Saturday, January 15

Comparing Composters for the Garden

I stopped by the garden today to drop off some food scraps to compost and I started looking around at all of the composters in our community garden. Because of the blanket of snow, it's easy to spot the different designs and I thought it would be interesting to hear from the gardeners what they think of the type they selected.

The Earth Machine was given away for free to residents who attended a compost workshop with the city. Not sure if it is still going on. Many of the garden members have these.

The fancy tumbler compost bin. So pretty. It holds less than other compost bins, but should process faster because it is being mixed more throughly. What did you guys think?

My compost bin. I got this one two years ago when it was on clearance for $40 and had no idea how huge it was until it arrived. I've never filled it more than 1/4 full because the base is so wide. I had some trouble snapping the lid full on, and the lid blew off in a strong wind storm we had last year, so now I have a brick ontop to hold it on. There are removable panels on all sides, though I usually end up pulling compost out of the middle. There are holes for air circulation in the front and it doesn't get mucky in there, usually the compost is too dry. I would drill some holes in the top to let rain water in.

This Super fancy zig-zag composter of course belongs to one of our most industrious and prolific gardeners and has seperate chambers inside to add air to the compost and help it process more quickly.

One of the most basic, but very functional, compost designs that many gardeners have set up involved making a wire circle and sometimes supporting it with poles driven into the ground. Super easy but requires some wire. They suggest it measures 3 ft across to build up enough heat to break things down.

A basic compost box. This gardener buid out of scrap wood with broken ends screwed together with since cross-braces to keep it sturdy. Cheap and relatively easy. I built one of these in New Orleans out of two by fours and chicken wire and it worked wonderfully. I made a little wire flap on the front and made the legs tall enough to lift it 1 ft. off the ground to make it easy to get the black compost out. I filled it mostly with dead leaves, some yard dirt and added food scraps daily. The following spring I had a huge rubbermaid tub full of beautiful compost. When you enclose the bottom, you can place it anywhere in the yard: ours was in a corner on the concrete patio.

One of the most simple designs I have seen. This gardener stuck some poles in the ground (bamboo sticks) and interlaced some more sticks horizontally. Then in goes the yard waste. Genius.

Any full-sized trash can can be made into a compost bin with a few holes drilled to let air circluate and to let waste water out of the bottom (and bugs in). This is a rubber trash can.

This is a woven fiber hamper made into a compost bin. Simple.

Another fancy tumbler. This one has rollers underneath that you just give it a spin and a large hatch to get stuff in and out. The base has a spout and I'm not sure why since it's not connected to the top. Anyone know?

A trash bag! When you have no place else to put your yard waste, you could just bag it up and let it sit. It will break down and reduce in size over time, but could smell yucky from having no air circulation.

This two bin system was made out of teak and very pretty looking. The design is simple. You fill one side with waste for a while. Then you move it over and leave it to cook down. While it is cooking, you start filling the other bin.

I'm not sure if this gardener is composting or trying to keep his hibiscus from dying over the winter, but this was a sheet of black plastic covering a mound of dried leaves. The plastic was held down with bricks on the corners and 6" slits had been cut in the plastic to let air in. Don't see why it wouldn't work for compost that is cooking down.

Another lovely tumbler, this one with a hand crank and bright gren accents. Looks like fun.

I thought this was one of the most inventive solutions: a pop up mesh hamper.

This design I have seen several places: you get three shipping palettes and attach them together to make three sides of your open bin.

The very easiest and cheapest way to go is a pit in the ground. My dad has done this for ages in his backyard and he rotates the location to the four corners of the yard, burying the old one each year when he is done. The neighborhood cats love the open design, but my dad's yard is so fertile it grows more cucumbers and tomatoes than he knows what to do with.

Finally here is a super-inventive design I found for a homemade tumbler:

It's hard to fight the desire to buy the newest and coolest design from an on-line catalog, but there are some really cheap and easy ways to make an effective compost bin yourself.
How to Make and Use Compost the Ultimate Guide by Nicky Scott was a fantastic resource I read last summer that includes reviews of the pros and cons of the designs above as well as recipes for what you can put in compost, temperatures, and more advanced concerns.
Leave your comments here and on the Spring Gardens Facebook Page.
Happy Composting!

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