Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cedar Compost Bin

Nine years ago, in the dark ages before municipalities started to sell subsidized bins to encourage backyard composting, I built my own compost bin.

I used rot resistant cedar, and lined it with black plastic mesh fencing to keep the small stuff from falling out. The corner posts were long enough so I could sink them a few feet into the ground, holding everything in place. I even built a small partition so that I could put newer compost on one side and older compost on the other side.

A couple of years ago, while moving the bin, I discovered that three of the posts were rotting under the soil line. I cut off the decayed portion, and and now the rear posts sit on concrete cylinders and the front posts sit in metal post anchors.
One of the problems with the plastic mesh was that it let sunlight in, which kept certain weeds growing and allowed seeds to germinate. I decided to line the mesh with heavy-duty landscape fabric. Not the kind sold at home centers, but the real stuff, sold at landscaping supply places like Leitners. This has prevented any weeds from growing in the pile. I secured the fabric with galvanized lumber ties.
This year, I've added one more feature: six-inch corrugated drainage pipe, perforated style. I expect that these will allow for a lot more air to flow through the compost, helping it break down a bit faster.
A few years ago, I got one of those black plastic bins, and now I use a two bin system. This spring I filled the wood bin with last summer's compost, leaves saved from last fall, lawn thatch, and kitchen scraps. I'll be able to use it to top dress my beds in late summer or early fall. New stuff will go into the black plastic bin until the wood bin is emptied.

More photos at my picasa gallery. The stack of 4 corrugated drainage pipes in the back left corner? After the compost settled, I pulled those out and filled the hole with kitchen scraps, new garden greens, and old leaves.

UPDATE: I've decided that the horizontal tubes were too much bother. I can't tell if they were effective, but they certainly got in the way of turning the pile.

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