Thursday, July 2, 2009

Good Garbage Breaks Down as it Goes...

...That's Why it Smells Bad to Your Nose!!! (Does anyone else remember this song from when you were a kid??)

Brett and I decided to make a compost bin to provide good soil for our new veggie garden. Apparently it won't yield soil for about 3 months, so not until September, but maybe by then we will have planted some peas and winter squash. Or I guess we could just hoard it until next spring!

I looked around the web for different designs and methods. Instructables has a lot of different ones to pick from, including:

a turning version made with a 55-gallon drum,

a twin compost bin,

and a double-decker version.
These are all inexpensive DIY versions of composting, but I didn't think any of them were exactly discreet or attractive, and they were pretty involved for a couple of people who work full time and are just trying this out. When I was growing up, my parents always had a plastic one in the trees behind our house that looked a little bit like a dog house, and it was very inconspicuous. It looked a bit like this one:
Nice and discreet, low effort, BUT the $150 price tag is a little high for what were were looking for.

Finally, we found this great version on, where a couple of fellow Richmond newlyweds had the same idea. MUCH more low key, yet still do-it-yourself and also discreet! So thanks Sherry and John for the inspiration!

We first bought this bin at Home Depot for $6.00. THAT IS THE GRAND TOTAL FOR THIS PROJECT!! Can't beat that, right?? I picked a dark one because I thought it might stay warmer and help the composting process than a light one. I also thought it would be more recessed in the yard and thus more discreet.

I drilled 12 holes in the top and 12 in the bottom for aeration and drainage. I drilled my holes with a drill, but that's mostly because I love power tools. I think I could have done it easily with a nail and a hammer.

Then I made the first layer up of 1/2 leaves and 1/2 ripped up newspaper. (A word of advice--avoid holly leaves, they hurt your hands when you mix everything up!) I scrounged up some leaves from under our porch and begged an old newspaper off our neighbor. This layer helps keep things aerated and not too dense. This layer is referred to as the "brown" layer and contains the carbon necessary for the breakdown process.

Then I added a layer of soil which I scrounged up from leftover potting soil from failed container gardening projects (no, those chives from the grocery store will NOT stay alive if you plant them), and our own acidic clay soil from our yard. By the time I was done the bin was half full, in equal parts dirt and paper. I even found some worms which help speed the process up!! Hi wormies!!!

Next I added the "green" layer which provides the nitrogen and nutrients. First I put in some dryer lint.

Then I put in some banana peels and peaches from Brett's afternoon smoothie, some asparagus trimmings from dinner last night, and some cherries that were duds.

I stirred it around, covering them with dirt.

Then the final step is to spray it lightly with the hose and cover it up! Apparently compost likes to be wet but not soaking. Here is Brett with the final product sitting discretely tucked behind the steps to the porch. Here's hoping it works!

If you want more information about how composting works, here is an excellent site that explains the process in more detail.

Has anyone else made a compost bin? Did I do it right? Any tips or tricks?

1 comment:

Sherry @ Young House Love said...

Wahoo! Composting is my idea of a good time. So glad you guys were able to whip up a little bin of your own. Happy composting!

Sherry (& John)