Our DIY Composter

Composting is seriously the coolest thing ever. Okay, it’s really not. It’s all just dirt in the end.

Still, being able to take a bunch of “waste” and turn it into something useful is pretty cool and no small accomplishment. Admittedly, nature does most of the work. But we do provide the ingredients.

My husband and I have been wanting to start composting for a long time. We kind of have off and on over the last few years. But we’ve never really incorporated it into our daily routine or made it a priority.

And I’ve always felt guilty about that. Throwing away banana peels and other scraps felt like committing a crime against nature. I mean, we have a garden. A garden needs nutrients. And compost is a great resource of nutrients for a garden. So really, it’s something that we SHOULD have been making a priority all along.

I told my husband at the beginning of the summer that one project I really wanted to accomplish this summer was setting up a compost pile. At the time, I was just thinking about designating a section in the yard that we could dig a big whole and just throw scraps in the ground. Even if we didn’t end up giving it the attention that compost really needs, at least our kitchen scraps wouldn’t be ending up in a landfill where they wouldn’t benefit us at all.

But J surprised me the other day when he decided to make use of a large plastic drum that had previously been used to store laying feed for our chickens. He set it up so that we can rotate it on some wheels in order to turn the compost over as needed.

W helping J with the wheels. As you can see, we’re using an old piece of plywood that’s probably been lying around for some time.

Naturally, W was enthusiastic to help his Daddy – usually is anytime there are power tools involved. Together they screwed the wheels onto the wooden base. J cut out a small section on the side of the drum to act as the door and reattached it with zip ties. He then drilled small holes all over the drum to allow some air in, although the door itself doesn’t shut perfectly and allows plenty of air in as well.

And W has been eagerly adding scraps to the new composter every day since. He is always quick to point out how stinky it is, too. And I just say, “well, it’s supposed to be.”

W adding some carrot scraps to the composter. The drum is sitting on top of the wheels which allow it to be rotated.

So far the design is working pretty well. We’re able to easily rotate the bin back and forth to turn the compost. There’s a lock on the door that keeps it shut to hungry animals. But we have decided that the design will need some adjusting in the future. We may end up making another one. This one is filling up pretty fast.

I plan on painting it in the near future simply to make it more aesthetically pleasing. A big blue barrel next to the flower beds isn’t exactly pleasing to the eye. But that’s not a priority or anything. It’s usefulness is far more important than it’s attractiveness.

So what are we composting?

Mostly fruit and vegetable scraps, old breads, coffee filters and grounds, grass cuttings, eggshells, and paper products. We even throw in the wood shavings from the chicken coop when we clean it out. There are so many other things that can be included like twigs, leaves and pinecones, newspapers, textiles made of natural fibers, and dryer lint. Basically anything organic. No meats or bones or oils.

How are we doing it?

It’s important to turn the compost over regularly. We do this at least once a week. If we’re going to throw in any kind of whole fruit or vegetable, we make sure to cut it up in small pieces first. This keeps produce from sprouting in the compost bin. And it also allows for faster composting as bigger pieces take longer to break down.

And we try to keep in mind that the compost needs a good balance of wet and dry ingredients, about 50% wet and 50% dry. Wet or “green” ingredients would be items like the fruit/veggie scraps. Dry or “brown” ingredients would be wood shavings and paper items. It’s not quite as simple as that, but you get the idea. Adding small amounts of water to the compost is also sometimes necessary if the compost seems too dry.

We plan on using our compost for amending the soil in our garden. I suppose that’s probably what most people use it for. If there’s something else it could be used for, I’d be interested to hear about.

I’d also be interested to hear what kind of items you include in your compost. What composting set-ups have worked for you? Share your thoughts!

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