Monday, December 13, 2010

Our 3-Bin Compost System

Our three-bin composter....what a beauty.

Are you interesting in composting? We were as we started a very large garden this year. Compost not only helps to keep organic waste out of our landfills, but it also serves as a rich fertilizer for gardens, providing better drainage, nutrients and moisture retention in garden beds.

Side view of the bin, all walls are mesh wire except for the front.

Since we have the space, we decided to go with a three-bin compost system. I cannot attest to the building process because it was all accomplished by my handsome husband. I believe he used a plan similar to this. It was slightly more expensive than I wanted, but we're hoping this will serves us for many, many, many years. We used cedar wood to extend its longevity. Certainly pine would be much more cost effective, and I have even seen wooden pallets used. It is very important to note though, especially if using reclaimed wood, make sure the wood is NOT TREATED.

Slats slide in and out of a groove.

To use a system like this, start building your compost pile in the left bin. When this bin becomes full, turn the pile by transfering it to the middle bin. This will aerate the pile and hasten decomposition. Start a new pile in the left bin. When that becomes full, turn the middle pile into the right bin for finishing, and the left pile moves down the road into the middle bin, making the left bin available for a brand new pile. Finished compost will eventually be removed from the right bin.

To turn, I'd remove all or most of these front slats. TIP: Test ahead of time. You may have to be sure to keep the slats in order! Homemade wood cuts may not be as precise, and therefore may sit differently in the slats.

My husband added this feature to help keep the lid propped open while I'm dumping things. Just a piece of wood attached to the bin by rope, I place it under the hinged lid to keep it from closing. The lid is somewhat heavy.

Especially with snow. I will have to clear snow off this in order to use it throughout the winter. The lid is fiberglass and lets sunlight through to aid in decompostion and retain heat. Many people build these bins without a lid and they work wonderfully. We were somewhat worried about wildlife causing havoc.

My handy pitchfork.

A pitchfork or similar garden tool will be very useful for turning your pile.

This is my compost bucket I keep up at the house, right inside my garage door.

I keep a compost pail up at the house until I'm ready to carry it down to my bin. It is a galvanized steel bucket with a tight fitting lid, I believe it holds about 5 gallons. Since I am all about keeping this easy, I also keep an extra large plastic container in my kitchen to store scraps. I like having a smaller size available right where I work, I'll peel potatoes or carrots right into the container. It is a double-sized old Folgers coffee container. It has a lid (highly recommend to deter fruit flies) and I keep it under the counter in a closed cabinet. I fill it every day or so. Then I dump it in my 5 gallon bucket. Once a week or week and a half, I bring my bucket down to the composter.

Here is a nice easy to read chart that will help sort out what to add to your pile. While you could simply dump things into your pile willy nilly, it aids decomposition to add them in a certain manner.

I am quite sure that we have added too much dry yard waste (we had so many leaves this fall!). I really should have been watering things down a bit, just to dampen. Thin layers of green (wet matter) alternated with brown (dried matter) is the way to go, and I believe our ratio got thrown off. It's all a learning experience.

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  1. Beautiful work with this box! Kudos to your husband.

  2. Oh wow, well done building this!
    We have yet to sort out a compost bin for around here, thank you for the reminder.

  3. Great composter. We have just gone with a loose compost pile in the corner of the yard, which has always worked fine, but I wanted to do the three-bin. I just wasn't sure how it worked. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Looks great! I think I'm going to use the same plans for our next composter.

  5. Where did you purchase the corrugated fiberglass that size? The home centers I have been to only have widths of 26"...far too slim for our 50" bins front to back. :(