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How to Set Up a Compost Bin

Even if you live in an apartment or other small space, it’s possible to make your own compost to reduce your waste and feed your container plants. Compost that’s kept properly doesn’t smell bad or attract vermin, and within a year you will be rewarded with black, nutrient-rich soil that your plants will love. Setting up a compost bin isn’t difficult, but it takes a little work and practice to get just the right balance of heat, moisture, nutrients and bacteria.

Choose a heavy-duty plastic bin with a lid. The bin must be able to hold at least 30 gallons, but the size will vary depending in the size of your family and how much waste you produce. Clean the bin with hot, soapy water and remove any stickers.

Drill holes in the lid of the bin. The holes should be 1/2 inch in diameter and evenly spaced over the lid.

Drill 1/2-inch holes along the top edge of the bin. Leave 1 inch between each hole. Drill six or eight drainage holes into the bottom of the bin.

Shred several sheets of newspaper and layer it on the bottom of the bin. You should have at least 4 inches of newspaper on the bottom.

Add a layer of green material on top of the newspaper. Green material is vegetable and fruit cuttings, used tea leaves and coffee grounds, and fresh plant material.

Layer brown material on top of the green material. Brown material includes autumn leaves, dried grass, and shredded cardboard.

Continue layering green and brown material until the bin is almost full. Leave a few inches of space at the top of the bin.

Water the materials in the bin. Everything should be moist but not soaking wet. Set the bin on top of an upturned extra bin lid if you’re making compost on a balcony and you don’t want the water running all over. Place the bin in a warm place and cover it. Leave it alone for about a month.

Use a shovel to mix the compost once a month, and add more water if necessary. As the material decomposes, the level in the bin will go down, so top it off with new green and brown waste and mix it in. Try to keep the brown and green materials as balanced as possible.

Use the compost after 8 to 12 months, when it looks like soil and not garbage. Mix compost in your potting soil or sprinkle it around existing plants to fertilize them.

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