Headed towards back to the basics living.


Starting a Compost Bin, Part 2

So you’ve decided to give composting a go? After yesterday’s post you probably realized you pretty much already had everything you needed, right?

Well, now the next thing you really need to decide is what type of bin you want to house all those compost ingredients. Bins can be made from heavy mesh wire formed into a ring, old pallets or concrete blocks. You can even just start a big pile somewhere in your yard if you’re the free spirit kind of soul. Or you can always buy a container. If I was in the market for one, I’d probably get this one because it makes easy work of turning the materials for faster breakdown. Luckily for us our landlord had some old scrap wood just lying around waiting to be used. So use we did. Here’s the design plan we followed.

Here’s how ours turned out. As you can see DH has already begun Step 1 in the composting process.The soil beneath the pile needs to be loosened up.

Step 2. Begin to layer your materials.

Just remember brown, then green, brown then green.

Step 3. If you have food waste put these in the middle of the pile to avoid attracting unwanted critters.

The smaller the food waste pieces are, the more quickly they break down.

Step 4. Keep adding brown and green materials alternately.

Step 5. Make sure to finish your pile with at least 2″ of brown materials. Then water thoroughly. You want a consistency of a wrung out dishrag.

***Now you’re on your way. As the materials begin to decompose temperatures will reach up to 165 degrees! Yikes, that’s warm! You can check by inserting a metal rod or your hand-but don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning it will be hot!

Step 6. About once a week, before the materials cool down you will want to reactivate the decomposition process by turning your pile using a pitchfork or some other sturdy tool to really mix up your “compost ingredients.” Now is the time to add more water if needed and any green material you have accumulated since the start of your project or since the last turn.

Step 7. Repeat step 6 again and again (for about 6 weeks or so) until you have that dark coveted gardener’s gold. If you have some compost ready but there are still a few large pieces in the mix simply use a screen to filter those out and throw them back in your pile.

Step 8. Add compost to your garden and enjoy¬† how great your veggies are growing and how beautiful your flowers look. And it didn’t require a trip to your local garden center and it didn’t cost you hardly a thing! Perfection!


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Starting A Compost Bin, Part 1

Got dried leaves somewhere out in your yard? (You know those ones you meant to rake before the snow began last winter?)

Got kitchen scraps? (Who doesn’t right?)¬† What about dryer lint or coffee grounds?

Aw, then you my friend have got the goods for some nice compost.


So what exactly is compost? Compost is that stuff most people (including myself) cart home from their local garden center each spring to try and improve their soil. It’s dark, crumbly, earthy smelling and coveted by many a gardener.

So why would you want to try and make this stuff yourself?

  • It’s saves you money!!! No more large awkward bags of soil. No more gas wasted for a trip to the store.You already have a lot of the stuff needed on hand.
  • It’s really easy! Really! I’ll show you how we got started in a days time in my next post.
  • It’s really great for the environment. The average american family produces over 1200 pounds of organic waste in a single year. Most of it goes to the landfills where they can’t decompose because the conditions aren’t right to allow for that. Composting at home also means you know what’s in your compost-no chemicals you really didn’t intend for and honestly don’t need.
  • Your plants will love it! See how happy these plants are over at Kraft Werke?

So what materials can be composted? Basically anything that was once a plant can be used. There are two main types of materials you want to add to your pile:

  • Brown Materials (carbon rich)-Dried leaves, plant trimmings, straw, pine needles, small branches, dried grass, sawdust, shredded newspaper, dryer lint.
  • Green Materials(nitrogen rich)- Fresh plant and grass clippings, vegetable and fruit waste, tea bags, coffee grounds, hair, fur and barnyard feces (got chickens or cows?).

***DON’T use these things in your compost pile: Meats, grease, fats and oil, dairy products, dog/cat feces,, diseased or invasive plants or roots of bermuda grass and also oleander, eucalyptus and salt cedar.

So how to get started? Simple, start saving up acceptable items from around your house. If you don’t have an item then start asking around if others are willing to share or could use a little free yard work in exchange for the goods you need. We’ve even seen some free listings on Craigslist for this sort of thing.

Then, decide where you’ll want to put your bin in your yard. You’ll want the bin to be a minimum of 30 inches in each direction. If you don’t have a yard there are ways to use an indoor compost bin. I’ve read about apartment dwellers who do it.

Are you still with me here? I know this post has gotten a little (make that a lot) too long. So in tomorrow’s post I’ll show you exactly what we did (promise lots of pics) to get ourselves up and running. It only took us about half a day-not bad for something that has so many benefits! Have fun collecting your materials! Although I’m sure it won’t take you too long. It’s amazing how fast they add up!