If you live in a rural area, you can have a compost pile, literally its just an area set aside where you pile all your organic scraps.
Store bought bins. If you live in a subdivision, this may be more friendly choice. A couple of years ago, there was an Earth Day promotion at our county waste resource center and I was lucky enough to pick up three “Earth Machines” for a modest cost. Shop around if you are buying one, because there can be quite a difference in price. I like having three: one being filled, one full and “working” and one ready.
Wood and wire bids. These are fairly economical to construct. I started out with a large one built with scrap wood and chicken wire that lasted for over ten years before it was retired last year. It still functions as the “plant hospital” where things miraculously spring back to life.
Wire Fencing. A ten foot long length of 3 or 4 foot high fence can be securely tied together to form a circular bin. This is cheap, but you want to keep it out of wind.
Trash Can. Keep it really simple and cut the bottom out of a plastic trash can. Once again, keep it out of the wind until its begun to fill up a bit.
Cadillac Bins. If you want to spend some money, you can buy one of the swanky rotating compost bins on a stand. These are very good for making Hot Compost
Hot or Cold?
Not only are there all these different kinds of bins. As it happens there are also two ways to compost. Hot or Cold. Which is better? How do you choose which one is right for you?
Hot composting produces results quicker, but involves a lot more work. Its helpful to have a thermometer to check the heat of the pile. You want to keep the pile between 113 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit. How? Turn the pile every time the temperature drops below those temperatures. If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a metal rod in the pile ( I use my pry bar). If its hot, the pile is working.
A fringe benefit to this method is that the heat generally kills a lot of the weed seeds.
The only drawback to this method is that the whole pile must be built at once. So if you have a bonanza of leaves from your neighbours, that would be the way to go.
Hot composting fans usually find that the rotating compost barrels can make the job simpler and quicker. Organic gardeners rarely if ever use compost accelerator powders.
But if you’re adding your household vegetable scraps to the composter as you go, then Cold composting would probably be more suited to your needs. It takes a lot longer, a few months as opposed to the few weeks that the hot method uses.
I use the cold method, because I am always adding material to the bin. That why I keep the three bins going, so I always have compost available.
Compost tea: I put a gallon of compost in the bottom of a five gallon pail. Top it up with water and let “steep” for a couple of days. Use the water to feed plants. Very good for heavy feeders like tomatoes or squash.
Starting seeds: Mix with potting soil for a high test mixture for starting seeds. It should be noted that you may expect to have unplanned for seeds … what I call “popups” if you use the cold composting method.
Quick fix for lawns: Mix compost with grass seed and spread over bare patches. Power starting shrubs and trees: Put a gallon of compost in the hole before planting new trees and shrubs. You’ll see the difference.
Top Dressing: Spread an inch of compost around the base of trees and shrubs, as far out as the branches extend for a real spring tonic.
Starting new beds: Mix as much compost as you can spare into each new bed that you build. Special note about Permaculture: some keyhole beds contain a composting ‘bin’ within the bed. I am just dipping my toes in the very promising permaculture waters and lay no claim to any expertise yet 🙂
If you live in Nova Scotia, the municipalities all have composting facilities for the green cart material. Some of them sell compost, and even give it away now and then when they are promoting composting. Look for these promotions in the spring, often on the weekend closest to Earth Day.
What to put in your bin
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- sawdust, shavings, wood chips
- Egg shells
- Wood ash
- Leaves, grass clippings, plant matter
- Shredded Paper
- Hay or straw
Please Note: I don’t add wood ash to my composter. Instead, I keep it separate and add it directly to the garden. Why? Too much wood ash can alter the ph of the soil.
Also, I till the annual garden plants back into the soil rather than add them to the composter. Same thing
It also should be noted that, at least here in Nova Scotia, there may be a BIG difference between what is suitable for your compost bin and what municipal bylaws permit you to put in your Green Cart.