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Building and Using a Compost Bin

Building and Using a Compost Bin

My husband and I got plans from Lowes.com, however a quick search in Google for "compost bin plans" will yield a good number of sources for plans.  For our compost bin, we had to make a few substitutions as some of the materials were not available in our rural town.  That's the beauty of building your own projects, you can build them in a manner that suites you best.  Who says you have to follow the rules!  I liked this design because of the removable slats in the front for easier access with a shovel.

The idea behind using a multi-bin system is you can build a compost pile while another is going through the decomposition process.  I opted for a two bin compost system.  However if you have a lawn, you will have more materials for your bin, so you may want to consider a three bin compost system.

You can just leave the pile without transferring it to the next bin, which means you have "cold compost".  You are not actively mixing and aerating the pile.  This is not a bad thing, it just takes longer for the material to decompose as you are not providing additional oxygen to the microbes and you may end up with some larger material that needs to be screened out before use.  It may take up to a year for a cold compost pile to produce finished compost.

When you are more proactive in the compost process, you are creating "hot compost".  The hot compost method produces finished compost at a much faster rate.

As you place materials into the pile, alternate layers of brown material with green.  Brown materials consist of dead leaves, saw dust, paper shredding, etc.  Green materials are fresh lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and the like.

Also periodically water your compost pile.  It should never be soaking wet, just damp like a wrung out paper towel.  An overly wet compost pile could product some unwelcome smells!

Once you fill one bin, shovel the material into the adjacent bin taking care to mix the materials as you move them.  Then when you have your new pile created, place a layer of soil on top of the pile.

This is when the compost magic happens!

As the microbes begin to break down the materials, the compost pile will heat up.  The internal temperature could reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit!

Occasionally poke holes into the pile to provide oxygen to the microbes in the pile.

When the mass of the pile reaches one third its original size, this is a pretty good indicator that the compost is ready for use.  The internal temperature will decrease as well.

Finished compost is dark and crumbly, with an "earthy" smell to it.  You can use a sifter to separate the finished compost from larger materials that could benefit from more time in the pile.

Now you are ready to use your compost!

Sources:

Compost Bin Plans from Lowes.com

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