The idea of turning garbage into gold is always appealing. Compost does that and more, recycling your kitchen detritus into organic compost to feed your vegetable garden. You can make this happen in your own backyard without much effort or expense by creating a DIY compost bin.
Making Your Own Compost
Composting isn't a new concept. Mother Nature has done it since the beginning of time. Leaves fall from the trees in autumn, decay in the rains of winter and enrich the soil for spring growth. Almost anything plant-based – including veggie peels and fruit cores – will disintegrate into a product that adds organic content and nutrition to the soil, given moisture, heat and time.
Starting a compost bin is one way to help nature along. Sure, you can buy packaged compost at the garden store, but, like fruit and vegetables from your own garden, compost you make yourself is better than the store-bought variety, and considerably cheaper.
Starting a Compost Pile
Making a compost pile doesn't have to be complicated. All you really need is:
- a free square yard in the backyard
- material to compost
As long as you don't mind the open pile, there is nothing stopping you from dumping kitchen peelings and some yard clippings in an out-of-the-way garden corner. Pile the material to be composted directly on the soil, layer in some straw and manure, then water occasionally. Turn the pile with a rake from time to time to give all parts of it air and sun.
Compostables include veggie peelings, egg shells, paper, used coffee and filters, fruit cores, fruit peels, alfalfa hay, algae and seaweed, flowers, grass, hedge clippings, shredded leaves, nut shells, pine needles, cornstalks and wood ash. Get a longer list of what you can and can't add online.
Making a DIY Compost Bin
If you don't like the idea of an open compost pile, it's also easy to make your own compost bin. There are as many ways to make a DIY compost bin as there are creative people. The basic idea is to create a box to hold the compost pile.
Once simple way to do this is by nailing four wooden pallets together to create an open-topped box, then position that on a fifth pallet. You can get fancier by using chicken wire, brick, cinder blocks, bricks or any other non-toxic material you have on hand. The compost procedure remains the same.
Creating a Kitchen Compost Bin
You aren't likely to dash out to the backyard compost heap every time you peel a carrot or crack an egg. That's where a kitchen compost bin comes in. This isn't actually a bin where composting happens. Rather, it's a container in the kitchen in which to store fresh compostables until you can get them outside to the compost bin.
Look for a small container that is both airtight and watertight. Plastic yogurt containers work for this and are free, but your options are unlimited. Use an old ceramic cookie jar, a metal bucket with a lid or even an old canister. Place it where it will be handy to access while you are cooking, then remember to empty it regularly.
If you fear that your kitchen compost bin might generate odors, you can find indoor compost bins in commerce that have a charcoal filter to help abate smells. They may also look more attractive than your canister. To make a bin with a charcoal filter on your own with a plastic coffee can, buy some charcoal filters from a pet store (meant to use with kitty litter) and get ahold of a drill and some glue. Drill 10 1/4-inch holes in the lid of the coffee can, then glue the charcoal filter to the lid.
Composting in a Small Space
If you don't have a big backyard, you can still compost. Small scale composting requires a little more effort but can provide usable compost in a much shorter time. Here are three options:
- Tumblers: These are closed containers that rotate on an axis to add oxygen regularly. They create fast, excellent compost while saving space.
- Vermicompost: This is essentially using redworms, also known as red wigglers, to help your compost materials break down quickly in your own house. Buy a vermicomposting kit to begin, or read up on how to make your own.
- Bokashi composting: This Japanese technique uses a bokashi mix (wheat bran inoculated with microbes) to start an aerobic fermentation process. You blend it with soil in a bucket to activate it, then add compost materials and shut the lid.
- Cornell: Why Composting?
- Compost Instructions: What You Can and Can't Compost
- University of Illinois Extension: Building Your Compost Pile
- Compost Guide:18 Cool DIY Compost Designs
- DIY Network: Kitchen Compost Bins
- Permaculture News: Small Space Composting
- Homeguides: Make Your Own Urban Composter
- DIY Natural: Kitchen Compost Bucket – DIY, Easy, and Frugal
- Save.ca: Getting the Compost Smell Out of the Kitchen
- Planet Natural: Bokashi