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Composting: Discover Which Bin Is Right For You

February 16th, 2013

So you’ve read about the benefits of composting, and now you’re eager to get started. But what composing bin is right for you? Between compost tumblers, enclosed bins, rolling bins, or a simple, homemade bin – choosing the right bin for your needs can be confusing. We’ve de-mystified the most popular styles of composting bins so that your garden is flourishing this spring, with the help of the food scraps in your kitchen.

Compost Tumblers

Pros: These circular, self-turning bins aerate compost by cranking or rolling the container with a handle. They can build a steady supply of compost every few weeks, and are ideal for small backyard spaces. These composting bins are also a lot easier to use compared to turning up an open pile with a pitchfork.

Cons: Once the composting bin is completely full, expect to wait anywhere from 2-10 weeks for the contents to process before adding more materials.  They can be pricey, and will also run you anywhere from $100 – $500.

Enclosed Bins

Pros: Enclosed bins are ideal for someone seeking low-maintenance composting, as family members can easily lift a lid to throw in composting materials. There are a variety of enclosed bin styles – from bins specifically made for composting, to a simple garbage can with a lid. Most enclosed bins will also keep rain, pests, and wildlife out very well.

Cons: While low maintenance, the processing time can be quite long (up to two years) because the materials are not aerated routinely. Unfortunately, low maintenance composting can also mean a longer wait time for rich results.

Rolling Bins

Pros: Rolling bins are convenient because of their removable lid, which makes it easy to turn the soil while keeping out pests and rain. Like the name suggests, the bin can be rolled to your garden or yard waste, and rolled back. You’re also able to aerate and turn the compost pile every few days by tumbling it around.

Cons: A rolling bin is not necessary for small backyards, and work best in large yards. Bins can also become challenging to roll once they are very full.

Simple, Homemade Bins

Pros: Simple, homemade bins can be made from a variety of inexpensive materials. Many choose to create their bins from lattice panels, plywood, cinder blocks, wood pallets, or a trash can. We like this guide to making a few different styles. Most homemade bins can be made in a day or weekend, and if made well, can work well for many years.

Cons: Wooden compost bins may rot within a year or two.

Friends, which composting bins have been the most successful for your needs? What bins are you eager to try?

 

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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Outdoor Composting For Beginners

March 16th, 2012

If you’ve never attempted composting, and have a sizeable backyard near a water supply — run, don’t walk to get started! Compost is a mixture of organic matter (as in leaves, twigs and kitchen scraps) used to improve the soil’s structure while providing nutrients. Composting can also be done indoors, but we find outdoor composting to be more versatile and easier to manage for beginners.  Once you’ve created a designated area to compost, they key is knowing what works well in your compost, and what does not.

Why Compost?  For one, it reduces the amount of organic waste that ultimately ends up in landfills.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency claims that 14% of food ends up in land mills each year.  14% may not seem like much, but remember that rotting materials eventually transforms into methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.  If you already recycle your paper, cans and glass, why not do the same with food scraps? Every little bit helps!

Secondly, it’s more sanitary. Placing food scraps to rot in your neighborhood garbage can ultimately leads to rodents, raccoons and insects.  It can also be quite malodorous — which tends to linger until Tuesday’s trash pick-up day. When done correctly, composting in your home reduces the potential of these nuisances, while also posing less imposition to public health and safety.

Most importantly, composting can create a rockin’ fertilizer for your home garden. Not only is it money saving, but also is rich in nutrients and acts as a soil fertilizer, soil conditioner, and even as a natural pesticide.  It’s commonly used in home gardens –- but many also use this key ingredient in landscaping, agriculture and horticulture.

Before You Get Started: All composting should contain 3 primary ingredients: kitchen scraps and other organic matter (vegetable and fruit peels, eggshells, gritty flours like cornmeal, coffee and tea grounds and dryer lint), dry bedding (leaves, twigs, soil, newspaper, cardboard and sawdust from untreated wood), and water. Be sure to leave out all animal products like meat, bones and dairy, as well as oils, diseased plants and dog/cat feces, as these can lead to unwanted pests.  See a full list of safe materials to compost here.

To ensure the process is smooth, the following tools will prove useful as you compost: 1-2 composting containers (if using), a wheelbarrow, water hose, pitchfork or compost aerator, and a shovel. Although there are comparable tools one could use, a good composting system will require at least most of these.

To avoid pests, insects and animals, add in more dry materials periodically — this will help aerate the pile, and will alleviate any bad odors. Some also practice adding red wrangler worms to the pile, as they can decompose the compost more quickly, preventing critters from investigating. To ensure a larger animal will not disturb your compost, use a container with a sealed lid for all decomposing matter.  Secure it even further by placing a large rock on top, or wrap it with a bungee cord.

 A Step-By-Step Guide To Outdoor Composting:

1. Choose a shady area in your yard that is close to a hose or water supply.

2. Decide whether you prefer to dig a pit, or use a sealed container for your compost pile.  Although both are effective, containers do help prevent against pests, raccoons and insects. See this guide for building your own composting container.

3. Chop and shred all dry materials and kitchen scraps before adding them to the compost. Begin by adding a 6-inch layer of dry bedding (see list above).

4. Add a 3-inch layer of kitchen scraps (things to never compost here).  Next, top the kitchen scraps with another 3-inch layer of dry bedding.  Spray some water on the dry bedding to create a moist but not wet compost pile.

5.  Continue this process of layering kitchen scraps and dry bedding to the compost.  Aerate the pile once a week with a compost aerator, pitchfork, or something comparable.  This helps to prevent an odor, and allows the compost to ferment evenly.

Harvesting Your Compost: Depending on how large the compost pile is, when to harvest the compost pile will be different for everyone.  A general rule of thumb is to allow 4-8 months of processing before harvesting.  When ready, shovel the dark, soil-like compost to the top while pushing the under-processed compost to the bottom for more time to decompose. If the compost is too damp, add soil to it and mix well.

The compost to soil ratio should be 1 to 5 as you harvest it.  Or, use it on plants that are already established by adding 1 inch around the plant, or 2 inches dug into the soil.  You’ll find the compost will enhance your garden with its nutrients, leaving your garden more vibrant and sustainable.

Do you practice composting in your own yard? What are some tips you’d give to beginners?

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