Saturday, 21 May 2011


I use a rotational system to make compost using garbage cans.  It's fairly effective if you layer the contents correctly, wet it regularly and turn the cans each week or so.  Unfortunately, I have no finished compost to show you as it's all been dumped into the garden, but I can show you how my crude but effective system works :)

First stop is the kitchen.  I keep 2 bins in the kitchen that are labelled so everyone knows where to put scraps.  The green bin is in my second sink and we use it for most of the scraps that we generate out of the kitchen - almost everything can go to the hens including plate scrapings, veggie and fruit trimmings, meat scraps (not chicken of course!), stale bread and crusts, etc.   The metal bin is kept on the counter between my coffee maker and the stove.  This is where we generate the compostable waste that can't go to the chickens (coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, orange peels and egg shells).   If you don't have chickens, be sure to NOT include meat and dairy scraps in your compost - it WILL attract rodents.

Next stop is outside!  We drilled holes into the bottom of 3 garbage cans to provide drainage, and then we placed the cans up on blocks of wood (you could use cinderblocks or bricks) to provide good ventilation.   Choose a location that is fairly sunny so that your compost will cook faster and give you finished compost sooner :)

Begin by layering dry brown ingredients at the bottom (leaves, chopped up twigs, etc) and then alternate dry brown layers (paper, leaves, twigs, etc) and wet green grass clippings or pulled weeds (not gone to seed) etc., or kitchen scraps.   It's like layering a brown and green dessert :)  Keep the quantities about equal, and remember to chop up anything bigger into smaller pieces so that it will break down faster.  I like to have a few bins on the go at one time because it gives me the chance to put the right ingredients into a bin in the right order.  For instance, if I come to the bins with a load of kitchen scraps, and the only bin I have going happens to already have a good layer of that on top, adding more will be too much.  If I have another bin going, it may have dry leaves or chopped up twigs on top and be ready to receive a dump of green stuff.  It's all very unscientific, and pretty forgiving, but I generally try to stick to that rule.

 This bin is FULL, and will now sit to cook.  Notice the paper and twigs sticking out from under the wet kitchen scraps of egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds.  Blech!  It feels kind of weird having you look at my compost - like it's private or something, lol.

This bin is ready for a dump of wet/green scraps.  I've got some of that waiting in a bucket to dump in there as we speak.

Once you have a full bin, stop adding to it and every week or so, take your garbage bin off it's stand, secure the lid WELL with a bungee cord, lay the can down on the ground (with the lid on) and roll it back and forth for a few minutes with your foot.  This mixes the "compost in the making" and gets things heated up in there.  Check your bins for moisture and add water as needed to keep it quite damp but not saturated.   Remember that the holes in the bottom of the cans will let extra water leach out.  Eventually, you'll have lovely loamy finished compost in your bin!  It will be created faster if you roll it & wet it frequently, and keep it in a sunny location.  Experiment!  See what works in your yard.

This morning, I moved my compost bins to a more convenient location - right at my main gate entrance to the garden and hen run.  I walk by there many times each day so I can check it frequently and add weeds and trimmings from the garden very easily.  Plus, when we come to tend to the hens, we can bring both scraps for the chickens and kitchen compostables for the bins at the same time.  Simplifying is a good thing.  Saving time and my energy is even better!

I learned about his composting method online a few years ago and I watched some youtube videos on the topic - maybe check them out if you have a minute to get some ideas.  You can use as many cans as you need, and they are very inexpensive to buy - much less so than buying specially made compost bins.   This method is really easy and it involves no hard, heavy digging/turning.  Plus when the compost is done cooking, you can simply take the can to your garden and dump it out wherever you need it.  Easy peasy!

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of having more than one bin going at a sure is handy...great post!