Here’s a short, simple video on the basics for setting up a compost bin in the backyard. Ignore the comments section, keep it simple and get started!
A guy by the name of “travelsignguy” often comments on my Youtube videos, offering feedback and suggestions. Last week I posted the video “How to Start Balcony Composting in 15 Minutes or Less”, and he made a great process improvement suggestion right away.
I know I don’t like turning compost, and I don’t think anyone does. He suggested to add a third bucket to alternate with the top bucket in the system. Perfect!
In other words, drill holes in a third bucket on the sides and bottom, then each week dump the bucket with composting material into the empty bucket, and put that one into play. By doing this, you’re effectively tumbling your compost. The material is being completely overturned, and this is a great oxygen exchange as well.
Another frequent watcher of my videos, “zetreque”, wanted me to explain leachate. In short, we collect it in this system so that the excess moisture doesn’t build up inside the bucket. This would create a soggy mess and counteract the process quite a bit.
Since the moisture drains through, it allows the contents to stay moist, but not soggy. The leachate in the bottom most likely contains few beneficial microorganisms and may lean towards anaerobic.
You may wonder why many composter models have a collection unit of some sort, advertising compost tea as a byproduct. While I’m not a compost tea expert, since the contents aren’t yet compost, the water running through isn’t going to be effective as compost tea. However, when your compost is finished and is sitting in your tumbler or what have you, empty the collection and start it again…this time through you should have something you can work with if you act fast.
I always recommend Praxxus’ video E-Z Compost Tea to learn the simplest method for creating compost tea. I hope this explains the difference between compost tea (made with finished compost and water) and leachate (wastewater that trickled through waste that’s in the composting process).
Balcony composting is a great way to compost in small spaces if you’re not the worm composting type. Recently I posted a video on how to get started balcony composting in 15 minutes or less, and the response to the video has been great so far.
For the non-video people, I wanted to show you an updated picture of how it’s going. Pictured above, is the two bucket system, and I found a piece of scrap trim from renovating the kitchen to use as an aerator. So, how’s it looking?
Exciting, right? While there’s plenty of room to add more food scraps and such, it’s already obtaining some nice toasty temperatures thus far…pretty cool! I’m not sure how many updates I’ll have on this particular system, but if anything weird happens I’ll definitely post it up.
Speaking of weird, I started making another balcony composting video, starring a different composting method. I’ll give you a hint- the video will be done in about six weeks, and it might stink really bad momentarily if all goes according to plan. Any guesses as to what I’m referring to? First person to guess the specific method will win a mystery prize from me (if they want). 🙂
Keep it dirty!
Balcony composting is a great way to reduce waste to the landfill while having fun making some great soil for next to no cost. For those that don’t compost because they’re grossed out by worms or don’t have the time or space- this method may be the one for you.
All you need is two 5 gallon buckets or similar containers and a drill with a 1/8″ bit. Drill holes in the sides and bottom of the top bucket, and then place it into the bottom bucket. The bottom bucket functions as your leachate collection tray.
Now add a layer of shredded cardboard/shredded leaves/straw in the bottom, followed by a layer of food scraps. Take note to avoid adding meat, dairy (crushed eggshells are fine), fish, pet waste or weeds that have gone to seed. Adding some finished compost or soil is good to introduce other organisms into the system. Simply alternate layers until the bucket is full, then put the lid on and start another.
I would not recommend adding water to the system, as plastic holds moisture quite well…however, the consistency of a “wrung out sponge” is ideal, so keep that in mind. Adding urine in the beginning helps bring some extra nitrogen to the process as well.
Pros/Cons of this system:
+Requires little effort or space
-Hard to harvest finished compost
-Not easy to rotate material (stirring it with a stick can help)
Have you tried this before? Leave a comment and let me know your experience with this. I feel weird not making this video sooner, as I’ve made videos for compost bins, tumblers and vermicomposting systems, yet I haven’t focused on simply composting on my balcony to inspire those of you that are strapped for space. It’s better late than never, so I hope you get started!
I was searching for a compost bin, and I think I’ve found it: the Geobin Compost Bin. For those of you looking for a quick and easy solution that’s tidy and gets it done, I really think this one works.
Compost bins should be simple: it’s essentially a fence and some stakes. It needs to be sturdy and look neat. If neatness isn’t an issue for you, I highly suggest building your own bin out of some concrete mesh, or chicken wire, or anything really. As long as the material is contained and you can put a tarp over it, that’s all you really need.
The Geobin fits material up to 4 feet in diameter and a good 3 feet high, which is enough to create some serious heat with a good material mixture. For around 30 bucks I think this is a good deal. The materials are all plastic (of course), but it all seems pretty sturdy to me. It’ll be interesting to see how long the hardware lasts, but now I’m thinking it’s plastic so it won’t rust over.
Do you have one of these or something similar? What do you think of it?
On a side note, Amazon has the worst packaging practices ever…can you believe this? The box I got my bin in could have easily fit 8 of these things! Not cool at all, Amazon. It almost seems like it’s teasing me…the box says “rate my packaging” on it with a link to the site. I’ll keep you posted on that one…I can’t let this one slip!
What composting system is right for you? There’s 4 main methods for composting: dig a hole, compost bin, worms, compost tumbler. They all have their pros and cons, so here we go:
Dig a hole – $0
-Risk of animals/pests digging it up
-Hard to obtain any compost
-Might annoy neighbors
Compost Bin – $25+
+Cheap, easy to do it yourself for free
+Can handle large volumes
+Can thoroughly process any and all organic materials
-Unsightly? (It’s worth it though, trust me)
Worms – $30/lb, $100+
+Works year round
+Worm castings are a great soil amendment
+Fun for educational purposes
-They need attention to ensure they’re happy
-Somewhat expensive to start
Compost Tumbler – $175+
+Secure from pests/animals
+Turning the compost is easy (although not necessary)
+Neat in appearance
-Attention to moisture/oxygen levels
-Lots of crappy models on the market
Do I need more than one compost tumbler? No! You don’t even need one. You don’t even need a dollar to compost at home. It’s all a matter of choice.
Check out this video for a good demo on ways to aerate your compost without using a pitchfork. These methods make the most sense for someone that groans at the thought of turning compost and have a compost bin that is easy to access through the top (most are).
When I visited home for the holidays, I had to take a look and see what my mom’s old composting area looked like. This really spun me out because I remember making this little frame out of cinder blocks a long time ago and it looked good. What’s funny is that if you want to compost, you can make do with this just fine…just make space and add stuff to it in appropriate quantities.
Next to this was a nice looking compost bin…again, it does the trick. You can add material nice and high and it stays fairly organized. Note the slits near bottom which double as a spot to anchor it to the ground as well as provide some needed air circulation. Way to go, mom!
To start composting, all you really need is a little space and a rough idea of what to do…that’s really it. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.
The following day I got to go out into the wilderness and I found myself thinking about how much the animals would appreciate all the food scraps that people throw away, especially during the winter. Who wouldn’t want to feed this guy?
Building your own compost bin really is this simple…4 pallets and some coat hangers or other wire will do the trick.