A Brief Intro to Composting

gwtamaraJanuary 1, 2013

Types of Composting

The first question many beginners ask is 'What is the best bin?" The first question should be, "What do you want to do?"

Look at what materials you want to get rid of or have access to, and how much compost you want or need. Once you know what materials you have available or can scrounge you can decide on what type of bin is appropriate.

A variety of manufactured bins are available; many do not work any better than cheap do-it-yourself types. There are many informational sites that have detailed drawings in building any type of setup you might need.

Some of the most common are:

  • Pallet Bin

    The cheap way to get started could be a square bin made of salvaged wooden palettes wired or screwed together. Pallets are easy to come by and make sturdy containment areas.

  • Wire Mesh Bin

    Round bins made of hardware cloth are also very simple, cheap and effective. Diameters of three to five feet are best. Just get some sturdy utility fence material and form it into a cylinder. Use some zip ties or just twisted wire to hold the ends together. You can line the inside with breathable landscaping fabric or even plastic sheeting to help retain the moisture. Fold the top edge over and secure it with clothspins or binder clips or even staples.

  • Rotating Tumbler

    Tumblers advertise quick and easy compost but beginners often have problems with them. For best results, tumblers require filling at one time, and carefully measuring the moisture and green/brown ingredients. They are a poor choice to start with unless you are willing to devote considerable effort to monitoring the inputs. After some experiance you may choose to add a tumbler as an addition to your efforts.

Odors and animal pests are often a source of worry for beginners but proper understanding can eliminate problems. A proper balance of browns mixed in with the greens will keep the pile from smelling sour. Kitchen scraps should be buried in the middle of the pile - if they are added close to the surface they may draw pests. Problematic materials like fish should be buried deep or used in a special pile.

The three major methods to compost are:

An Bin Hot or Cold. Slow or Fast. Pile it and Let it Rot or Turn and Tend Regularly. The options are endless. This is the method that is most commonly used and is one of the most fool proof. Pile in your ingredients and nature takes it from there. The amount of care and work you put into the process determines your results somewhat, but even if you do nothing time will eventually reduce the pile to compost. Dust to dust and all that. A size of 3' x 3'b x 3' is said to be the minimum to get things to heat up for the best result. A hot pile is NOT required for the materials to break down. Heat does speed up decomposition, but requires more frequent turning and water. Microorganisms cause breakdown at temperatures between 50F and 158F. One reason for desiring hotter temperatures is to kill any weed...

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