Saturday, May 23, 2009


this weekend i'm doing something i've been wanting to do for a while: starting a compost bin so i can make really good "black gold" for my new garden. several weeks ago i took an industrial-sized rectangular, lidded plastic laundry detergent container with a handle and placed it under the sink next to the regular garbage. i began throwing in scraps of vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds and other non-animal-based items. at first i was a little scared of it, nervous to open it. what nether-worldly sights or smells might i encounter? fortunately my fears were unfounded; the coffee grounds dominate the senses so when you lift the lid you get an in-the-coffee-shop sensation rather than an in-the-black-lagoon one.

yesterday i was faced with the definitive, looming question about the bin: now that it is really full (and we don't want that lid popping off!), what am i going to do with it? in anticipation of this question, i've had my eye on a compost bin from it's low-maintenance (open the door and deposit; no churning necessary), durable (made from a composite material), affordable (about $70 as opposed to hundreds) and unobtrusive (that "garden green plastic pot" color that is so common.) so while there is much to recommend the costco composter, and i've been intending for weeks to purchase it, two thoughts struck me: 1. is there a home-made, low-tech, super-affordable way to get similar results and, 2. if i do something at home and on the cheap i can afford a much better new table top grill!

so, i decided to crawl the web in search of info. with two clicks i came to a wiki page that resolved my dilemma. i learned that with just a few bucks, a drill and a little patience, i can build my own composter. i purchased a heavy duty plastic storage container with a lid for $4, charged up the drill and made several holes on the lid and sides. i was thrilled to find out that once the material goes into the bin all i'll have to do is stir it around every few days with a rake and watch the magic happen.

with that solved, yet another question arose: do i need to put the bin in the direct sun? if so, i don't know that there's a sunny side of the house where i'd like to display a black rubber container bedecked with "polka dot" holes (the shady side of the house being the non-street side). fortunately i found out that although "hot composting"--locating the composter where there is direct heat several hours of the day--is a lot faster, i could locate my bin in the shade and accomplish my goal. in fact, from a site aptly named i found out there are several ways to make compost, with methods employing heat, worms, trenches and more!

i decided to put my bin on the shady side of the house right underneath the dryer vent (why not mix coffee dregs with downy?). i transferred the compost matter that i've collected so far into the bin and, to my delight and slight dismay, discovered that it is already gurgling with microbial activity (i was reminded of the irony that is the human fear of small things: micro-bugs cannot harm me, so why is my heart racing a little?).

during this composting 101 tutorial, i learned that the kind i'm doing--"cold composting"--is also known as "slow composting." as i mentioned above, applying heat to the matter speeds up the process exponentially, as does using warms in the bin. since i've already ruled out the hot option, i'm now faced with the question of worms. i think i'll wait and see just how "slow" it goes before i go worm shopping!

p.s saturday afternoon, after a day in the yard. i just found the best spot for the bin. it's a sunny, not-so-visible spot that backs up to the house. it's right next to the natural gas hookup, so no beauty contest going on there. also, when i lifted the lid today i noticed there are WORMS snaking through the orange peels and egg shells. i think they sneaked in when i deposited the dead stems and roots of some of last years annuals. that was a surprise! so now i'm not only doing hot composting but hot composting with worms!


kate o. said...

i'm totally having compost-envy right now.

good for you for making your own. and i think you should go for the worms!

when we finally get into our own place again i hope to start all of this.

Kelli said...

compost-envy--that's delicious! :)

well, boy it seems like I AM doing the worm thing although i don't know how it started, exactly! maybe i should give wormy some friends? i know it's primieval of me (if that's the term) but i'm a bit afraid of them! )i'll see if some friends emerge on their own...but, i agree, the faster the better and i think worms will def. speed up this process.

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