Well the time finally came that my purchased compost bins became obsolete! This is both a good and bad sign. It is bad, because we had to come up with something useful, quickly…good because we continue to close the organic and paper waste cycle.
When I started the garden, one of the first things I purchased and installed was a compost bin. The basic black plastic structure functioned well for kitchen scraps and other organic matter, but took an absolute age to break down because you cannot turn your pile within the bin; because of this limitation it didn’t produce enough compost in a year’s time so I continued to buy in organic material for the garden. A few years later I added a second bin to manage the pile, it had the same drawbacks.
Part of our multi-year plan to be more self-reliant, be a household of production versus consumption, and to ease our burden on municipal waste system was to direct the majority of our organic waste (yard waste, our paper shredder, kitchen scraps, etc.) to the compost bins to be turned into rich organic amendments and top dressings for the garden. In increasing the amount going into the bins, they finally became overfilled, became unsightly and attracted bugs and vermin.
Over the winter we finally decided to dedicate more space for compost and to build a three stage system to process the organic matter. This spring, we put that plan into motion. We opened the current compost bins, took the raw material off the top and placed on a tarp, then took the finished compost and added it to the bottom of the garden beds as we re positioned them in the potager. The old compost bins went to municipal recycling as I could not find a use for the plastic panels.
We sourced free, non-treated pallets for base material. We used three full pallets for the back plane of the system and four pallets to create the bin separations. For the bin separators, I cut about a foot off of each pallet so they would not stick so far out into the garden.
Once we had our materials ready, we placed paver bricks on the ground and built the compost bins on top of them so they wouldn’t be in direct contact with the ground. We screwed the back plane to our existing fence; then attached the bin separators. We used the scrap wood cut off from the pallets to screw to the fronts of the bin separators to finish them off. Finally we lined each bin with chicken wire to contain all of the organic material.
We chose not to seal the wood, it is untreated and will eventually rot, but that is a few years down the road and nothing will leach into our compost and then into our food supply.
We are considering creating some kind of front panel to keep the compost contained and to add to the look of the area while the compost and waste breaks down, but for now, we have definitely upcycled some otherwise waste material into something really useful for the garden!
This new compost system will definitely break down faster, have more capacity and allow us to further close the organic waste loop on our little patch of Mother Earth!