How Does a Compost Bin Work?

Types of Composting

Compost is the "black gold" of the garden. Once the pile of organic matter becomes dark and smells like fresh dug earth, it is ready to use. There are several ways to form compost. The two methods of composting are "cold" and "hot" compost piles. These two methods break down even further to heaped, bin or triple bin composting. The concept behind turning the waste materials into compost are the same for all the methods. The difference is the time and work involved. The single bin "hot" method works well for someone who has time during the day to tend the bin but little space.

The Materials

Any organic material such as grass clippings, dead leaves, kitchen waste and newspapers work in the compost bin. The ideal bin is built like a wooden cage or crate. Chicken wire is good for making the sides to let air flow freely through the material. Brown dead matter, like leaves, is layered in first. Green matter such as grass clippings gets piled on next. Other materials from the kitchen, like leftover produce, potato peels, and even coffee grounds are good additives because of their nutrient value to the final product. Top soil thrown on top acts as the icing on the cake. The entire heap is watered down with a hose and left to sit for about three or four days.

The Process

As the organic matter decays, micro-organisms work to break down the material. Heat is generated, allowing the compost pile to "cook." Turning the pile every few days speeds up the process because the material is rotated so everything gets a chance to be in the hot spot. Turning also lets the smaller particles fall to the bottom of the pile. The end result is the entire mass has decomposed enough that you can not even tell what the original material was when the compost pile first started. The color is rich and dark. The smell is that of fresh garden soil. The aroma is almost like an earthy musk. It is at this point that the compost is ready to use.

Keywords: composting, compost, compost bins

About this Author

Julie Richards is a freelance writer from Ohio. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years, and published a variety of e-books and articles on gardening, small business and farming. She is currently enrolled at Kent State University completing her bachelor's degree in English.