip to the rental store and a brawny friend. And they’re worthless in clay or rocky soil. The truth is, unless you have lots of holes to dig in sand, it’s often easier to dig by hand.
Tip 2: Use water and the back of your shovel
Digging in clay
Lubricate the digger with water and rap it against a shovel to knock off sticky clay.
If you’re digging in sticky clay soil, dip your clamshell digger in a bucket of water so the soil won’t stick. Knock off clumps on the back of the shovel. Spread a tarp to keep dirt off your grass.
Tip 3: Small is beautiful
Opt for easy digging
A small digger is usually easier to use than a large one.
Unless you’re a body builder, avoid those giant, heavy-gauge, fiberglass-handled clamshell diggers. You’ll just get exhausted; you’re better off with a smaller, lightweight digger. Try these 15 tips for digging holes, too.
Required Tools for this How to Dig a Hole Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Posthole digger
- Reciprocating saw
- Tape measure
- Tile spade
You’ll also need a digging bar, shovel, stringline, and leather gloves
Required Materials for this How to Dig a Hole Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- Plastic tarp
- Small nails
- Wooden stakes
The backhoe operator peered out from the cab of his machine after digging a hole in the ground at the diverse native grassland. He doesn’t have any formal training in soil science, but his business is digging holes so he has learned a thing or two from experience. As he looked at the hole he had just created, he commented in his quiet way, “That hole sure did dig easy.” “That’s curious,” we thought. “What would make the soil ‘softer’?”
We climbed down in the hole and began to look at the soil profile. We began to notice that roots were commonly growing down to 3 feet deep. In contrast to a fescue field, in which the bulk of the roots end at about 1 foot, these were impressively deep roots. But how would this relate to the easy digging that the backhoe man noticed?
The deep roots made us think back to the results of a couple soil tests we had taken earlier in the summer; we had sampled in fescue fields and also native fields. We found an interesting observation in the organic matter data. While the organic matter in the soil samples taken from a depth of 0 to 8 inches in both the fescue and native fields were very similar (around 4.0%), we found that the samples from 8 to 12 inches were not similar. The soil from the fields growing natives was 44% higher in organic matter at this depth (the fescue fields averaged 1.7% while the natives averaged 2.45%). While our samples didn’t constitute a full-fledged scientific study, the results made sense in the light of the soil pit we were looking at. Deeper roots in the diverse native grassland would contribute to more soil organic matter since after all organic matter is just partially decomposed plant and animal (think microbes) material. The fescue plants, since their roots are fairly shallow, would have a hard time producing organic matter at deeper depths. As we contemplated this data, we thought back to the backhoe man’s easy digging comment.
All of a sudden, it started coming together for us. Grassland soils high in organic matter are called mollisols. The origin of this word comes from the combination of the Latin words “mollis” meaning “soft” and “solum” meaning “soil.” Soft soil – that is what we had here! Maybe the increased organic matter and the roots going deep were making the digging easier. Organic matter also acts like a sponge to hold onto water. Maybe the digging was also easier because the organic matter was holding extra water in the soil. (Think about digging a hole with a shovel in moist verses dry soil…to me it is the difference between digging in butter and chipping away as a massive clay pot!)
If indeed the roots are growing deeper and organic matter is being formed deeper in the soil, the effects could be far-reaching. The soil could hold more water and nutrients for the plants to use when needed, and the plants will be able to explore more of the soil searching for water and nutrients. Paired with our observation that the infiltration rates on the diverse native grassland are a lot better than a fescue pasture (if you haven’t read this article, check it out here), this could not only help the plants and other soil life but improve the water cycle. Could the kids growing up today be able to once again fish and swim in the creeks that their grandparents did?
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In-Ground Composter Comparison Guide
In-ground composter comparison guide takes a quick look at several composters now available on the market.
The old tried and true method of composting directly in the ground has been made easier by the use of in-ground composters. This saves time and effort in digging holes around the garden and in some cases is more efficient.
The comparison is based on my own experiences and information given to me by my customers who have tried many of these methods. Of course, what might suit one person does not suit another as we all have different needs and ways of using things to get results we expect in the garden.
Feel free to add comments if you have found any different results from any of these methods. It all helps other people in their decision-making process of choosing a composter.
They all have a place in our gardens. It is up to you which one you choose.
For further information on choosing a composter, you might like to read the 12 Things to consider when choosing a composter. This looks at all the different types of composters – not just in-ground composters.
Buried Compost Pit
I obtained a 60 gallon barrel for the purpose of a buried compost pit. I drilled many 3/8″ holes in the bottom and approx 1/3 up the sides. The bin is 39″ tall and I buried it in a sunny location of the yard so that 10″ is sticking out of the ground.
I got a cement ring to put on the ground around the top of the barrel and then stacked 2 rings of firepit bricks around the top. I have a steel lid that with the bricks should deter any pests.
Do you think that this is a good idea and will the organic material break down in this environment. I am hoping it acts as a huge worm tower and never has to be shoveled out.
Your Pit is a Digester
Well Ian I think you’ve got something that will work well for any scraps that might be coming from your kitchen.
The way you have made this is very similar to a green cone. This is a digester as opposed to a composter.
A digester doesn’t produce compost but it is a great way to manage the food waste stream from the house. You can add any food waste including meat and dairy to this type of set up without too much worry.
You could also add a certain amount of pet poop to this system especially since you do not plan to dig it out to fertilize the vegetable garden.
About 90% of this waste will drain into the surrounding soil making the area around your pit lush.
There will over time be a build up of the solid material but I think you’d have a few years at least grace before having to empty it. And at that time you could opt instead to just make it into a small garden and site a similar system in another sunny spot.
This system will work for food waste but it isn’t suitable for large amounts of garden waste. Your grass clippings, fall leaves and major weedings will need to be composted above ground. They would fill up your pit too fast and this pit is something you want to never empty or otherwise manage if possible.
The cement ring and fire bricks are great from the point of view of preventing wildlife from rummaging through the material. The down side is that the cement may keep things on the cool side so you might want to make those bricks a dark colour so that they will absorb heat.
All in all I think this will be a great waste reducer which I for one totally support. Do let us know how it goes and what problems you run into. Also I’d love photo to show everyone what you’ve done.
Thanks for your question.
Buried compost pit
I buried my barrel last fall and have been adding ALL kitchen waste to it since then. It is near the top but every time I add a pail of waste the level has dropped enough to make enough room.
It is not as fast of a drop as I had hoped but I’ll take what I can get.
I am going to be finishing my yard soon and we are going to be digging out an area for a small veggie garden. Before good dirt is added to that spot I am going to shovel out the barrel just so there is more available room and it will be one hole I won’t have to dig.
I was thinking that I could keep adding to this thing till it fills up and then in the fall dig a hole in the garden and empty it into that. That way it can finish as trench compost.
Do you gave any problem with that?
No problems at all but thought since you live so close by if you want I could come by and have a look. The only thing I might add is septic microbes as a booster but seems things are cooking along so far.
Contact me through the contact me page if you want a visit.
The Basics of Pit (or Trench) Composting
By Cathy Cromell, The National Gardening Association
If you live in a place where digging holes in the ground is no big deal, you can make a pit compost. The following info helps you add anaerobic composting to your repertoire. Good choices for your pit compost include areas where you want to add a future garden bed or between rows of existing garden beds. Avoid marshy areas or low spots with wet soil or poor drainage.
Stay away from existing root systems when digging composting holes. Tree and shrub roots easily expand to twice the diameter of their aboveground canopy! Slicing through roots with a shovel creates easy wounds for pests and diseases to enter, ultimately weakening and possibly killing your plant. If you’re unsure how far roots may have spread, stick to digging compost trenches in garden beds.
Depending upon what you want to achieve, you can employ several different methods of pit or trench composting, such as digging random holes, filling trench rows in garden beds, or rotating trenches over a three-year period to improve an expanded planting area. Use the basic anaerobic trench compost recipe that follows for whichever method you choose.
How deep and wide to dig depends on how much organic matter you have to compost, what kind of material it is (landscape waste versus kitchen waste), how easy it is to dig, and whether digging pests might be an issue.
Follow these steps to create a pit compost.
Dig the hole or trench, reserving the soil that you remove.
Start with browns on the bottom, alternate layers of brown and green materials, moistening as you build.
Spread a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) layer of your reserved soil between layers of browns and greens.
Cover with 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of soil. If you plan to retrieve the compost later, mark the area with a stone or other reminder.
If you grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables in straight rows with plenty of space between them, dig and fill composting trenches between the rows. As the organic matter in the trenches decomposes, nutrients become available for nearby plants. Dig trenches early in the planting season before vigorous roots expand into the area. Alternatively, dig trenches at the end of your growing season, so material is decomposed by the next planting season.
Certain plants really thrive on soil that’s rich in organic matter and water-holding material, particularly sweet peas, runner beans, zucchini, pumpkins, and squash.
Six to eight months before planting, dig a trench or pit where you plan to grow these crops, 18 inches (45 centimeters) deep. Fill with kitchen waste, newspaper, manure, and other retentive materials, then top with a 6-inch (15-centimeter) layer of soil, heaping it up to form a mound. By the time your planting season rolls around, the site will have settled and will be ready for seeds or transplants.
I’ve been thinking it’s time I setup a composting system at our new house (we moved three and a half months ago), so I’ve been reflecting on my past composting practices, my knowledge of other composting systems, and how we’ve been living in our new surrounds to figure out what will work best. I’ve also been strolling around the farm looking for salvageable materials to build it. But, it wasn’t until I started thinking about where the best location was that I realised I didn’t need a compost bin, bay or heap at all. It should have been obvious, given my biodegradable waste has not been going to landfill the whole time we’ve been here and in fact, my previous compost system didn’t produce any compost above ground level in the three years I used it!
Why I don’t need a compost unit
- We are good at making as little food waste as possible. Our family of four fills our 4L kitchen caddy on average twice a week. This is markedly different from the average household which fills their landfill bin with 40% food waste each week. That’s 48 Litres for a 120 Litre bin compared to our 8Litres! I don’t leave any food types out of the compost caddy. Dairy, bread, meat, and oils all go in there. It’s important to note that these are miniscule amounts because we don’t waste food and we have reduced our meat intake.
- We have a dog who can eat some of this stuff, but she is rarely treated to it because we rarely have the waste. The only bones we seem to have had for several years is the occasional chicken carcass. It’s dangerous to feed dogs cooked bones so we don’t do this.
- Instead, I use the bones to make stock or bone broth after which the bones disintegrate easily. I add the crumble to the kitchen caddy.
- We also have chickens so I scatter the contents of the kitchen caddy in the chicken yard. The chickens do a good job of cleaning up the scraps, even the chicken bone remains, but things like mandarin peel and corn cobs get left behind. This stuff will continue to biodegrade where it is but it does look messy after it’s accumulated and I don’t want to encourage pests, so I will rake it up and bury it directly in the garden – this is known as dig and drop composting or trench composting.
- Occasionally we have other compostable waste that is not reusable or recyclable, like bamboo ear buds, cotton rags, and reused parchment butter wrappers. I have been putting them in our wood heater this Winter. I can’t see anything wrong with this because we are recovering the energy in these items to heat our home and the remaining ash gets spread throughout the gardens when the fire box is cleaned out. Obviously, we can’t do this in the warmer months so that’s when I dig and drop them (here is my post on composting old clothing).
- Then, there is the organic matter from tending to gardens. Prunings, leaves, deadheads and spent plants can be pulled and dropped or cut and dropped in garden beds to biodegrade. Larger pieces can be cut up further with secateurs or mown over.
- Difficult weeds are drowned to kill them completely and to create weed tea fertiliser before the remains are discarded discretely on garden beds to break down, but they could be buried too.
- Finally, we don’t have to compost dog poo because our dog runs around free on the farm all day and she does her business in the paddocks. However, you can dig and drop dog poo too. The chickens are also free range but the poo from the chicken house is spread around the fruit trees to fertilise them.
How to dig and drop compost
Above, I’ve highlighted in green the only two circumstances where I actively want to compost using the dig and drop method. There is not a lot of organic matter for each of those circumstances so digging a hole suits me better than digging a trench. You can get really organised with trench composting and rotate the trenches with garden beds if you want but I want absolute simplicity, so here is how I’m doing the dig and drop.
- Dig a hole. This could be in an ornamental or vegetable garden or in a raised garden bed. The hole can be as wide as you like but it needs to be deep enough to protect the compost material from pests, but not so deep that nutrients are leached into ground water. Getting the depth right also keeps the compostable material in the biologically active zone with all the worms and microorganisms. Gardening Australia suggests digging trenches to no more than 35cm deep or 25cm if you have heavy clay soil, so my holes will be dug to 35cm.
- Drop organic matter into the hole, approximately 20cm deep. Don’t compact the scraps as the air spaces are important for providing oxygen and habitat for the soil organisms. A diversity of materials is best to include if you can.
- Replace the excavated soil. This should be about 15cm of soil on top. Decomposition is pretty fast so you can even plant seeds and small seedlings on top.
That’s it! I won’t need to dig new holes very often because of the small amount of material needing composting. I even use a lid to cover the hole to keep pests out until it is full enough to top with soil.
Doing this reminded me of a Gardening Australia episode I saw last year, so I searched for it and found it under Costa’s free range worms fact sheet. It’s essentially Dig and Drop composting except he uses a bucket with holes to contain the scraps and allow the worms to come and go as they please. It’s a cool idea but if you ask me, Dig and Drop composting is the ultimate for free-range worms.
The benefits of dig and drop composting
Dig and drop composting has a lot of benefits over other composting methods, including:
- It saves space in the garden. Digging holes is a great solution for people with small yards.
- There is no smell (not that I have ever had that problem).
- It’s very frugal. All you need is a shovel. There’s no expensive units to set up or ongoing inputs to purchase like bokashi bran.
- It’s zero waste. There are no end of life issues to manage as with plastic bins and worm farms.
- It’s less work. There’s no ratios of browns and greens to worry about, less raking and carting of garden materials, no turning necessary, no need to think about moisture levels or pests, no need to harvest and distribute the compost because it is already in the ground doing it’s job!
- Decomposition is fast because the contents is well insulated and kept moist, and all the microorganisms and worms have direct access. Most things will breakdown in one month to six months. If you want to speed up the process, cut up the organic matter or process it in a blender first.
- It deters pests.
- It’s great for neighbouring plants and it improves soil, especially in compacted areas.
Do you, or would you use dig and drop composting and free-range worms?
for Food Scraps
This by now classic method of making a compost pile offers a virtually fool-proof technique for creating fast decomposition, but remember, the idea that it must be built in layers is a myth.
The technique consists of filling a bin with layers of greens and browns, all in a single day or week, and then turning them regularly without adding any more material until the composting process has finished. This is therefore a relatively quick method — it takes perhaps three months to get finished compost — and requires regular maintenance. It also requires that the composter have more than one heap. Otherwise, you’ve got nowhere to put the accumulating yard and kitchen waste of three months while the first pile is cooking.
If you’re just starting out and you’re looking at a mound of grass, a few orange peels and carrot ends, and a handful of leaves, this is not the right method. The layered pile requires a big volume of material right off. For many people, autumn is the best time to build such a pile. Between fall leaves and fall garden trimming, there’s often more material available late in the year than early.
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Asking how to build a compost pile is a bit like asking how to make chocolate-chip cookies. There are dozens of recipes out there, and people may have serious standoffs over whether oatmeal or walnuts can be introduced without changing the essential nature of the result. However, certain things do seem to be agreed upon by all parties.
- Clear a spot that’s at least 3′ by 3′ and ready your bin if you’re planning to use one.
- Have on hand a large quantity of brown material (almost enough to fill the bin), about a quarter as much green material, and a bucket or two of something that contains active micro-organisms: manure (a chicken, horse, sheep, goat, or cow), finished compost, or soil. If you’re low on greens, they can be replaced by several cups of a high-nitrogen material like organic cottonseed meal, blood meal, or corn-gluten meal.
The browns include dead leaves, chopped stalks, wood chips, husks, nut shells, hay, and grains from the kitchen: cereals, breads, etc. Greens are grasses, fresh leaves and weeds, and vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps.
- Almost everyone advises putting down a layer of coarse material — corn cobs and husks, sticks, thick fibrous stalks from vegetables or tall flowers. This layer improves aeration at the bottom of the compost pile. However, if you do turn regularly, the bottom layer gets quickly incorporated into the bulk of the mix, which pretty much defeats its purpose. As this happens, the longer items in particular — the plant stems, the sticks — can make turning quite difficult. Then again, for some it’s a non-issue. You may need to try a couple of different ways for yourself to decide what works.
- Put down a thin layer of brown material — leaves, chopped stems, wood chips — and sift over it a thin layer of soil, compost, or manure. Sprinkle these with water, then start the serious layering: six to eight inches of browns, followed by two or three of greens, and then a sprinkling of the soil options. Water generously before starting the next layer. Keep building until the heap reaches three to four feet high and the bin is full. You can actually load material several inches above the edges of the bin; it will sink down within days.
- Check the moisture level and, ideally, cover the pile without cutting off oxygen.
The most laid-back approach to composting consists of heaving stuff onto the heap and walking away. If you’re not in a hurry, this can be perfectly satisfactory. But it can be hard to keep the pile neat, and hard to access the finished compost, and such piles may be vulnerable to going anaerobic and to incursions by wildlife.
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A compost bin solves the neatness problem and helps to keep the new stuff on top, separate from the finished compost at the bottom. A bin with lid (even if it’s just loose boards) will keep out wildlife.
If your piles tend to go anaerobic, sprinkling a thin layer of finished compost or a few wood chips over them from time to time as you’re building them may be enough to solve the problem. Dirt introduces a fetch batch of beneficial organisms to the pile, while wood chips tend to create good air pockets.
As for easy access, some compost bins are built so that you can get at the stuff at the bottom, and more than one composter has scooped compost from beneath an active heap. Check out the bolts-and-boards bin, the swing-door bin, and the log cabin bin below. All give access to the bottom of the mix.
However, if you keep two or three compost piles going, you can turn your back forever on the unlovely task of digging finished compost out from under orange peels and eggshells. Instead, you’re adding to this year’s pile, ignoring last year’s, and using the one you built two years back. A three-compartment bin makes this remarkably neat and simple. Detailed directs for such a bin — down to how many #9 nails you’ll need — can be found in Let It Rot.
Tyler Storey, a horticulturalist and lecturer who specializes in desert gardening (he lives in Arizona), points out that the laissez-faire approach to composting doesn’t work well in the desert, where the top layers tend to dry out and the bottom ones go anaerobic. His blog, The Desert Garden, includes numerous posts about composting, including this one, No-turn Composting, in which he conveys the unhappy news that there’s no way to avoid turning a pile in the desert.
Mixing it Up: Hot, Hot, Hot
If you measure out the materials for the layered method above but then stir them together before putting them in the bin, you will get an even more thorough mix than you get with the layering method. Add a generous dose of active, mature (not old!) compost, and the result will be a pile that heats up with record speed, to record temperatures.
The easiest way to accomplish the mixing and measuring is to build the heap on a tarp, then mix the ingredients thoroughly before piling them in the bin. This may seem redundant but, if you’re in any doubt about proportions, then building in layers is still the best way to ensure that you’ve got the appropriate brown/green ratio. Including up to ten per-cent wood chips will increase aeration significantly.
Since no tarp can accommodate a complete pile, make several successive “mini-batches,” as McNelly calls them, each several layers thick. Cover the mini-batch with an inch or two of finished compost, mix everything up thoroughly and fork it into the bin, adding water as necessary. Repeat this process until the bin is full.
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For maximum heat and minimum maintenance, McNally recommends building the heap on a network of sticks and stones so the ingredients will be aerated from below. That aeration requires one last step: after building the pile, poke holes in it with a piece of rebar, working the bar in circles so that the holes don’t just collapse as soon as the rebar is withdrawn. The method requires holes three to six inches apart across the whole top of the heap. That’s a lot of holes. However, if the compost pile has an adequate airflow, it will heat up almost overnight and stay hot for weeks without needing to be turned.
Perhaps most interesting, though McNally calls this a batch system, he also says that significant amounts of new material can be incorporated into it whenever you do decide to turn it.
In-Situ Garden Piles
Since the plan, usually, involves digging the compost into the garden, why not start there to begin with? Why haul the stuff all the way to some specially constructed container and then haul it back?
If your first goal with a compost pile is to get rid of your kitchen scraps, such a method might not work well for you. But if your garden is big enough to accommodate a heap, and if the bulk of your compostable material comes from the garden, these methods make a lot of sense. It all depends how far away the garden is and what will actually work — especially in the dead of winter.
Garden heaps, which might be either hot or cold, can be located in a corner of the garden plot, or right on an unused bed. Or they can be built at one end of a row and gradually moved towards the other end as they’re turned. This is what Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin, in The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, call a “walking pile.”
A “walking pile” requires a fallow strip, of course. If you’ve got that, this is an option to be considered. It’s much easier to move a heap onto the patch of ground next to it than to turn it on itself, so the turning process is less arduous than usual. As the season progresses, the heap moves down the bed, gradually shrinking, adding its nutrients and microbes to the soil beneath it as it moves and being enriched by the microbes in each new patch of soil.
In this method, compostable material gets spread over a garden plot or raked or dug into the top few inches of soil. Done in the fall, most of the material will have decayed by planting time as long as it doesn’t include especially large woody items such as wood chips.
Any large barrel, garbage pail, or drum of wood, metal, or plastic that has a tight-fitting lid will work well. Drill holes in the bottom for aeration, then fill it with the correct proportions of browns to greens, along with a bit of soil, manure, or finished compost to active micro-organisms. For added aeration, insert a perforated tube in the barrel while filling it.
Made of recycled plastic, the Bio-Orb (free shipping) is a large capacity, rolling composter that makes it easy to recycle yard clippings and organic scraps into rich, soil-building humus. Just fill it and roll it! The spherical shape maximizes heat retention for faster composting and allows for easy mixing and mobility.
Leave the barrel for several weeks, then start rotating it. The simplest way to do this is to roll it around over the yard.
A good-sized drum can hold enough material for it to truly heat up.
Trench composting involves burying compost in a long trench right in the garden, then planting on top of it. Since composting microbes require nitrogen, which is unavailable to plants for as long as the microbes are using it, some prefer to let the trench sit for a year before planting over it.
One version of this involves a three-year rotation in which a row is divided into three strips, A, B, and C. In year one, garbage is buried in A; B is used as a path; and vegetables are planted in C. The next year, the path moves to A, vegetables are planted in B, and garbage gets buried in C. This gives the garbage two years to decay before vegetables are planted in them.
Underground Bins & Holes
In spite of the emphasis on aeration, it is indeed possible to compost underground, or at least partly so. These methods have the distinct advantage of being virtually invisible, and for some people turning is actually easier when they’re digging compost out of a hole rather than trying to lift it over a fence.
Both of these methods start with digging a large hole — big enough to accommodate the butt end of a barrel in one case, and large enough to hold most of a compost pile in the other. The dirt dug out of the hole can be set aside nearby and used bit by bit as an inoculator. Just sprinkle it over the mix from time to time to add great composting organisms. If you’re setting a bin of some sort (a barrel, a drum, or a garbage can) in the hole, you have the option of angling it — which may or may not make your life easier.
Once the bin is in the hole, or once the hole is dug, you can fill it using whatever method suits you.
Most backyard gardeners don’t worry too much about the exact composition or nutrient content of their compost. If you do really care, you can always get it analyzed, of course. But that’s expensive, and for someone trying to ensure that their compost has everything it should, it’s a bit like slamming the barn door after the horse has left. Such a composter doesn’t want to know what’s in this batch of compost, but how to build a pile so that it will contain all the right proportions of all the right things.
Not surprisingly, the internet has what it takes to figure this out.
One of the most useful documents, “Fertilizing with Yard Trimmings (PDF),” contains a number of charts that detail the nutrient content (both total and available) of typical yard waste, as well as its moisture content, carbon/nitrogen ratio, heavy metal content (along with EPA limits), and instructions about converting all this information into application rates. Though designed primarily for farmers and focusing on fresh rather than composted waste, this Washington State University document is invaluable for anyone who wants to know what is in the yard waste they’re composting.
Another excellent resource for those wishing to mix math with their composting is Cornell University’s site The Science and Engineering of Composting. The “Background Information” on Invertebrates, Microbes, Chemistry, and Physics can all be understood by lay people, and is of interest to anyone who wants to get an idea about what actually goes on inside a compost pile.
The next section of their site, “Getting the Right Mix,” is more technical than most people have any use for, but it offers essential information to those trying to balance their composting operations. There are articles on how lignin and particle size affect nutrient bio-availability, others on “Moisture Content,” “Estimating Carbon Content,” “Simultaneous Solution of Moisture and C/N Equations,” and finally, downloadable spreadsheets to make it easier to record relevant measurements and work one’s way through the equations.
What products to compost
You will be able to source all of the essential elements in order to build a great compost pile without having to look too far! As long as your carbon to nitrogen ratio is optimal (25-30:1) your compost pile will be breaking down properly. Here are some lists of acceptable additions:
Carbon Rich Material “Browns”
Cardboard (free of dyes)
Stems & twigs
Nitrogen Rich Material “Greens”
Kitchen food waste
Weeds (that have NOT gone to seed)
Things to Avoid
Diseased plant material
Manures from carnivorous animals
As for the rhododendron and holly leaves, you can definitely put them in your compost pile. However, it is a good idea to really chop or shred them up, as they take much longer to break down due to their fibrous and waxy make up. It really depends on how quickly you are trying to create usable compost. It might be a good idea to have a separate pile going that you incorporate those leaves into and another pile that you do not. That way you can have a pile you know will rapidly break down into garden goodness and have yet another ready to use later on. Good luck!