Thursday, April 18, 2013

So You Wanna Start A Compost Bin.

If you've ever thought about composting,
I know what you're thinking...

I enjoy doing natural things.
I enjoy doing things that could help the Earth.
I enjoy doing things that could improve my own life.
But I don't have all the time in the world.

And if you've ever done any research on composting you may have found out that it seems like an awful lot of work. Between researching and getting it started and actually doing the composting...
Who has time for all that?!  

About two years ago Jeremie and I wanted to start composting in our back yard.
It's more environmentally friendly - which we like.
And we have a garden so we knew that composting could help our crops.

So I started researching and I was so overwhelmed so quickly that I almost gave up on the idea.  
All these sites are throwing around the words nitrogen and carbon. Add these materials. Don't add these materials.  Buy this compost bin. Make sure you layer the materials in your compost bin properly.  Turn your compost.  Make sure your compost doesn't smell.  Add compost starter. Don't add compost starter. Make sure it gets enough heat. And water. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

So. Much. Information.

And contradicting information, at that.
What was I actually supposed to do? 
And if I did something wrong, was it going to be a complete fail?

So you know what we did? 
We took all the information we found and just winged it.  
And I'm here to tell you that it's really not that hard.  In fact, it's pretty damn easy.

Here are some simple steps to follow to make your own - nice and cheap - compost bin and what to do after you're compost bin is ready to go.

Step One
You'll need to get a large storage bin.  
Nothing fancy.  Just grab a cheap one from Target or Walmart.
It can be as big or small as you want it.  
Ours are 16 gallon bins. 

The first time we tried composting we got a ginormous bin thinking the more we could compost, the better.  But we failed to realize such a giant bin would be really hard impossible to move and turning the material inside would be extremely difficult.  It all worked out in the end but we decided to go a little smaller, and more manageable this time around.

Step Two

Drill 8 - 10 holes in the top and the bottom of your bin.
This allows for air to reach your compost, for moisture to get in, and for bugs to get in and work their natural magic to break down all that waste.

Step Three

Gather some leaves and layer them into the bottom of your bin.  
We also had some wood chips from trees that came down during Sandy and Irene and the Autumn Nor'Easter so we threw some of those in too.  You can use your storm damage wood chips if you have them, but use them sparingly.  Don't throw three pounds of wood in there because it won't turn out all that well.

Step Four

Fill your bin about a quarter to half full with top soil.  
You can get top soil in bags at Home Depot for super cheap. 
Like, less than 2 bucks.  
We needed about two and a half bags for our two compost bins.

Step Five

If you choose to use a compost starter make sure you follow the directions on the bag.  
We decided to use a compost starter this time because it just speeds up the process a little.
We had to add a layer of compost starter after our leaves and after our dirt layer and add a little water each time.
It's as simple as that.

Step Six

Mix up all your brown materials and place the bin in a place that gets some sun and some shade.  We have ours positioned right off our deck so we have easy access.  

Step Seven

Put a compost bucket in your kitchen so you have a convenient spot for all your compostables.
You'd be amazed at all the stuff you can compost, so do a little research and see what is and is not compostable.

Here are some of the sites I use:


Step Eight

You're ready to compost!
Throw some stuff in there and make sure you give it a turn with a shovel at least once a week.
 You might see other sites saying that you should layer evenly and make sure you have an equal amount of brown (carbon rich material) and green (nitrogen rich material) at all times.  Honestly, in my experience I have found that it doesn't matter all that much.  

We just take out our compost every day and throw it in the bin.  We give the compost a turn with a shovel at least once a week and everything is fine!  If you notice that you are putting a lot in your compost and you have more waste material than leaves and dirt, you could add another layer of leaves and dirt and continue.  

So that's it.
Super easy, cheap and natural.
If you're a gardener, I swear it works wonders.
I used our compost in our garden last year and my crops went crayyy - zeee.  

If you're so inclined, give it a try. 
I promise it's totally painless!
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