Starting & Maintaning a Compost Bin

ricksample(6)March 21, 2014

From my other thread about my soil not draining as good and I have decided to add compost probably next year. I priced leaf compost at $25 a yard... well that surly adds up when you need 10 yards a bed. I figured I can try to make as much of it myself especially since I have tons of leaves int he fall.

I've been reading up on this all day and I might just build a small wooden container this weekend. I have enough leaves in our wooded area that I could use for the bottom, I have a lot of newspaper around, an unlimited supply of shredded office paper here at work, we eat a lot of fruits and can have a lot of banana peels, apple cores, etc. We also have a catch and can collect grass clippings. During spring & fall I cleanup dead branches & weed out bushes that I can use.

My question is can I use almost any food scraps or should I stay away from stuff like Mac n Cheese, spaghetti, meats?

Also, if I start this year and won't need it until next spring, will it be OK sitting during winter? I'm doing my plantings this spring, but I'm not going to physically work the with stuff like compost and mulch until next spring.

Any tips/suggestions?

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Dairy, grains, and meats are bad in large amounts (relative to the amount of leaves in your pile), but in small amounts are ok in my opinion. So long as you're not tossing out a whole steak or a dozen loaves of bread, I wouldn't worry about it.

Be wary of tossing in grass clippings if you have a spreading type grass. I, for example, have tons of Bermuda and would cry if I introduced some Bermuda stolons (one of the ways it reproduces) into my garden.

Yes it will keep through winter. I make compost on much the same schedule as you're describing. But in the fall whatever compost I have left in the bins I put in buckets, planters, etc. to keep 'til spring. Then it's accessible, and I have that much more room to cram more leaves into the bins in fall.

Hope that helps!


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 8:54PM
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I'm not sure why someone would list grains as being bad in the compost since any vegetative waste is acceptable. Mac and Cheese, because of the cheese is best not added to the compost, although the macaroni and spaghetti, without any sauce covering it would be okay. Meat, as a rule, and fats are not very good additions to a compost pile.

What makes you think you need 10 yards of compost per bed? A planting bed 4 feet wide by 60 feet long with 1/2 inch of compost spread on it would need 10 cubic feet of compost.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting Tutorial

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 7:40AM
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My best advice to anyone either gardening or composting is "don't sweat the small stuff". If you are throwing out massive amounts of 'Mac n Cheese, spaghetti, meats' you have a problem with your cooking or amounts you are serving people. If there are only small amounts that are not consumed your compost can deal with those.

Make sure you deeply bury in your compost any materials that might attract animals and you should have no problems.

There are very few foods I don't compost but then I don't throw out much except what isn't edible.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 11:11AM
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"I priced leaf compost at $25 a yard"

I would be a bit leery of buying anything called 'leaf compost' myself. It might/would indicate that the seller did not know much about the product or the subject.

Products called "leaf mold" or "compost" would indicate the seller had more knowledge. In certain weeks in the fall I make a compost consisting only of freshly fallen maple, oak, and sweet gum leaves. It heats up to 130 to 150F, and breaks down quickly. But I don't think I would call it 'leaf compost' without further explanation.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 1:52PM
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Dairy and Meats are usually not good to compost. I am not sure how they compost but they can attract rodents so I don't do it.

Here is a link that might be useful: A Brief Intro To Composting

This post was edited by Lynngun on Sat, Mar 22, 14 at 22:56

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:48PM
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I reread "A Brief Into to Composting". I wrote the first version about nine years ago I think. Still holds up OK, I usually dislike most of what I've written.

But FAQ articles should be short, and I think a lot of the latter part of the FAQ is too picky and unnecessary.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 3:09PM
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You can start one any time of year. Although dried leaves are a typical and commonly named ingredient in compost piles, you can achieve the same from other dried plant materials or even non-plant materials, that you get throughout the year.

There are some who use methods that they claim can get usable compost material in as little as 4-6 weeks (and I'm sure their ingredients factor into this), but certainly a range of 6-12 months would be fine also for the methods that most people are using.

Depending on the size of branches, I usually don't put those into my compost pile since it takes longer to break down and I like seeing my compost as mounds of some kind of dirt-like material, not material with bits and pieces of sticks in it.

You can also think about trench composting so that you'll be amending your soil throughout the growing season (though admittedly what you put into the trenches still needs time to decompose and become available to plants also)

This post was edited by gardenper on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 11:32

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:15AM
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jonathanpassey(Utah z5)

i have the same question as kimmsr:

how could you possibly use 10 yards of compost per bed??

i have a 40 foot by 16 ft garden with 8 3.5 by 16 foot beds. my whole garden is 640 square feet. even if i put 6 inches of compost down, 11 yards would cover the whole place. if i only put 3 inches down per year then i can get by with 5 or 6 yards.

i wire 5 pallets together as a hot compost pile and in about 8-12 weeks (spring summer and fall) i have finished compost. about halfway through the process i reduce my box from 5 pallets to 4 pallets.

a 4 pallets box full to the top is about 2 yards of compost. so to never buy compost i'd have to cycle through a box that large three times per year.

it is a huge amount of material to fill a 5 pallet box. i have a free unlimited supply of relatively weed free horse manure, plus newspapers and wood chips and etc. but even if you have that much stuff on hand you still have to assemble the thing and then turn the thing occasionally.

i get paid about 25 dollars an hour at my day job... it takes me about 10 hours of hard labor to produce 2 yards of compost.

given all of this, 25 dollars per yard for good quality compost is an incredible deal. and i have almost just talked myself out of composting... if i didn't think it was cool/fascinating, like conservation, and think my homemade stuff is better than theirs i wouldn't do it.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:27AM
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