Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Build a Compost Bin

Composting is a natural biological process where bacteria, fungi and other organisms decompose organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, and food wastes. The end product is called compost. While composting occurs naturally, the process can be accelerated and improved by human intervention.

The most important step is selecting a compost method.  Here are a few ideas that can help you to build the perfect compost bin:

Holding unit
Containers or bins that hold yard and garden materials until composting is complete. Allow 6 months to 2 years for finished without turning. Popular options include a bin made from Wire mesh or Snow fencing. Both are easy to build and least labor intensive. Good for small compost amounts of yard wastes. Slowest way to compost.

Turning unit
A series of bins or a rotating bin that allows organic material to be turned on a regular schedule. Two general forms: either a series of bins, or a horizontally mounted rotating barrel. With a substantial input of labor, a large volume of yard waste can be composted in a relatively short time (3 weeks to 6 months). Turning bins can require a greater expense to buy or effort to build.

Worm composting
Food wastes can be digested by red worms (red wigglers) placed in a bin with shredded and moistened newspaper, corrugated cardboard, peatmoss or sawdust. Requires temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit so a basement or semi-heated indoor space is required.  Small amounts of worms turn fruit and vegetable scraps into a high-quality soil amendment. Generally, every pound of food waste to be composted per week will require 1 square foot of surface area. Two pounds of worms are needed for every pound of garbage produced per day.

No structure is required for heap composting. The pile should be at least 3 feet high and 3 feet wide; its length will vary depending upon the amount of material used.  Least expensive way to compost as no physical structure is needed. Heaps may not appear as neat and tidy as using a bin(s) for composting. Composting will be faster if the heap is turned regularly.

Soil incorporation
Non-fatty food wastes can be buried at least 8 inches below ground level. Burying at least 8 inches discourages animals from digging up the waste. Soil incorporation is a good method for disposing of small amounts of food wastes. Mix soil with the food waste to hasten decomposition. Wastes break down in one month to one year depending on soil temperatures, number of organisms in soil, and the carbon content of the wastes. Do not bury meat, bones or other fatty materials as it may attract pests.

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