Home composting is possible with or without a manufactured compost bin. If your budget is tight and you are not concerned with how long it takes for your compost to decompose, you can start a pile in your yard with little to no money. If you prefer an enclosed composting system, want to turn waste into compost in a short period of time or plan to compost indoors, a manufactured composting system may better suit your needs.
The most basic compost method involves heaping compost material on the ground or atop woody branches for improved drainage. Contain the compost with chicken wire or wood. For ease in turning, build a rectangular two- or three-bin system with each section open to the front and enclosed on three sides. Turning with a shovel or pitchfork adds oxygen to the pile, which is necessary for decomposition. Build each pile or bin at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet to allow for efficient heating. Disadvantages of open bins include slower decomposition and potential attraction to vermin. (See References 1)
Enclosed Compost Bin
Make an enclosed compost bin from a covered barrel or purchase a compost system from a garden supply center. Advantages to enclosed systems include a reduction in odor, inaccessibility to vermin, portability (though they can become quite heavy) and, in some cases, increased compost speed. To increase compost speed, purchase or build a compost tumbler with a turning drum. Turning increases the oxygen and speeds up decomposition when proper ingredients and moisture levels are maintained. (See References 2)
What to Compost
Compost ingredients are categorized as either brown (carbonaceous) or green (nitrogen-rich) materials. A 1-to-1 ratio of brown to green material is ideal for rapid breakdown. Examples of brown materials include dead leaves, chopped straw, woody brush, sawdust and shredded paper. Examples of green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and grass. Meat, dairy and pet waste should never be added to compost. Keep compost damp but not wet. (See References 1)
Vermiculture, or worm composting, is an efficient method of composting that can be done indoors. Provide worms with a plastic or wooden bin with a lid and bedding material of shredded cardboard or newspaper. Add red wiggler worms, which can be found at garden supply stores or in existing compost piles. Feed the worms food scraps (excluding meat, dairy and oily foods). Within three months or so, the worms will have eaten the bedding and food scraps and excreted castings, a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants and yards. (See References 1)
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Beth Berry has been writing since 1995 about sustainable farming, fiber arts and parenting. She brings expertise in organic gardening, landscape design and domestic arts to her writing. Berry holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Abilene Christian University and is a master seamstress.