Outdoor Compost Bin


I walk out my backdoor 32 steps, past the shed that Mike built, past the forsythia that is starting to bloom to my15 year old compost bin in the back corner of our yard. I dump the little bucket-full of grapefruit rind, banana peels and coffee grounds on top of the decomposing leaves and know I?m doing something good for the earth. But let?s start over so I can tell you exactly how you could start a compost bin of your own, just like ours.

First you need to get a wire frame in which to dump all of your stuff. We purchased a do it yourself compost bin years ago, but it is just as easy to buy 7 sections of sturdy wire measuring 36x36x26 from your local hardware store. We have three separate bins, each is 36? wide and 36? deep and 26? high and made of plastic covered wire. The three bins are connected with a chain link fence comprising the back wall of each bin. Because it was possible to utilize the chain link fence in the back, we were able to make 3 joined compartments out of the 7 36x36x26 sections.

We joined them together using long wires on the sides of each section, but you could buy extra wire and using a pair of pliers, wrap it around each section you are joining. If you don?t have a chain link fence to hook it up to, you would be able to make a 2 compartment bin with the 7 sections using the same method. It is best to situate the bin with as much exposure to the sun as possible. Ours gets more sun when there are not leaves on the trees and we have trimmed trees in order to expose it to as much sun as possible.

The bulk of the contents is leaves from the autumn season, but you need some moist stuff like grass clippings, dead plants, and kitchen waste mixed in to make it go. I don’t like to put in sticks or pinecones or other solid matter because they really don’t decompose fast enough. Be careful not to put the weeds you pull out of your garden into the compost because the seeds will not be destroyed so your compost soil will contain weed seeds.

We keep an orange plastic bucket in the kitchen sink so that every time we are tempted to put some biodegradable item in the disposal, we will see the bucket and put it in there instead. Mike likes to cut everything up into little bits so it will decompose faster, but being the lazy me, I sometimes leave the grapefruit half intact and that?s okay. It will just take a little longer to de-compose. We compost all fruit and vegetable detritus including coffee grounds. However, avoid putting in animal product waste (e.g. bones, eggshells, etc.) because it will stink, attract pests, and not decompose fast.In the fall, we load the bins up with leaves; 97% of the volume of the compost bins is leaves. The kitchen waste we put in the bins speed up the decomposition process of the leaves.

Mike turns the contents more in the spring summer and fall, than in the winter, probably 12 times year. If you leave one bin empty it makes it easier to mix things up with a pitchfork by throwing the stuff from one bin into the other. That turns the pile. The purpose of turning the compost is to put air pockets in between the stuff. If a compost pile is working well it will generate heat from the decomposition happening, you’ll feel it if you plunge your hand into it. But you need oxygen for decomposing. You should turn the pile as often as you can to keep it going. After a rainstorm, the pile will shrink due to the water absorbed. That usually will drive out the oxygen, requiring a turn. Depending on how you choose to practice compost managment, you can either have each bin at different stages or all at the same stage.

Compost piles make great quality dirt by the time they are done! It’s time to take the dirt out when you see that you are turning mostly dirt with your pitchfork. You can separate dirt from the other pretty easily. Then just shovel it out into a wheelbarrow and you can place it somewhere in your yard or garden.

Happy composting!

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  • James Barnard

    The author of the book “The Humanure Handbook” points out that his family has been composting not only vegetable and yard scraps, but meats, oils and even human feces, all the stuff one is not “supposed” to compost. Apparently he’s been doing it succesfully for 20 years! The key (according to him) seems to be covering each new addition of “wet” compost (meat, scraps, feces, etc.) very well with dry compost (straw, sawdust, leaves, etc.) Apparently this prevents odors, bugs, or wetness and allows the proper Carbon/Nitrogen ratio to trigger the thermophillic bacteria which break down the compost much faster and kill off any nasty bugs in the human waste. Then he lets the compost sit for a year and then uses it in food production!

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  • brita

    what if human feces were burned in cans first? How deep in the ground is proper?

  • Mollie

    Brita,

    Thank you for your questions.

    The number one concern with human feces (or the feces of any meat eating animal) is bacteria. The other concerns you have with human feces are heavy metals and possibly antibiotics. The bacteria would be killed in the burning process, but the heavy metals and antibiotics probably would still remain after the burning, but I don\’t know that either one of those would be a huge problem. So, I think that would be fine to do. I wouldn\’t use any sort of lighter fluid or chemicals to burn it though.

    As for burying it, if you are going to be burying your food scraps or the feces you would want to dig a hole that is about 1 foot deep. You can add about 2-3 inches of the food scraps and then cover it with at least 8 inches of soil to keep pests out. You will want to check for signs of digging and I probably wouldn\’t burying the food scraps and the feces in the same pile.

    I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any other questions.

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  • http://www.heatshrinkwire.net Heat Shrink Wire

    Thanks for information, I'll always keep updated here!

  • http://www.heatshrinkwire.net Heat Shrink Wire

    Thanks for information, I'll always keep updated here!

  • Gloriavega5862

    Thanx for all the encouragement to start to make a small contribution to Mother earth

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