First, ask yourself…
- How much waste do I throw away, including food and yard waste?
- How do I want my bin to look? Nice and contained? Loose and casual?
- Will the bin be the right size?
- Can I add bins in the future if I need to?
- Does the bin have a lid and air vents? Can it keep rodents and pests out?
- Can I easily remove finished compost?
You will need the right ingredients, which are remarkably simple. You need “green” ingredients, meaning food scraps and vegetation, to supply nitrogen. These can be the leftovers of your cooked meals, eggshells, coffee grounds, house plant clippings and/or yard waste. One simple rule is: if it once lived, you can compost it!
Next you need “brown” ingredients, meaning dry materials like straw, grass clippings and shredded paper to supply carbon. Mix these, alternating if possible, with the green ingredients.
You need air for the bacteria to breathe. No air means no life and no compost. Just a globby mess. So the bin should have holes or slats for air to circulate and you can give it a stir every now and then so that the air can reach the lower areas. If you have a tumbler, just give it a spin.
Finally, you need moisture. If your bin is open and nature provides rain, you have it made. If it’s been hot for a while, be sure to water the pile. If it’s too dry, the composting process will slow down. Too wet, and it can get too hot and mushy.
Microbes are all around looking for work to do. Build it and they will come.
Manufactured compost bins come in many sizes and shapes. They are very neat and clean. Look for one with a handy opening, holes for aeration, a trap door to get the compost out the bottom and an easy way to get in and stir it every now and then.
Compost tumblers provide one of the fastest ways to make finished compost. A good compost tumbler aerates, turns and heats the organic material very efficiently, creating finished compost in as little as 3 weeks!
Wire or plastic container
This is a little more rugged. If you have the space, it’s also an inexpensive way to compost or create a holding bin. Pliable fencing, rabbit wire, or manufactured plastic with holes will do the trick. Create a circle or square to contain your pile.
Wooden bins can be creatively designed with solid or slatted sides. Think about ease of access to the contents, whether creatures can get into it, and how it looks.
You can also just dig a hole, put the compost in, cover it with enough dirt that no critter will dig it back up again and let nature do the rest!
What can you add?
For your greens, all vegetable and fruit waste, including rinds and cores – even if they are moldy and ugly – can be added. Ingredients such as old bread or pizza crust (anything made from flour or grains) are a good idea – cooked or uncooked. Crushed eggshells and used coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, which is especially good for veggies, including tomatoes and peppers. Nut shells, like those from peanuts, pistachios or sunflowers are great for aerating the soil.
Dry ingredients can include straw, dry leaves, shredded paper and shredded yard waste. Avoid meats and cheeses as that will likely attract larger, unwanted critters.
The composter contents should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If the contents are too dry, they will take too long to compost. If too wet, the contents may begin to smell. If the pile does not decrease in size or generate heat, the compost may need a boost. If the pile is dry, add water – mixing as best you can.