Using a Compost Bin

Having moved from 12 acres of land to a house with a 35'x 35' garden, a large compost pile is something I can no longer have. I've never used any sort of container and I'm not sure how to go about it. I read all sorts of info about there being percentages of "browns" and percentages of "greens" and seen lovely diagrams with a large lower layer of twigs, etc covered with a layer of greens, etc. But that seems unworkable - I want to add stuff to is continually. Are these folks just making it seems harder than it is?
I'm used to having a huge pile of stuff, in fact a pile of horse manure onto which I'd toss anything haphazardly. I'd add stuff to the south end of the pile and after a year or so the north end of the pile would be lovely black compost.
So how can I make lovely black compost in a small garden? And do I really need one of those specialized containers or can I just cut the bottom out of a trash can?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 15:56:58 +0100, Ellie C

Ellie -- I began years (and years) ago to pile up grass clippings and leaves and leftover potting soil and kitchen veg scraps on an almost completely bare and solid area of clay on the other side of my driveway. The area is now a jungle of forsythia and mint and small trees and almost everything else that grows. Ciompost Happens. Whether in a specialized container (fast?) or in a small, cold, pile on the ground (slow). My biggest problem is that now I hate to dig into my pile and mash all the earthworm who are so busy. I (no expert) didn't know about balancing 'greens' and 'browns' -- just heaved all the organic yard waste, dirt, sand, coffeegrounds, potato peels, & melon rinds in the same direction. I expect a container of some sort would be quicker and perhaps more manageable. A casual pile will eventually break down, too.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yes; it seems to be an American thing :-) In the UK, we're blissfully unaware of all that green/brown ratios angst.

My regular compost piles are made of 4 wooden pallets tied at the corners into a cube, about 3ft by 3ft.
I've been experimenting with compost pies, using a tube made from a 50 gallon plastic barrel. The hope is to make compost exactly where I want to use it around the veg garden, and never have to shift it, while gradually enriching the light sandy soil. I dig a hole a slightly smaller diameter than the tube, as deep as I can be bothered, and stand the tube over it. When it's full of compost material and the contents have heated and sunk down, slide off the barrel like making sandpies, and start a new pie elsewhere.
Janet.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

the
If you know someone with horses and who feeds them hay, get a few of last year's hay bales (we usually GIVE them away in late spring after the grass is in), stack them to form an open cube . . . --------- | |____
and pile your compost-to-be inside. The depth of the cube depends on how many bales you get, but three tall is nice. The bin decomposes right along with your compost. Gets nice and hot, too -- especially if you can add a little of the horse manure in with the greens. ;-)
Jim Lewis - snipped-for-privacy@nettally.com - Tallahassee, FL - Only where people have learned to appreciate and cherish the landscape and its living cover will they treat it with the care and respect it should have - Paul Bigelow Sears.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jim Lewis wrote:

I do indeed know someone with horses - me. My horse now lives at a stable in the next town, not at home, but I do have access to manure and straw. THe hay bales we have here (in France) are the huge round ones. Way too big for my tiny garden. In fact, even the typical rectangular ones wouold be too big here. Too bad - I love the idea of the container rotting along with what it's containing. Maybe I could do something similar with old logs. (And where, I wonder would I get such things. Ahhh. I'm so used to living on lots of land, with access to bits of woods and fields and whatever.) Maybe I'll try the trash can for this year and be on the lookout for odd objects to use for a more interesting one. Since this garden is our whole "outdoors" I don't have the luxury of having one bit of the garden devoted to all the ugly bits. :-)

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Janet Baraclough .. wrote:

Good. I never in my life worried about such a thing; I thought perhaps it was necessary if one was using a container instead of just having a wild, unruly pile - which is what I'm used to having!

So you just toss stuff into there until it's full and then wait? Seems like there would always be uncomposted stuff on the top, and compost on the bottom (well, after a while of course). Anyway, it all sounds like something I can just play around with.

I'm going to try this scheme. I'm guessing that I'd just cut the bottom out of the barrel, so that it can drain, and then start throwing stuff into it. Sounds easy. And since I have a horse in the next town I can also add some rotten manure to it just to keep things cooking.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Well, when one cube is full I usually cap it with a layer of grass cuttings (wet with pee) or manure followed by plastic sacks, (which gives it a good heat up) and start filling another one.When the filled, capped bay has cooled and begun to sink, I add a shovel full of brandling worms to speed things up.(The kind of worms that live in manure heaps). When I come to use the compost, there might be a little bit on top that's not quite ready, so I just sling it into the current heap...it's full of microscopic activity and will boost decomposition.If I turned the heap, I'd avoid that little bit of less-ready stuff at the top, but it's a lot of effort for not much benefit.IME composting happens well enough without sweated labour :-)
Like you I'm adapting my composting from a larger scale (4 acre garden) to a much smaller one (half acre garden).I'm also planning ahead, adapting what I learned in high-energy high-stamina days, to lower-input methods suitable for our dotage. Hence the compost pies, and a worm-bin (also home-made out of a plastic barrel).I've only been running the worm bin for a year; my intention was to recycle a lot of old newspapers through it, but have to admit I'm rather bad at remembering to add stuff to it.Partly because it's in the garage out of sight. The worms are certainly active and multiplying, but haven't yet produced enough compost to bother emptying out. They do produce a good supply of very rich concentrated liquid plant feed which I can draw off from a tap at the bottom (needs to be diluted for use). You might find that useful in your smaller garden.
Janet
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Here's what I've done over the years....get a large metal or plastic barrel - 55 gallons or more in capacity. (ummm...that's something like a bit more than 200 liters.) Remove/knock out the top and bottom so you essentially have a tube. Make a small stand about 18-24 inches (45 - 60 cm) high consisting of two walls (mine are of concrete blocks 8x8x16 inches - 20x20x40 cm) slightly greater than the diameter of the barrel apart from each other. Place a number of metal pipes/rods spanning those two walls with about two inches or so (5 cm) between those pipes/rods. Then place the barrel vertically on top of these pipes/rods, which serve as a grate. Finally, add your compost material into the barrel and water as needed. It will take time, but the material will be composted and sift downward through that pipe/rod grate as you water from the top. If you want to speed things up, turn the pile...I used a metal rod to poke down and leverage up the material. I've found that adding plain ordinary earthworms significantly reduces the need to turn the pile.
You can, of course, have more than one of these going at the same time. You will find as the material composts and falls through the grate that the level of the material in the barrel will drop, allowing you to add more fresh material. And I've learned to bury the kitchen scrappings/trimmings deep as well as to cover the barrels to discourage the neighborhood raccoons.
contains these words:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 17:41:15 GMT, Janet Baraclough ..

Everything's GREEN in England isn't it? :-)

I did that too, however, it seemed to get too much air and just dried out more than decayed. Probably didn't have stuff to put into it often enough.

There's always sheet composting. Just spreading out grass clippings, straw or whatever you can lay hands on, and lay it down on the ground to keep weeds down, and just pull it back to plant. Ruth Stout's No dig gardening or something like that .. famous book. I just searched on Google, with Ruth Stout and gardening, and there seem to be several reissues under other names, and I guess they're calling the technique "lasagna" gardening now.
If I had a pickup, access to some sturdy and quick teenagers, I'd go out in fall and gather up leaves that people don't want, and shred them or just mow them up and use them as mulch on the yard. If you live in an area with acidic soil, they usually say don't put oak leaves in your compost.. which told me that I should search out oak trees as the soil here isn't acidic!
Leaves are good because they pull up nutrients deep in the soil, and they work well with the grass clippings/garden and kitchen waste if you want to get into that brown/green stuff. I have also been known to search for spoiled hay/straw piles that no one wants (not a good idea if anyone near has mold allergies) and I covered the garden area by pulling off flakes of the hay or straw and laying it down across the yard, overlapping the seams. I also go find farmers/stables where I can haul off horse manure and straw bedding to mix in with compost or to mulch with. Yeah it brings in some flies depending on when you bring the stuff in, but you can sprinkle out the fly parasites to knock 'em down. Once it's into a compost pile, or covered in the sheet composting, the problem of odor/flies decrease, then disappear. Someone with dogs in their yards they don't clean up after will draw flies too, but it's a more long lasting problem there.
I was a bit of an obsessive but I just kind of feel like the more varied the materials you can put down, the more nutrients there are for the plants to access, and the more nutritious your food will be. I figure things grown with commercial fertilizers are probably missing a lot of trace elements after a few years growing on ground that's fertilized like the vitamins we take, .. only what they've proven you need, with maybe a few things that might be a good idea. What about all that stuff they've not figured out yet?! More compost.. More More More!! <laughing maniacally again > hahaaha.. ;-D
Janice

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Not always..with climate-warming, southern England has had a run of summer droughts with everything parched dry and brown for months on end. I'm in Scotland, where it's always wet, I mean green :-)

I do that too, especially good for making new beds. I start with a base layer of cardboard (flattened packing cases) which smothers any weeds, and pile on top layers of anything organic and free that I can lay hands on. This morning we fetched a load of strawy horse manure from a stables. I also use a lot of seaweed collected from the beach, and in summer a local gardening contractor delivers all his (untreated) grass clippings here. In the previous garden I used a lot of bracken and hay. It's amazing how fast the worms take it all down and turn it into rich soil, and of course it suppresses weeds.

Me too. I even collect stuff like river grit and crushed seashells, for the trace minerals.
Janet.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
When I read about the greens & brown ratios, it really did make it seem like it's a lot more work than it actually is. I just throw organic stuff in my compost pile, too. The only thing you really need to know about greens and browns is basicly this- If it stinks, add browns. If it's not heating up, add greens. That and to keep it damp. If you don't have any problems with waste breaking down, don't worry about it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 2/17/04 5:00 PM, in article snipped-for-privacy@corp.supernews.com, "tmtresh"

The best book I have ever read on the subject it "Let it Rot". It all will eventually.... Cheryl
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If you have a green, gooey mess, add more dry/brown matter. I let lawn clippings dry for a day on the lawn, then use these as dry matter, or fall leaves.

Stacked used tires, garbage can as you describe, fifty gallon barrel from local rural supply store, 4x4' wire pens, wire cages, pallets set on their edges and made into a rectangle, or open heap will all suffice. It is nice to have a stack for this year, last year, and the year before - this is what goes into the garden, but your space may not allow this. Don't forget, though, that using a container of some sort will let you use vertical space more efficiently.
Linda H.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 15:56:58 +0100, Ellie C wrote:

Several years ago, someone gave me a 25' roll of welded wire fencing that was 5' in width. I used it for tomato cages and to protect some blueberries. Last season I made two large (4-5' diameter) circles with the wire and started to put the garden scraps in them. By the end of the summer, I had some pretty good stuff. The only downfall is turning the compost is more of a challenge. It might work to start with one bin and then rotate the stuff to the other so everything gets mixed. The bins are there but not unsightly.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 15:56:58 +0100, Ellie C

My best frame was built out of scrap 2x4s and plywood pieces scavenged from a construction site. - Avoid the treated stuff.
I built a loose frame, with lots of space for air to pass, in a closed C shape - a rectagle with an opening in the middle of one of the long sides.
Would pile stuff on the left, later toss it over to the right, etc.
Roy - Carpe Noctem
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.