Happy Monday! Did you have a good weekend? It was gorgeous here in RVA so not only were we able to get outside for playtime but it also means the air was off, the doors were open and the house was flowing with freshness. Mmmm…gotta love spring. 🙂
Ok, now let’s talk about how freaking ready I am to get my compost on. It kills me every time I throw food scraps into the garbage knowing this is something that could be avoided…if only I had a composting bin up and running! Problem is, I’m stuck trying to decide how I’m going to do it; both which type of bin to use as well as composting method. There are so many types of “bins” out there to choose from. Ones that spin, ones that stack, ones that are simply a wire cage and then there’s everything in between. I refuse to run out and buy a composting bin (or even something that isn’t specifically a composting bin but still bought, new or used) so I am prepared with work with what I’ve got.
If you are new to the details of composting, which I was before starting this journey so no shame, there are two main methods. First there is the traditional “hot” composting method which simply uses oxygen loving microbes to break down organic materials, resulting in heat. This process is created by adding a balance between nitrogen and carbon rich materials and turning regularly to “aerate.” In the other style of composting, worms eat through organic materials, and whatever passes out of them becomes the compost. This is referred to as worm “castings” or poop. As gross as that may sounds its apparently very nutrient dense. The benefit of worm composting is that they do all the work for you, but the downside is they are temperature sensitive, so I’m leaning towards the traditional route.
I’ve been doing my research about different types of DIY containers and have three options available to me that I think could all work. I’m going to share those three options, along with the pros and cons of each, so you can help me make my decision. 😉 To give you an idea of what I’m working with, I live in a laid back suburban neighborhood (no HOA) with a relatively roomy, but not huge, backyard. Whatever I do, I’m thinking I’ll have to have more than one bin eventually so one heap can finish composting while I work on another.
Option #1: Metal Trashcan
There are several DIY videos that recommend taking a plastic trashcan with a lid and drilling small holes into it. With these cans the compost can be rolled around on their side to promote aeration. My parents happen to have an old metal galvanized trashcan that they are no longer using and said I am welcome to so that is option #1.
– It’s not plastic.
– Enclosed with the exception of small holes throughout to promote air flow. This keeps critters and excessive moisture out.
– Smaller than a wood box and more visually appealing than a plastic tub.
– Possible rust?
– May be hard to turn heap and keep aerated as it fills up.
– It’s large and heavy so once filled with soil will be more difficult to empty.
I’ve seen several recommend putting the can into the ground to allow water, air and bugs in while keeping other critters out while nature takes its course (with no turning required).
Compost is eventually shoveled out when it is done.
Option #2: Plastic Storage Tub
I have seen dozens of videos and posts, like this one from the Savvy Saving Couple, showing how to take simple storage tub and turning it into a compost bin. I happen to have an extra storage tub at my house that isn’t currently being used for anything important, making it option #2.
– Smaller size makes it easier to work with (stir compost, move around yard to empty) and doesn’t take up a lot of space.
– Quick to get up and running.
– It’s plastic. With all the icky information I’ve seen/read about plastic, particularly when its heated, do I want that being all up in my compost?
Option #3: Wood Built
There are some amazing wood built compost bins out there, like the one shown below from Backyard Feast. While its possible to build using salvaged materials, it may take longer to collect. I have seen ones made with old pallets that look pretty easy to build but appear to be a lot more open to wildlife than the other two methods.
– Can built with movable slats to make turning and removing of compost easier.
– Don’t have to worry about the concerns noted with plastic and metal.
– Most time intensive to build.
– Have to acquire materials.
– Would take up a larger amount of space.
I’ve seen several suggestions about making sure the compost heap is touching bare ground which would support having a bottomless tub or wooden box but I have also read that the more enclosed the better in order to keep critters out. There are also people who just dig a hole in their ground and bury their food scraps. While this is a wonderful strategy, can’t see myself keeping up with digging holes in the ground every couple of days. Plus I have a rescued dog who will eat anything if the access is easy enough so I probably run the risk of him digging up my scraps if I bury them. Then there is the fact that while my primary objective is to keep food scraps out of the landfill, I’d also like to have compost to use in our home veggie garden down the road.
If you have any insights, whether you have composted yourself using one of the above methods or know someone who did, I’m open to any suggestions! The reason I am giving this so much consideration is because once I decide to try the can or tub there is no going back because they will pretty much be useless after I essentially turn them into swiss cheese. So whichever I choose needs to be something that can be around for the long haul.
Do you compost at home in your backyard? If so what do you use?