10 March 2014

Make your own compost bin

Make your own compost bin

For a couple weeks the builder and myself were on our own. No housemates. Just us. While our previous house mate knew about our progression into a plastic free life we never pressured on them to adapt to our ways.
So when we were on our own, looking for a new housemate, I discovered our household bin was filling up with nothing but food scrapes (and not much at that). With part of our food scraps going into the freezer to be saved for vegetable broth the garbage bin was not being emptied until it was full. And sometimes that took longer than a week. So I proposed a compost bin.

Why compost?
Composting is not only great for the garden but is a fantastic way to keep food scraps from going into landfill where it does not break fast enough and creates a methane hazard. Plus your get great nutrient rich matter to add onto the garden.

I wanted one that would fit against the side of the house with the recycle bin and garbage. Our backyard is not huge and so I decided to keep a contained one. This helps in case we ever moved and to stop any vermin getting in too. Why did I make my own? Because it seemed pretty impossible to find a plastic free compost bin. Plus I saved some dollars making ours from a metal bin. Here is what I did it.

The key to a good compost is air. Regular garbage bins are not made to circulate air to keep the smell in. But with a compost bin the better the air circulation the less it will smell. I drilled holes in the body, the bottom and in the lid to get good air circulating.

I marked out the holes using a pencil.

Make your own compost bin
Next the drill. I used a 3.2 drill bit and followed the markings we made. I did this around the body, the bottom of the bin and the lid.
Make your own compost bin

Make your own compost bin
The compost was placed on top of two bricks to get the air circulating underneath. I put it in a shaded area so it does not dry out in the hotter months.
Make your own compost bin
Ready to fill it up now. This was the fun part. I needed to layer the bin with brown and green to get a mix of nitrogen and carbon rich materials. An even distribution will help the items in the compost break down. Too much green will not break down into compost but instead just rot. And if we have too much brown it will take a long time to break down.

Green: Think kitchen scraps, green leaves, grass clippings.
Brown: leaves, paper (not shiny), branches, twigs.

When I layered the thought was to alternate; a layer of soil, leaves and paper followed by a layer of kitchen scraps and green leaves. Brown, green, brown, green. In between each layer I sprinkled water to keep everything moist but not wet.

I decided to add worms to help speed up the process of the compost. Worms can eat one third of their own weight in one day and add nutrients to the soil. My worms did come in a plastic bag *(eek!). I had hoped to get some from a friend but a piece of citrus ended up in their compost. Word of warning: worms do not like citrus or onion and will vacate the building.

Make your own compost bin
The compost is now a weekly job of turning it to keep the matter as aerated as possible. I use a stick and sometimes I roll it on its side. It will be ready between three to six months to move onto the garden.

If you do not have space for a compost you could see if there is anyone in your neighbourhood that does like a community garden or neighbour. You can keep your scraps in a paper bag in your freezer until you are ready to drop it off for compost.

Have you ever made your own compost? I would love to hear your tips in the comments bellow.

*I did wash the bag out to be recycled.
  1. Katie Redfern6/23/2014

    I would recommend two bins- one you add new scraps to, and one that is fully composted. That way you don't have to use your fully composted mix all at once, and you can work on your next one breaking down.
    Some councils (Shoalhaven for example) will provide you a free bench top scrap bucket as an incentive to compost. Personally I use a plastic ice cream container, which I then take outside to our compost heap.
    Ours is 4 sided with a slide on the front so we can slide it up to access the fully composted material at the bottom. I used to turn ours with a garden fork but due to the height I was having issues turning it easily so invested in a compost screw. Best investment ever for a larger compost heap.
    Also, don't forget to add other garden matter like leaves and your vegetable plants when they reach the end of their life. There is some great stuff when you clean out your gutters too. If things are a bit large, either cut them by hand or lay them out on the lawn, set the mower to the highest setting and mow it up - just as good as a mulcher, if not better, especially if the material still has a lot of moisture in it.

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    1. Thanks for your tips Katie. We have had the compost bin now for six months and getting ready to put half of it onto a new garden bed. It has taken that long to fill it up as i try to use everything for cooking.

      We are considering getting a second compost bin. Mainly for citrus and onion. Right now I freeze those items and use the citrus for cleaning. The onion skins are just sitting in there until i can find someone who might want them or have a compost that will not mind taking them.

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  2. Hey Erin!
    What do you do with animal product scraps such as moldy cheese and meat bones? How do you dispose of them? I've heard they shouldn't be put into compost! Also with regards to onions and citrus - where should they go if they can't be composted?

    Thanks so much,
    Carmen

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    Replies
    1. Sorry ignore the second part about the citrus! You've already answered it!

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    2. I love cheese so much that it never goes moldy! As for bones I keep them in the freezer and use them to make stock for soups and casseroles. I use the bones 3-4 times - by that time they are soft and will decompose faster in the compost. I hope that help Carmy.

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  3. Great post.Thanks for sharing wonderful content.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words :)

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