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Commercial vs. homemade compost bin? Options
#1 Posted : Wednesday, May 28, 2003 10:07:46 PM
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There are two basic ways to make compost happen. Both use the ''microherd'' -- small animals or plants that enrich soil and/or break down organic material into usable compost.

''Hot'' compost piles use lil bugs (pillbugs, worms, ants, etc.) and aerobic bacteria (microbes that use oxygen) to break down organic material. These piles can make beautiful compost in as little as a week (if the beginning materials are small enough bits), but need to be turned so that oxygen can get into the pile, and need to be kept moist. They''re called ''hot'' because they can ''cook'' at up to 140 degrees!

''Cold'' compost piles use lil bugs (pillbugs, worms, ants, etc.) and anaerobic bacteria, which don''t need oxygen. They rarely get over 10 degrees above ambient temperature. They''ll turn out compost in a year or two, but never need to be turned or aerated. Think of digging a hole in the earth and dumping your kitchen scraps in it; in a year it''ll be to-die-for ''black gold''.

What the heck does this have to do with building your own compost bin? Well, you have to figure out what kind of bin you want, and that comes from what kind of compost pile you''ll be building. Cold piles just sit and do their thing. Hot piles ''cook'' only when as wet as a wrung-out sponge, have to be turned constantly, and need a balance of ingrediants. But they do produce much quicker.

So -- if you want to build a bin, it''s generally recommended to build a hot compost bin because cold piles are just...well...piles! ;) Most folks build bins with one or two or three compartments, so that you can ''turn'' the material from one to the other, with a shovel or a fork. The hot compost basically gets turned topsy-turvy into the next bin. Some folks stick perforated PVC pipe or stovepipe into their piles, just to give it that much more oxygen.

Biggest ''pro'' for hot piles and all that extra work: if ya get the right mix, they don''t smell!

With that in mind, almost ANYTHING will do for a compost bin. I''ve seen them in expensive fancy molded plastic, plastic bags, wooden pallets, cement blocks, chicken wire, native wood, plastic trash cans, and anything else that comes to hand. Since you have a dog and don''t want bits to fall out, may I suggest ''liberating'' some rough wooden pallets from somewhere, and nailing them together loosely? That would likely keep most dogs out, and keep most bits in, though you might have to do a bit of clean-up every once in a while. Most pallets don''t use treated wood anyway, so their eventual composting would just add to the pile anyway.
#2 Posted : Thursday, May 29, 2003 4:15:44 AM
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WOW! I am impressed. Your information is quite helpful & concise! Thanks Aris for your input!
#3 Posted : Friday, May 30, 2003 4:24:04 AM
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My pleasure! Now if only someone could tell me where to get those cool brushes that are all bristles on one side and just a row on the other, so I could get the compost out from under my fingers???

Remember: if you have soil that''s too much clay, too much sand, too acidic, too alkaline, WHATEVER -- adding organic material is the best way to buffer it and solve the problem. The ''fix'' using organic techniques isn''t as quick as chemicals, but it is long-term, reduces pest & disease infestations, and is proven to be healthier not only for the environment, but puts more nutrients in your harvest. Give your garden three years -- year one for ooopses, year two for the good stuff to really show, and year three to be thoroughly pleased with the result. By year four, you''ll have neighbors knocking on your door for advice on how your cucumbers are so prolific (early picking) and your lawn so green (often but light cutting)!
#4 Posted : Friday, May 30, 2003 4:56:06 PM
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If you''re in an apartment, or looking for smaller-scale to start, I highly recommend a vermicomposting bin (aka a Worm Bin).

I''ve got one made from a simple, 56L rubber-made type container, with holes drilled in the lid, filled with moist, shredded newspaper. Cover the holes with screen, to keep the worms and other creatures IN the bin, and then put it under a table, or under your sink or some other place out of the way.

You may be worried about keeping something like this in the house, but fear not! I keep it in my small apartment, right beside where I sit to eat dinner, and I can''t smell anything. My fiance, who is very sensitive to smells, doesn''t smell a thing. The bin happily consumes all our organic wastes (even meat and dairy), and produces a very strong compost tea, as well as the worm castings.

To collect the tea, get another of the same containers, drill holes in the bottom of your first container (to allow the tea to drip out), and put the full container into the empty one. I recommend you empty your tea every day, and use it right away, as it CAN get smelly (you won''t notice until you take the top bin off, BTW). If you want to store it, then you should put an air-stoned (like a bubbler for an aquarium) in the bottom, which will keep the aerobic organisms active, while killing the (smell-producing) anaerobic organisms.

If you do this, don''t make the same mistake I did... put a screen over the bottom too, or your tea-collecting-container will get dirty. That''s the next thing I need to do for mine.

In warm climates, they can be put outdoors too. Basements are also great places for them.

For more information, check out Mary Appelhof''s book "Worms Eat My Garbage".
#5 Posted : Friday, May 30, 2003 7:11:41 PM
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Scriven, I just read your reply and then did a quick internet search (printed out some instructions with pics) and I am now PSYCHED about getting started. Composting seemed a little technical and time consuming...but your suggestion sounded perfect for me. THANKS!!!
#6 Posted : Friday, May 30, 2003 10:59:21 PM
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You''re very welcome!
Share and enjoy. :)

I love spreading this stuff around.
#7 Posted : Tuesday, June 03, 2003 5:29:39 PM
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I''ve tried bins made of wire, but being always short on time to spend turning, etc, I just leave one row in the garden for this year''s compost. Start at one end, bury whatever, then move down, by the end of summer, it all rots anyway, and it''s under the ground the whole time.
#8 Posted : Wednesday, June 04, 2003 4:54:37 PM
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Easiest plan I saw came from MOTHER, I think, many years ago.

Make a wire compost bin. NO BOTTOM ON IT. From time to time pick up the wire and move it. Pile your composting materials back into it. I think they reccomend using two of them. One for old stuff one for a new pile.

Think I''ll set that up this weekend.
#9 Posted : Monday, June 16, 2003 4:41:06 PM
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I have been turning a home build unit for about a month, prior to that I was just rolling a barrel across the yard but it took to long. I took a plastic 55 gal drum made sheet metal plates 6"x6" and bolted them to opposite sides half way up the drum. Drilled hole large enough to accept a 1" pipe through the plates and mounted the pipe on top of two posts. The drum lid has a metal band that clamps around the lid to keep it on when you spin it end over end.The 1" pipe running through breaks up the materials as it falls. I have drilled small 1/8" holes in the top and bottom and all around the drum for air and water. After about a month it looks like the first batch is done. I kept the other drum next to it as a staging unit for the next load. I did mount the drum high enough and the posts wide enough to roll my wheel barrow under it to unload.
#10 Posted : Monday, June 16, 2003 4:41:06 PM
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I really want to recycle all my compostable items. I like the idea of a neat and clean, non-smelly, enclosed...nevertheless PLASTIC commercial bin, but at the same time I feel rather compelled to be creative and "build" my own. Have read some plans on how to build one, which often consists of very OPEN wiring or loosly enclosed boards...but how would all the small items keep from falling out (especially when turning) and and keep animals (my dog especially) from getting into it? Looking for ideas as to how to construct one that meets all my stated concerns.

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