Country Lore: A Better Compost Bin

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These compost barrels are easier to use and more attractive than this reader's previous compost bin.

My 4-by-4-foot open, wooden compost bin worked well for years, but the compost material was heavy to turn. When we rescued a dog from the local animal shelter and discovered that she liked to dig into the compost bin, we knew we needed a more secure compost system.

I discovered these 22-gallon barrels, with holes in the sides and lids, at the hardware store and purchased two. I feel as if I have built a better mousetrap. I throw kitchen scraps — along with leaves, wood chips, lawn clippings and soil — into the barrels. Last summer, I made 12 bins of compost (about 260 gallons).

The bins sit in the sun and “cook” fast, breaking down the organic material; the holes provide necessary aeration; the barrels are easily moved around the garden on a trolley or handcart; and rain can get in through the holes in the lids. I also drilled several drainage holes in the bottoms for the excess fluid to escape, and put the bins on bricks to keep them from sinking into the ground. In winter, I move them close to the house.

These compost barrels are ideal for a family that generates small amounts of garbage. They are compact, rodent- and dog-proof and not unsightly even in the smallest.