About two-thirds of the trash generated in the U.S. is bio-degradable and can be composted. According to an EPA study in 1990, Americans generate 4.3 pounds of trash each day per person. Imagine the money you could save on fertilizers and garden amendments by simply turning that waste into a usable compost. Composting can be done easily and inexpensively if you build your own bins.
The Garden Pile
Composting directly into the garden is about the cheapest and most simple way to compost. Simply start a pile of compostable material in a corner of the garden. The pile method, though, is not without its faults. Unprotected scraps are at the mercy of scavengers, so be prepared to find a skunk or a raccoon hanging around.
Attracting pests to your garden might not be the best option for the small hobby farmer or backyard gardener. Another option to the pile is the idea of trench composting--that is, digging a trench along an area of the garden and bury items as they are deposited. Proponents to this method claim that the benefits include losing no nutrients to run-off or pests, no smell or unsightly mess, and that the soil helps break down the items quickly.
When composting yard waste only--such as grass clippings, leaves, twigs and disease-free plant matter--a wire bin works well. Simply made of chicken wire or fence material in either a circular, movable shape or secured onto stakes, wire bins protect matter from blowing away. Known as cold composting, this method of collecting yard waste and allowing it to biodegrade on its own timetable is perfect for the gardener who wants to live green but is not concerned with when the compost is ready.
Wire bins allow worms and other organisms access to the pile as well as air and water. Pests have no interest in yard waste and there is virtually no smell.
Most wood constructed compost bins are designed with fence sides and slat-built fronts that slide into place. Variations of the designs are available from agricultural extension offices online and in your area for free.
Wood composters are for the serious organic gardener and often are designed in threes--one for the ready-to-use compost, one for collecting materials, and one in the "cooking" process.
Plastic Bins and Tumblers
For the ultimate recycle fan, turning an old trash can or storage bin into a composter is a great idea. By simply adding some holes or drainage and ventilation and securing the lid, you have a composter. With a few simple steps, you can turn your bin into a tumbler unit as well.