Thursday, June 21, 2012

From Trash to Treasure: Creating your own compost bin

Why Compost?

Finished compost bin!
Why not take something that you are already going to throw away and use it to save money with minimal effort required?  Composting is a great way to take your leftover food and yard waste and turn it into fertilizer for your plants or gardens- think of it as putting leftovers back into the earth for the next cycle of growth.  The use of compost improves soil structure, adds essential nutrients, and is a disease suppressor- and it eliminates the need for buying expensive bags of chemical fertilizers or potting soils!  You can certainly start an open air compost pile, but if you live in a neighborhood or urban area like me, your neighbors might not necessarily appreciate that. The good news is that you can make your own compost bin relatively inexpensively!

Materials needed:
-          Large garbage can (dark colored is best)
-          Drill
-          Bungee cords
-          Bricks

Kate helping Brayden drill the holes
1.      Pick out a good location for your compost bin- make sure it is in an area that gets lots of sun
2.      Drill holes in the compost bin: The more holes the better! You are going to want enough holes along the sides of the bin to allow air to circulate as well as holes in the top of the bin to allow rain to get inside the bin.  Don’t forget holes in the bottom for drainage! 
3.      Place compost bin on a square base of 3 or 4 bricks to raise the compost bin off of the ground- this will allow air to circulate and allow drainage to escape.  Also, if you set a tray directly under the compost bin in the space created by the bricks you will be able to catch the “compost tea” that is created and can use that on your gardens while you are waiting for your compost to develop.
4.      Start filling your bin with compost. Add grass clippings or straw first to add drainage. Then add the compost material in layers, alternating between moist and dry ingredients.
5.      Secure the lid of the garbage can with bungee cords.
6.      Make sure to keep the compost moist- if there is not a lot of rain, lightly water.
7.      Every week or two,  turn the compost.  With the garbage can this is easy to do- just make sure the lid is secure, turn the can on its side and roll it around the yard!
8.   If your compost pile starts stinking, add some more dry material (grass clippings, hay, etc) and give the pile a good turn!
Turning the compost is easy!
What to compost:
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Table scraps
  •  Egg shells
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings (as long as it is not treated grass)
  • Straw or hay
  • Pine needles
  • Flowers
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves
  • Newspaper and shredded paper (avoid using glossy paper and colored inks)
  • Paper napkins/Paper towels
  • Pet hair
  • Popcorn
  • Stale bread/potato chips
  • Nut shells

What NOT to compost:
  • Meat, bones and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Oils
  •  Diseased plant material
I    It will take a few months for your compost to be ready to be used, and when it is ready all you need to do is add a scoop or shovel of it to your soil or pots! Do you compost already? Leave us a comment or send us a picture of your compost pile/bin!

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